Leader photo/JOHN EBY Keith McGrew passes plywood up the ladder to Warren Gaskin and his grandsons.

Archived Story

Log cabin in need of new roof

Published 5:32pm Sunday, August 26, 2012

CASSOPOLIS — As it approaches its 90th anniversary, Cass County Pioneer Log Cabin Museum on Stone Lake needs a new $12,000 roof.

A Cassopolis man, Keith McGrew, and his two grandsons, Christopher and Andrew McGrew, from Mishawaka, was repairing the roof of the log cabin, with assistance Friday from Warren Gaskin.

Gaskin’s wife, Marcia, is a board member.

“When they went up there, they found the original asphalt rolled roofing, two layers of shingles and then the shakes,” she said, “so it’s been replaced three times.”

A shake is a basic wooden shingle made from split logs.

“We’re probably 85 percent done,” McGrew said. “I’m just trying to get it through the winter where it’s not going to leak. I was store manager at Judd Lumber for 14 years and I work at Home Depot, so I’m familiar with building trades. History’s my passion.”

Open from noon to 4:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Labor Day, credit for the 1923 cabin goes to Charles O. Harmon, secretary of the Cass County Pioneer Society.

The cabin was originally conceived as a temporary structure for the Pioneer Day picnic. It has two stories, 18 by 26 feet, with a 1 1/2-story wing spanning 18 by 26 feet. The front porch is 18 by 22 feet, with a cement floor downstairs and a second-story wood floor.

When built, the cabin had a back porch spanning 8 by 42 feet overlooking the lake. In August 1924, donations of 10 cents were asked to pay for back porch steps leading to the water.

From 1972 to 1973, a 20-by 40-foot room was added to the back of the cabin, replacing the porch to provide more display area for artifacts.

Harmon suggested pioneers contribute logs, which needed to be cut during winter months when sap was down. A 52-foot beechnut was cut first.

April 4 was designated log hauling day, with the cabin erected on May 23 for Pioneer Day June 20. A collection in the courthouse lobby moved to the cabin. The museum opened the next Pioneer Day, June 18, 1924.

On April 4, log haulers met on the south end of town and paraded past the courthouse. Logs were donated from every township. Everyone who brought one was treated to a free chicken dinner.

On cabin building day, May 23, the parade from the courthouse got under way at 8:30. School children were given a holiday so they could participate.

The Cassopolis Military Band led the parade down South Broadway to Stone Lake.

Harmon welcomed the throng and introduced speakers Village President Asa K. Hayden and citizen Charles H. Kimmerle. Mrs. Addie Tietsort, who owned the original parchment deed for the land, was present. It was given to her ancestors during President Andrew Jackson’s administration in 1831.

Julia Tietsort, the first white child in LaGrange Township, was born in a cabin at this site.

Workmen prepared the site by digging trenches around the perimeter and removing topsoil. They filled trenches with cobblestone and put grout over them for a foundation. Experienced cabin builder Ed Ferguson supervised construction with a crew of 46 men.

The first black walnut log rolled into place to the tune of “Home Sweet Home” sung by  the school children accompanied by the military band.

Lumber used in construction represented all species of timber found in Cass County.

Black walnut board more than 75 years old became the doors. Wood from an 1845 barn was used for the stair rail. An 1865 collection of stuffed birds is kept upstairs.

Door hinges were of hickory. Ack Anderson built the fieldstone fireplace and stick chimney.

A list in the museum details donors of 144 logs, where the trees came from and type of wood, including red elm, hackberry, ash, wild cherry, yellow oak, maple, locust and walnut.

The Pioneer Day dedication on June 20, 1923, included a log-riding contest on Stone Lake. Souvenirs sold to defray expenses included logwood “chips” for 20 cents, three postcards for a dollar and badges.

In June 1924, to retire the debt, Harmon sold “lots” on the cabin grounds for $1 each. Souvenir lots measured one food wide by three feet long. Purchasers donated lots back to the Pioneer Society. Today, support comes from visitor donations, a gift shop, the Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Cassopolis.

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