About Honest Abe Log Homes
The Honest Abe Story Began with One Man’s Dream
When it comes to log home living, our owners have a wealth of knowledge. Not only have they been involved in ownership and management of Honest Abe since the beginning, log home living is simply a part of their life.
All three have lived or grown up in the original Honest Abe Log Home, and have started another generation of log home living.
Janie Smith and her late husband, Doug, our founder, built the first Honest Abe home in the late 1970s. Their children, April and Shane, were raised in that home. Janie, who has been involved in the financial oversight of the company since the beginning, still lives in that home today. April and Shane and their families, following in the family (and company) footsteps, live in log homes, too. But why not? They’re big believers.
“Dad always wanted to live in a log home, and he wanted to help others realize their dream of doing that, too,” April said. “To him, log home living was just a given, and he sure passed that down to Shane and me, too.
“We don’t live in log homes just because we’re owners of the company,” Shane said, “we live in log homes because we want to. I can’t imagine living in any other type of home, and I feel proud to live in an Honest Abe log home, because I believe in our company and in the products and services we provide.”
“It’s been really gratifying to be a part of Honest Abe Log Homes since 1979,” Janie said, “and to see how our company has grown, stood the test of time, and helped thousands of people realize their dream of log home living. It’s truly been a family affair for us with Honest Abe, and we look forward to serving log home lovers for many more years.”
Doug Smith’s family loves to tell the Honest Abe story.
A Burning Call Drew Late Honest Abe Founder to the Log Home Industry
When deciding on a new home, many home buyers consider the stability and solid construction of a log home. And when selecting the log home company that’s right for them, they should take those same attributes into consideration.
Take the Honest Abe Story. We’ve been in business since 1979, and what started out as a simple log home manufacturer in Moss, Tenn., has developed into a strong company built on trust with a focus on family.
In fact, it’s the company’s rich family heritage that has been the staple of Honest Abe for three decades.
The late Doug Smith, Honest Abe’s founder, developed an appreciation for wood products from his father, Lemuel, who operated a sawmill to supplement income from the family farm.
“Dad put the sawmill in during the 1940s,” recalled Doug, who grew up not too far away from Honest Abe’s current headquarters in Clay County. “It wasn’t much, but just enough to keep some money coming in during the off -season. By the time I was 11, I found myself in the mill, working with dad and the few people we had on-hand to mill the lumber.”
By the time Doug earned a degree in engineering from nearby Tennessee Technological University, his father had stopped operating the mill. After a few years in the professional world, Doug decided to return home to start up the sawmill again.
“Something about working with the wood just appealed to me,” Doug said. “It was like I was being called to discover how I could combine that appreciation with what I learned in school.”
It took a few years, but eventually, Doug found the answer to that burning call.
Honest Abe Log Homes is Born
It was 1970 when Doug and wife Janie started milling wood again, except it wasn’t on the Smith farm anymore. He relocated to the small town of Moss, where it still sits today, part of the ongoing Honest Abe story.
Green Forest Wood Products started with only a handful of employees, focusing on supplying milled products for area businesses. In 1974, Doug and his father decided to use some of the mill’s larger logs to build himself a log home, the first of what would become many over the next three decades.
So Doug went to work, experimenting with different cuts and processes to eliminate the gaps between the logs. Creating an airtight seal was paramount to making log homes not only livable but a desirable alternative to other custom home options.
Eventually, after much trial and error, Doug came up with the tongue-and-groove, dovetail cornering system seen today in Honest Abe’s Original Chinked log style. By 1979, Doug was ready to move ahead with his idea. That’s when he incorporated Honest Abe Log Homes to design floorplans and sell the log packages.
Trying to operate both Green Forest and Honest Abe was not something Doug was interested in doing. He felt more comfortable bringing in someone to handle the day-to-day operations of the log home company, including cutting the packages, designing the floorplans and selling the homes.
Fortunately, he ran into a friend, Rick Denton, at his wife’s high school reunion. Rick, whose father actually worked for Lemuel, seemed a bit skeptical when Doug approached him with the idea of running Honest Abe. In fact, Doug was surprised when Rick accepted the position.
“I had figured Rick wasn’t interested, because he was a registered professional engineer working in another area after his college education,” Doug said. “But considering the growth and success we’ve had, it was the right choice. I’ve always thought that to be successful, you have to surround yourself with the right people. Rick has done that from the beginning, which allowed Honest Abe to not only survive, but thrive.”
The Growth of the Log Home Company
The initial idea was to use Poplar logs because they were so plentiful locally. However, a switch to White Pine was made because Poplar checked too much, while White Pine retained its integrity and checked less.
Another industry standard by Honest Abe – using kiln-dried logs. The kiln drying process brings the logs’ moisture content down to 18 percent or less, drastically reducing the wood’s propensity to crack and shrink.
“That was what really started setting us apart from the competition,” observed Josh Beasley, current President of Honest Abe Log Homes. “At that point, in the mid-80s, the other log home companies were focusing more on price, price, price. But the product was inferior. We were – and always will be – committed to quality and value. When we started using kiln-dried logs, we raised the bar.”
In addition to product developments, Honest Abe also began to expand its reach in the Tennessee area. Stretching out beyond its rural headquarters, Honest Abe established its first sales model in Murfreesboro, just south of Nashville.
“Cookeville was growing at a steady rate, so it only made sense to develop a presence there,” Beasley said. “Crossville has always had a reputation for being an ideal retirement area. We wanted to put up a sales model to provide retirees a log home option to their custom home desires.”
By the end of the 1990s rolled around, many of Honest Abe’s competitors had fallen by the wayside. But Doug (who had brought his son, Shane, and daughter, April, into the family business) continued to see the potential of what had started out as a small enterprise and had now grown into a very large operation.
But even with this larger group, Doug saw the opportunity to extend the family even more. By setting up a wholesale pricing structure and recruiting businesses across the nation to carry Honest Abe’s line of log home packages and products, the company was able to increase its national presence. Today, Honest Abe supplies a large network of businesses across the country with products for them to sell and market.
The Future of Honest Abe Log and Timber Frame Homes
The Honest Abe story is still being written. Through the ups and down of the economy, good times and bad, Honest Abe has remained a fixture in the local economy and in the log home industry and remains upbeat about the future, both immediate and long-term. Honest Abe continues to be one of the most highly-regarded companies in the log home industry, a position it has occupied for most of its three decades, staying in the upper echelon amidst a great deal of industry shake-up.
Over the years the company has also been a significant part of one of the largest collective employers in its home of Clay County, providing dozens of jobs and hundreds more in Tennessee and across the U.S. through other direct sales locations and dealers.
The past has been bright and company officials feel the future is bright. There’s a reason for that optimistic outlook.
“Our father founded Honest Abe with a commitment to hard work, developing exceptional products and satisfying customers, and nothing has changed through the years,” said Shane Smith, Honest Abe’s COO and the son of the company’s co-founder. “That commitment to excellence has stood the test of time and will continue to.”
Shane Smith, along with his mother Janie Smith, the company’s co-founder and CFO, and Shane’s sister and Joint Operating Officer, April Smith Patterson, are at the helm of the family-owned company.
“Our commitment to quality and value set us apart from many in the industry a long time ago,” said Patterson. “That commitment has helped see us through some difficult times and will allow us to continue to help people realize their dream home for many years to come.”
Doug Smith was an engineer by vocation, and he showed his keen eye for detail in the way he lead Honest Abe.
“My husband always said there is another key component to the commitment of quality and value – people,” Janie recalled. “You can’t provide a quality product with the value we have always emphasized without quality people.”