State log cabins a destination
Published 7:59 am Saturday, June 21, 2003
By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- The Pioneer Log Cabin Museum along Stone Lake in Cassopolis joins over 80 other locations in the state to celebrate the 17th annual Log Cabin Day, Sunday, June 29. The cabin will be the site of crafts, fiddlers and refreshments.
Farmers formed a parade down the main street, as they brought in their best logs to the Village of Cassopolis back in 1923. On that May 23rd Cass County residents took a turn back in time.
The Pioneer Log Cabin Museum was constructed on the banks of Stone Lake and continues to be a highlight of the Village and County. A map exists which shows where each donated log was put and the name of the family which brought it to town and pitched in to build the cabin.
Hundreds more watched as the oldtimers taught the younger men how the first settlers to Southwest Michigan made their homes.
The rustic structure is the perfect home to many artifacts which were used in the formation of the county government and home life in the 1800s. Tiny baby shoes and long black dress are displayed along with glasses with wire frames, which almost look modern with today's styles.
The original safe used by the county clerk was ready to hold off any attack from man or nature. There too is the first desk used by A. H. Redfield, the first postmaster in Cassopolis.
Sad is the old doll carriage. The doll inside with its blond hair and leather shoes, was once owned by a 12-year-old named Ethel Harson, who died of diphtheria in 1898. Her parents also lost their infant son.
The museum has stuffed Michigan birds and animals from the 1860s, including a passenger pigeon. Tools and remnants of everyday life, such as pots and dishes, allow the old to pause and remember and the young to learn about a time in the formation of our count's history.
Some of the items on display were in a museum in the lobby of the Cass County Courthouse, before being moved to their new home by the lake.
In order to raise money for the museum, an attorney, Charles Harmon, who came from a pioneer family came up with a plan. He sold "lots" of the cabin ground of one square inch each for one dollar. In 1924, the museum opened.
Visitors and local residents enjoyed the museum for many summers until interest waned and the cabin closed. Two men who are now deceased, George R. Fox and Joseph K. Ritter, joined with other history buffs and sought help form local businessmen and organizations and the cabin reopened.
During 1972-73, a large addition was built on the rear of the original cabin, according to historical accounts. In 1973 the Cass County Board of Commissioners made a contribution to retire the debt from the cost of construction of the addition.
Volunteers help keep the cabin available for viewing.
On December 9, 1986, the Michigan Legislature passed a resolution proclaiming "Log Cabin Day" on June 28, 1987 in honor of the Sesquicentennial. That inaugural event featured a tour of seven Berrien County log cabins along with four other "Log Cabin Day" events throughout the state. Since then, more than 100 log cabins have been on the tour, seven which were built before 1840. The last Sunday in June was declared "Log Cabin Day," in 1989.
The Log Cabin Society of Michigan was incorporated on October 23, 1988 and has more than 350 members. In 1991, it received an award of merit from the Historical Society of Michigan. The coordinator is Virginia Handy of Sodus.
For a brochure with maps pinpointing all of Michigan's log cabins, send $1 to the Log Cabin Society of Michigan, 3503 Rock Edwards Drive, Sodus, MI 49126-8700, or visit www.qtm.net/logcabincrafts.
A few of the nearby log cabins to visit include: