I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
to catch up.
Home | Columns |
Photos | Books
| Biography | Mental
Health | Links
The continuing Miller log cabin saga
By Barry Schrader.................................October
A woodwright from St. Louis, Kilby has excellent credentials
in historic restorations nationwide. His passion is saving old
log structures and he told me he has dismantled or moved some
80 of them over the years, the one in this county being his latest
effort. Kilby directs the deconstruction and tags
and documents each piece so it can be re-assembled at its new
location. In the case of the 1835 log house, originally built
by William Miller whose daughter Harriett married into the Elwood
family, the piles of oak logs will remain stored at the farms
barn through the winter and the forest preserve district plans
to lay a new foundation and resurrect it on Genoa city property
adjoining the Russell Woods forest preserve near its Natural
Resources Center. The land is being restored as a native Illinois
prairie by the city and soil conservation district. Both Forest
Preserve District superintendent Terry Hannan and Natural Resources
education director Peggy Doty expressed enthusiasm for the project
and said work on the foundation will begin in Spring 2010.
Earlier this year, in May, the Daily Chronicle reported that
a historic log cabin found on a farm on Pleasant Hill Road between
Kingston and Genoa had been discovered preserved inside the clapboard
siding of a house built around it.
I rushed up
there in a downpour to photograph this remarkable discovery and
have been following its status since.
people on the Nelson farm, a descendant of the Miller and Ellwood
families, and the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District all
recognized the value of this log house and funds were found to
have it professionally dismantled by Tim Kilby, an expert in
log cabin restoration and relocation.
This 1835 log cabin house is shown with the white clapboard
siding removed last May just before it was dismantled and stored
for rebuilding near the Russell Woods forest preserve outside
Doty added that she learned from Kilby there was
originally a hearth and fireplace in the log home and she wants
to create that again so she can teach students pioneer cooking
in an authentic setting; no microwaving for this woman! To maintain
its authenticity, there will be no electricity, water or toilets
in the structure. The resource center nearby will serve those
needs. Doty also pointed out the second floor is really a loft
and the woman of the house would use it as a hiding place for
her and the children, pulling the ladder up behind them and remaining
still until the party of Native Americans was gone.
had to share a personal family secret with Doty to explain one
of the reasons why I have such a keen interest in this project.
Some 50 yards from the spot where they will rebuild the cabin
is where on Memorial Day in 1963 my girlfriend Kay (Wirsing)
and I laid out a blanket for a picnic at the edge of the preserve.
During that sumptuous lunch (you know it will be delicious when
prepared by a farm girl) I proposed marriage to her and four
months later we tied the knot. So I want to be on Dotys
list of volunteer docents once this cabin is reconstructed.
The latest financial boost comes from the historic
Ney Grange in the Genoa area, which just donated $500 for the
project. Hannon also had praise for the DeKalb County Community
Foundation for contributing $10,000 for the restoration and another
$6,000 came from Ellwood/Miller family descendant, J. Ellwood
Towle of St. Louis. The cabin was first offered to the Ellwood
House and Museum in DeKalb but executive director Gerald Brauer
said they decided the cost and lack of proper setting near the
mansion made them decide to let it be placed elsewhere. I think
the rural prairie setting next to the woods will make it even
more realistic as outdoor education students and other visitors
can get a feel for what life in a pioneers cabin was really
like 175 years ago when this was mostly wilderness and just being
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115