Raise the Roof, a fund raising event to secure funds to replace the cedar shake roof on the James Matten Early Cabin, will be held from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday, June 19, in the Luster-Rinehart building at 210 East Main St. in Fincastle.

The event, open to the public at no charge, will feature art items for sale and auction. The Early Cabin, which is a museum for Historic Fincastle Inc. (HFI), contains numerous historically important artifacts and documents relating to the early history of Fincastle and Botetourt County.

The cedar shake roof on the James Matten Early Cabin needs to be replaced, and HFI’s Raise the Roof on Saturday will raise funds for that project.
The cedar shake roof on the James Matten Early Cabin needs to be replaced, and HFI’s Raise the Roof on Saturday will raise funds for that project.

Events on tap for the day include art on display and for sale by local artists, music featuring Cheryl Lunsford and other area musicians, wine tasting, light food and other events for both entertainment and education. Parking for the event is suggested on Main Street from the Courthouse Square to Water Street, Murray Street, Water Street, the Fincastle Presbyterian Church parking lot and on Godwin Cemetery Drive alongside the James Matten Early Cabin. There should be no parking along Back Street.

A visit to the historic Luster-Rinehart House will also give those attending an opportunity to view the work being done by owners John Lipscomb and David McCray, who have been working for months on the building with the intent of making it a spacious, beautiful single family dwelling. The building, which dates to at least 1874, was a private school for young women and served as a private residence for many years until divided into apartments. It had been vacant for many years before being purchased by Lipscomb and McCray.

The Early Cabin and its contents have played a central role in numerous local events in telling the history of the area and helping educate visitors and area residents about the origins and development of Fincastle as a center of activities in early western Virginia. Damage to the roof of the Early Cabin was noted a year or two ago and temporary repairs were made at that time. However, it has become necessary to completely replace the roof to protect the historic building and contents, and plans are to make the replacement with appropriate material in keeping with the history and appearance of the building.

The land on which the cabin was constructed was purchased by James Matten Early on Murray Street in Fincastle in 1796 for 12 pounds. Records indicate that two years after the purchase of the property by Early he sold it for 50 pounds, which indicates that a structure had been built on the lot during those two years.

Early courthouse records indicate that the property was originally part of a land patent of 935 acres granted to Martin McFerran in 1790. Patrick Lockhart and wife, Mary, became owners of the lot sometime prior to 1796 and the couple sold the property to Early in that year. The property had a number of owners over the years until 1969 when purchased by A. R. Bolton for $10 and “other valuable considerations.”

Bolton, who knew there was an old log structure within the house, donated the property to Historic Fincastle Inc. in 1972. HFI received a grant from the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission to assist with the reconstruction of the original cabin. The original chimney was left intact, and a rear wing added to serve as an office for HFI. The cabin has been furnished to show a typical frontier cabin of the late 18th century.

Little is known about James Early’s family. He was married before coming to Botetourt County and his wife’s name was Jane. Of their six children, the names of only three are known—John, Jane and Polly. James Early died in 1807 and did not leave a will. However, an inventory of his estate was taken Nov. 12, 1807, and his name is on the monument located in the Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Fincastle, honoring Revolutionary War soldiers and patriots.

Individuals attending the Raise the Roof event will have the opportunity to help in preserving this important part of Fincastle’s history as well as to take part in a pleasant outing in Fincastle.

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