Log Cabin Village, A Living History Museum in Fort Worth, TX
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THE FOSTER CABIN

Built: ca. 1853
Location: Port Sullivan, Texas (now a ghost town)
Residents: Harry and Martha D. Foster Family
Builders:
Slaves

Foster Cabin front entrance

The Foster Cabin is one of the few surviving plantation homes in Texas, and one of the largest log houses dating back to the mid nineteenth century. Slaves hand-hewed and stacked huge oak and cedar timbers, felled from the Brazos River bottoms, to build this two-story log home.

Foster Cabin Parlor decorated for ChristmasThis house was so impressive that Dr. Joseph J. Davis from Mississippi mentioned it in his 1857 letter to Harry Foster: "You have the finest log house I saw in all Texas."

Tenant farmers occupied the home until it was no longer habitable, finally abandoning it in 1939. In subsequent years the home fell into disrepair, only visited occasionally by Foster descendants and passing tourists. In 1965, a storm caused considerable structural damage. Realizing that this historic structure would continue to deteriorate if not properly preserved, Joseph William Foster Jr., the great-grandson of Harry and Martha Foster, donated the historic house to the Fort Worth Parks and Recreation Department for Log Cabin Village where it was restored and opened to the public in 1976.

 

Originally, the first floor of the house consisted of an entrance hall, a parlor, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining area. The narrow stairway led to the second story which consisted of three adjoining bedrooms.

Today, the Foster Cabin houses the museum store and staff offices, but visitors may still view the parlor furnished with Foster family artifacts. Changing exhibits in the Foster hallway display different aspects and artifacts of life in nineteenth century Texas.



THE FOSTER FAMILY

Harry Foster
Jessie Foster
Henry Ancell (Harry) Foster
Jessie Foster

Henry Ancell (Harry) Foster was born July 18, 1814, in Tennessee. When he was still young, Harry’s family moved to Wilkerson County, Mississippi, where the Fosters became prominent business and plantation owners.

By the time of his marriage to the wealthy Martha Ann Davis on February 9, 1836, young Harry had moved to Madison County, Mississippi, where he was associated with the merchandising firm of Joseph A. Foster. He and Martha established themselves as members of the "planter class" in the thriving community of Vernon.

Martha Ann, born December 8, 1815, was the daughter of Lewis Davis and his wife, Polly Thomas Davis of West Louisiana. Martha was one of the heirs to her father's large estate in the Thompson Creek area.

Six children were born to the Fosters while they resided in Madison County:

Mary Louisa 1836-1867
Eliza Jane 1837-
William Henry 1841-1895
Robert Vivalva 1842-1894
Lewis 1844-1847
Joseph 1848-1939

Harry Foster, along with other relatives, made several trips into the new Republic of Texas shortly after it claimed independence from Mexico in 1836. Like many pioneers of that era, they came in search of the finest cotton land. The trips culminated with the Fosters’ 500 acre purchase in Milam County on January 1, 1850.

Family documents indicate that Foster sent a plantation work force to Milam County after his 1850 land purchase. Although the exact date of the family's move is not known, a letter dated January 22, 1853, which the Fosters received at the Post Office in Port Sullivan, indicates the family, accompanied by their eighteen slaves, and the R. J. Davis family, made the long wagon trip to their new homes in Texas in the latter part of 1852.

The family continued to add to their acreage, and by 1855 Foster had purchased and erected a gin where he ginned and baled cotton for shipment to San Antonio and Galveston. Despite facing many hardships and uncertainties in the new state of Texas, the Fosters became prominent in their community.

Martha Foster died in 1870 and was buried in the small family cemetery hidden in a deeply wooded area within sight of the log home that they built in the early 1850s. Harry A. Foster continued to live in the house with his bachelor son William Henry, until his death on November 19, 1891. He was buried next to his wife. Obelisk shaped stones mark both of their graves.

The Log Cabin Village preserves copies of Foster family letters. They give an interesting glimpse of the Foster family life and offer insight into the settlement of Texas, the Civil War, slavery, and everyday life in nineteenth century Texas. These letters are part of the Research Collection.

THE FOSTER SLAVES

Aunt Molly
Uncle Jeff
Aunt Molly
Uncle Jeff

Slavery in Texas played an important role in the economy of Texas all the way through the Civil War. After the war, many of the freed men and women attempted to start a new life. However, many of them stayed on as sharecroppers or servants of the families they had served for years. Many slaves remained where they were because of the lack of other opportunities.

Unfortunately, little is known of the Foster slaves except that they were heavily depended on to run the plantation. Two of them, who were referred to as “Uncle Jeff,” who had come from Mississippi with the Fosters as a teenager, and “Aunt Molly,” remained with the Foster family well past the twentieth century. Aunt Molly had moved with the Fosters from Mississippi when she was sixteen years old. She raised four generations of Fosters. In 1934, she died at age 101.