The OLD LOG CABIN "PIONEER HALL"
By Bonnie Uran
I would like to thank Sue Steinhorst for locating the following article about the "OLD LOG CABIN" in THE NORTHOME RECORD, dated Tuesday, July 23, 1991. Sue was kind enough to share it with us to include it in our Historic File. I have taken the following information from that article:
The Northome Record
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mrs. Harold (Emma) Carlson Fruetel, Bemidji, has written a booklet about the history of the "Pioneer Hall" museum-like cabin at the fairgrounds. She kindly shares it with RECORD Readers.
"IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK"
I am a log cabin. Though no one was around that knew it, I quietly observed the 85th Anniversary of my building "birth date" this year (1991) That is fairly old for a cabin of my time. We were built as temporary shelters and through various combinations of neglect, rot and fire, few of us survived. I am one of the lucky ones, so as one of the last survivors, I think it might be of some interest to the world of today to hear my story.
I was built to be the home for two sisters while they "proved up" their homestead claim to 80acres of wilderness near Caldwell Brook, about 12 miles east of Northome, in the township of Wildwood in southern Koochiching County. A wild and lonely place it was in 1905, and still is to this day. The area had been logged off and people were coming in to claim land for farming. But the site in Belin sisters chose was a mile and half off the main road, the nearest neighbors were far down a path along the brook and through the woods. It was not good farm land, and the sisters abandoned their claim, an me, after one year. No one came to take their place and I was left deserted for many years.
Other settlers moved in farther south on the road that came ot be known as "Park Avenue", a tongue-in-cheek description of what is now State Highway No. 1.
In 1920, Ernest and Ellen Carlson moved up from Minneapolis with their two daughters, Virginia and Bernice, and bought 80 acres of land on this road. The cabin they built was very small so Ernest discovered me back in the woods, He decided I could be put to good use once more.
Axel Dahlgren, Ellen's brother, helped dismantle and pile my logs on wooden skids and horses pulled me down the abandoned logging road to the farm site. There they rebuilt me and I was settled close to the north side of the house in such a way that I became another room and was used as a kitchen.
Another daughter, Erma, was born in 1922, and twins, Lorraine and Raymond, were born in 1924. In an effort to keep up with a growing family, Ernest raised the roof of the main cabin to allow for two bedrooms upstairs. With this much room, the family decided I wasn't needed as a permanent addition anymore so Ernest and two of Ellen's brothers jacked me up and skidded me back in th yard about 50 feet.
With wood stoves, for washing and cooking, kitchens became unbearable hot in the summer and the upstairs bedrooms even worse. The answer for many people was a small building to be used as a summer kitchen, and this what I became.
How exciting it was each spring when Ellen announced that it was time to move in to the summer kitchen! It was a good time to do housecleaning, everyone helped move the furniture outside to be scrubbed and cleaned. Ernest moved the heavy black cook stove with its ornate nickel trim, setting it up just inside my back door. There was no built-in cupboards in those days, just two moeable cupboards and a linoleum covered table with a shelf underneath to hold pots and pans. The 100 pound flour bin, the was stand, wood box, and a dining table and chairs all went inside my wall. It was a lot of furniture for my 16 by 12 foot dimensions, but with a window on each side and wide ipen doors in front and back, it did not seem two crowded. Ellen had seen to it that my walls were freshly calsomined (Kalsomine; A mixture of lime and water often with whiting, size, or glue added, that is used to whiten walls, fences, or other structures.)and bule (Bule is a commonly used word in Indonesia to describe a foreigner, especially people of European descent). building paper tacked to my ceiling. The children scrubbed my wide plank pine floors and I was all set for summer.
Ellen planted woodbine to cover my walls outside and outlined flower beds with rocks in front and along the sides. There Golden Blow, Mountain Lilacs and Delphinium bloomed. The wash bench with its hand wringer and galvanized tubs stood conveniently outside my back door.
The family raised a big garden and Ellen canned many jars of vegetables, wild berries, venison, beef and pork in season. Threshers came and were fed. The stove was always going. It got plenty hot in here too, but at least the "big house" stayed cooler.
Flies were a constant bother. The fly strips hanging from my ceiling caught some, but didn't really do much good. Periodically Ellen would close my doors, cover the furniture and spray my interior with something that brought tears to her eyes and death to the flies. But it was an ongoing battle, new flies immediately moved in.
Then one day the long hot summer would be over, and it would be back to the "big house" with all my furnishings for the winter. All was quiet within my walls while the snow lay deep outside.
This was the cycle for many years. In 1930, Ernest built a garage to house the school bus he drove back to Mizpah and Northome and a bigger barn was built. One by one the small log buildings on the farm disappeared. I was sure my days were numbered too, when in 1934, Ernest and Ellen decided to once again add on to the "big house". With a new living room and bedroom as well as a big back porch with stairs leading to a basement, I knew that the house would be much more comfortable and perhaps a summer kitchen would not be needed.
