Fire destroys historic, 160-year-old J.T. Rogers Cabin in Central Texas

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 7:01 PM CDT
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McLENNAN COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) - 160 years of central Texas history was gone in a matter of minutes the morning of Tuesday, March 21.

A fire destroyed the J.T. Rogers Cabin, one of only a handful of two-story log cabins remaining in the state of Texas.

It was built in the 1860s in McLennan County on a piece of property that is located on Rogers Hill Road between Gholson and West.

The current owners were using the old building for storage and a workshop. Now, they’re just wishing those old walls could talk.

A fire destroyed the historic JT Rogers Cabin.
A fire destroyed the historic JT Rogers Cabin.(Bradley Vaughn for KWTX)

“Wouldn’t it be nice if they could talk? This was built in the 1860s, maybe earlier. They didn’t keep good records of when things were built,” said Ted Helm, “It was used as a stagecoach stop and they said the Chisolm Trail riders would stop by here during a drought to get water out of our well.”

Helm’s cousins now own the property. Their great grandparents bought it from the original land grant owners: the Rogers Family.

The cabin weathered 160 hot and dry Central Texas summers, but in just a matter of minutes, it was a heap of ashes and smoldering post oak timbers.

“It’s so sad to see a piece of Texas history disappear like that in an instant,” Helm said.

KWTX Anchor Gordon Collier interviews Ted Helm at the site of the fire.
KWTX Anchor Gordon Collier interviews Ted Helm at the site of the fire.(Bradley Vaughn for KWTX)

The Central Texas man remembers playing at the cabin as a child with his cousins. “We would climb up stairs and play cowboys and Indians, back when you could play cowboys and Indians,” said Helm.

The thick hand-hewn timbers helped protect the original occupants from the elements and marauding outlaws and Comanches, back when Waco was young and one of the wildest spots on the Texas frontier.

When the Commack Family bought it, they surrounded the structure in tin to help preserve the cabin for the ages.

All it took was a spark and it was all gone.

A fire destroyed the historic, 160-year-old JT Rogers Cabin in Central Texas.
A fire destroyed the historic, 160-year-old JT Rogers Cabin in Central Texas.(Bradley Vaughn for KWTX)

“It went up so fast. It went from smoke to a full fire in minutes. It went up like a Roman candle,” Helm said.

By the time fire crews got there, there wasn’t much left to save. “All they could do was try to stop it from spreading. ‘Let it burn,’ they said, ‘just let it burn.’ Iwas able to get one gator out before it burned, but they lost an old tractor and several four-wheelers. It was just too hot. I couldn’t get to them,” Helm said.

The fire was still smoldering with hot spots Tuesday afternoon and the family could only watch as the final remnants of proud Texas history burned to the ground.

“It’s a real loss for the family and Texas history,” Helm said.

Neither the cabin, nor it’s contents were covered by insurance.