Wednesday, February 8, 2017

1850's Cabin

This part of Wisconsin was settled between 1840 and 1870. There are parcels that were not claimed from the US Government until the late 1870's. I have done some research at the Richland County Courthouse related to the original survey and the original land claims. I used to own 332 acres, about one mile West of this cabin. On my acreage there were two log cabins that I had estimated were built around 1850. This cabin is a much better preserved example of the original type built by the first settlers.

Until about 2012 the cabin had wood siding.

What makes this cabin special is the fact that the logs are mostly intact and the walls are very straight, despite having been abandoned some time between 1968 and 1972. Usually when the roof fails and the windows break, the weather quickly penetrates, and the structure falls in. I'm guessing 1968-1972 based on tax returns I found stored inside, mail found inside, and magazines and newspapers stored inside.

This cabin is still straight because of the quality of the logs, the quality of the construction, and the geographic location. It is in a deep valley and protected from strong winds.

It looks like a little more than half of the logs are White Oak. The rest are probably Ash. It is very difficult to know for sure without cutting into them, and we're not going to cut into them. Certainly they are Old Growth. The growth rings are exceptionally tight, with extremely hard and rot-resistant heartwood.

The corners are amazing. I can spend hours just looking at the joints.

The floor joists are 8" 3/4 round timbers. Probably Oak. The one that we exposed is perfectly sound. The entire floor feels sound, which indicate that the floor joists are probably sound all the way through.

There is no stove or stove pipe. The house was heated by the kitchen stove.

Some time after 1972, a piece of tin came off the roof. Since then, the interior has been exposed to the weather. There is extensive damage to the roof in the South-East corner. The stairway leading to the upper floor is partly disintegrated. The rest of the upper floor is strong enough for a man to walk.

The plan earlier this winter was to mark the logs and carefully disassemble the cabin. The weather did not cooperate. Earlier this week, we removed a couple of small areas of plaster in the lower level, and we opened the floor. The interior plaster was fixed by nailing lath horizontally along the logs, then vertically to make a flat surface. There seem to be no interior log notches.

The log walls are remarkable straight. A few logs have some rotted areas, notably under the windows, and under the hole in the roof, but most of the rot is superficial.

During disassembly there will be an effort to preserve some roof timbers, but the main focus will be on the logs. We will measure, sketch, and photograph the tagged logs. We will remove the lean-to, then will use a Skylift to remove the roof, and finally we will remove the logs, one at a time.

The furniture, debris, and tires are extra. There are a few cups, a broken plate, some magazines, two chairs, a sewing machine... we'll try to preserve what we can.

Note: we make no guarantees about the wood species or the soundness and integrity of the structure. Any re-assembly is at the discretion and risk of the buyer. We recommend that the reassembly be planned and supervised by a licensed structural engineer, qualified carpenters and tradespeople, and permitted by any and all applicable government agencies.


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