We had quite the surprise the other day. We received a post titled “Cabin”. I thought it was someone inquiring about staying here. Instead it turned out to be a wonderful lady, living deep in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, offering us a cabin. We have always wanted one for the museum, so we were quite excited, even sight unseen. So we went to look immediately. And happy we were.
Years ago a previous owner of the property had collected cabins and eventually ended up with five on his land. We hadn’t known, until our visit that day, that one of the cabins had already been moved into “town” in Peninsula, and had been serving as an occasional art gallery. In recent years I had displayed some of my metal art at their seasonal, weekend long “Cabin Art” shows. I have always really liked and admired that cabin.
Usually folks have an “archetype” picture of cabins. We think of them as being built of large hand hewn logs that took 3 men and a dog to lift and stack for walls. And, in fact, almost all surviving old time cabins are built like that. Big logs could take the weathering of time and season, so they simply lasted longer -even to present day. But the early settlers were coming to the Western Reserve that was deep woods and little else. Building a large house was a future luxury they could not initially afford.
Folks would try to leave the Colonies or original States in the Spring so they would have enough time to make the long and arduous journey, and still have sufficient time to prepare for winter in an unsettled land. The earliest wave of them had a tough trip. Some took canoes or small boats through the Great Lakes then south into the new lands down rivers such as the Sandusky, Cuyahoga and Grand. Others made part of the trip on the Ohio River then north up the branches of either the Muskingum, Tuscarawas, Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. And many made the months long trek overland. But, how ever they came, it was long, it was hard, and many of them never made it. Those who did usually got to their piece of land with summer fast upon them. So there wasn’t a great deal of time to prepare for snow, cold, hunger and want. There was much to do.
A usually small party of people, mostly alone in the wilderness, were faced with myriad tasks. You had to hunt, fish, gather food, pick any available fruits and nuts and preserve them all for winter. You needed reliable water, and stores of firewood. You had to clear land for planting a garden. You needed to provide shelter and food for any animals you had. You constantly had to be aware of and protect against the dangers of wilderness life. You needed to cut and prepare logs. And you really needed to build something to shelter in.
The Peninsula cabin we hope to move here soon is one of those very early cabins. We were told that it originally stood in southern Ohio. Instead of the large hewn log cabins, it is built of smaller logs that could be more easily handled by a few people. It is small, only 12×12, since there was likely little time to build bigger. And it has a flat roof (which is less efficient but easier to build than a peeked roof). At some point the board or shake or possibly sod roof was replaced by metal, and larger windows were added. Originally any windows would have been much smaller and often covered with oil skin.
We plan to return it to more of its first look and use. We may remove the more recent cement chinking between the logs and replace it with more traditional chink, we’d like to replace the windows with earlier ones, and we’ll place it on a stone foundation, rather than the block used by its previous mover. And the roof will once again be covered with wood shakes.
We admire its original builders for all the tough work they did to just survive. We are very grateful the gentleman who moved it locally and thereby saved it. We are very thankful it was later offered to us. And we are thrilled to have it for the newest addition to the museum. Our thanks go out to the many generations of folks for saving this piece of Ohio history.