I was right, but I found that I had not outlived my usefulness after all. One day in 1936, Ernest propped my front door wide open and installed four double bunk beds along one whole side. This left room for only a small airtight stove, a wash stand and a table and four chairs. That fall, six hunters moved in for the deer season, the Miller brothers: Art, Fred, and Normand, and three friends, Rudy Koucher, Nick Smith and William Calinan. The peace of early winter was over! My wall rang with laughter and tall tales late into the night. In the morning the men trooped over to the big house for Ellen's pancakes and sausages, picked up their filled lunch pails and headed for the deer stands. Each evening new tails were told.
The Great Depression came in the 30's. Homeless men roamed the country. One of them, Pete Perry, lived within my walls for several months earning his keep by doing odd jobs around the farm. Everyone was sad when deer season arrived and he had to move on.
Another daughter, Elaine, was born in 1935, and one by one the children grew up and left. In 1941, World War II cast a shadow across the land. It was a time of upheaval. The world closed in on our isolated community. Many girls went to work in defense factories and men and boys went into service or other war efforts. The women who stayed home knitted scarves and mittens for "the boys" and enrolled in Red Cross classes. Almost every family had someone in service to worry about. Ray Carlson joined the Navy. The Great Depression was over, there was work for everyone.
The deer hunters still came, but it wasn't as much fun as it used to be. War news dominated everything. Finally in 1945 it seemed peace was in sight. Servicemen started coming home. An epidemic of flu hit the country. Ernest and Ellen were stricken and one dark day in April, Ernest died.
Ellen struggled on but finally decided to sell the farm, and in 1949, my world was occupied by strangers. Mrs. Jenny O'Neill bought the farm for her daughter's family, Carl and Dorothy LaValley, and their four children, Peggy Jo, Robert, Richard, and Ronald.
I enjoyed having children around again. The Millers and their friends still came for deer seasons but otherwise I was used only as a playhouse for the children. During the next nine years, four more children were born, Patsy, Penny, Roger, and Pamela. Peggy Jo married and moved away. Little by little, I settled on my foundations.
Then catastrophe struck! On a chilly morning in October, 1959, while the family was doing the morning milking, the "big house" caught fire and before anything could be saved, it quickly burned to the ground.
Suddenly I became home for nine people! I had never been so crowded! Storage was nonexistent, so each evening the family moved all their clothes off the beds and each morning, moved it back. Actually, they had very little except what they could wear, but even so, it was difficult to say the least. Besides the beds, my furnishing included a cream separator, a three-burner gas plate, a heater, for chairs, and a small table.
One happy diversion was the family's pet goose. "Goosey Lucy" arrived promptly every morning and pecked at my window just hard enough to waken everyone. She was a good alarm clock.
The LaValley's finally found a house they were able to buy(the Nicodemus home on Pinetop Road) and had it moved to the farm. A new "big house!" So after four weeks of very trying conditions, the family was able to move from within my bursting waslls. It was a bit hectic for on that very same day, the Millers moved in for the deer season.
Now I was the only log building left of the original five on the farm. Three years went by. Another daughter, Paulette, was born in 1961. That was the last year the hunters were to use me, though I didn't know it at the time. New adventures awaited. Esther Naies bought me and had me moved to her home on the shore of Island Lake, five miles south of Northome. She hired Bill Olson and his son Marlan to number and take down my logs, and this time I was moved in a truck. Some of my logs had deteriorated and had to be trimmed, so I was a bit smaller when the Olsons reassembled me. I got a new roof and floor and Esther furnished me with lovely antiques. I became quite a novelty as a quest cabin for family and friends.
I felt quite settle and happy in my refurbished condition, but it lasted only three years Esther became ill and decided I could serve as a museum to much better advantage in a different setting. She gave me to the Northome Koochiching County Fair Board and in 1965; the Olson's moved me to the fairgrounds just north of Northome.
There once again I was furnished as I was in my earliest day. The stove was in the corner with the stove pipe sticking out my roof. The wash stand was in its place behind my back door with the mirror and comb box on the wall above it. The iron bed covered with a patch-work quilt. I had come full circle-once again I was a homestead cabin.
But there is lingering sadness. I am only a shell. No one lives here. For awhile during the County Fair, each year many people visited me. Some nodded their heads in recognition of times past. Others, younger perhaps, shook their heads at the primitiveness of it all. Then when the fair was over, I'm left to doze in the sun. Grass grows tall around my doors and winter snow drifts across and piles up on my doorsteps. Lately I have been sadly neglected. My furnishings are gone and it seems no one is designated to take care of me. I am only a small cabin, but I have heard and seen much. Ah! The stories I could tell if these walls could speak......
to be continued.............
It is now 2016, and I'm 111 years old. I've grown even wearier. Once again, I've settled on my foundations. My walls are rotting and weak, and my roof leaks.
Oh, No! What now?? I can hear people talking outside my door. I wonder what's in store for me in my old age.
And so the story of the OLD LOG CABIN ends...........
"Farewell, Koochiching County Fairgrounds! It's been fun being here. It's been quite a journey...........