The Pioneer Spring Cabin will live on in Independence, just not at its present location.
City officials have decided to move the cabin, which has already been moved and reconstructed once, to the area behind the Oregon-California Trails Association building off Osage Street as part of the National Frontier Trail Museum site several blocks away on Pacific Avenue.
The sagging cabin, currently at the corner of Noland and Truman roads next to the Sermon Community Center, has been closed for several years save for the rare private tour. Many of the original logs have spots crumbling or hollowed out due weather and termite damage, and in general the building is not structurally sound.
A contractor who bid just below the $75,000 budget will take the cabin apart piece by piece, tag, treat and store the usable pieces and reconstruct the cabin over the fall to be used for Trails Museum programming.
Eric Urfer, director of parks, recreation and tourism, estimated the project would take eight to 10 weeks.
“It will literally be an outdoor exhibit space,” Urfer said Tuesday when announcing plans to the City Council.
The contractor, Hagood Construction and Old Fashion Cabins out of Sullivan, specializes in such restoration and reconstruction projects. Aaron Hagood confirmed he has a stash of circa 1850s logs from other cabin projects that can be used to fill in where current logs can't be re-used.
“We recover a lot of old cabins,” said Hagood, a master carpenter in his 50s who said he built his first small log cabin when he was 13. “We have a good network up there, and I found out about this one, and I'd hate to see a cabin get destroyed.
“I just want to make sure it gets done historically right. When you build an old log cabin or restore it you can't put new logs into it.”
Officials aren't 100 percent certain when the cabin was built at its original location near Walnut and Noland roads, but it’s generally presumed to pre-date the Civil War, when many cabins were short-term structures meant to house people for several years until a more-permanent house could be built. Only some siding added in later years preserved it enough that a citizens group was able to raise $7,000 and have it moved to the current location in 1974.
Initial plans to make the cabin a visitors center never materialized, visitorship tailed off through the 1980s, and no revenue for long-term preservation ever materialized.
This move, Urfer said, means the cabin will have a definite use and resources. The Trails Museum site has utilities and security cameras available and staffing to design programming.
“People traveled west from Independence, but a lot of people moved here to make money from the people going west, and this can tell that story,” Urfer said.
The hundreds of Independence school children who make scheduled visits to the museum will then see the cabin, as well, “which is much more than we can say at its present location.”
Some city staff will help Hagood's team with the work, similar to how they help install some playground structures.
“It saves a lot of money and makes the parks sales tax go a lot further,” Urfer said. “Our staff is pretty excited about that, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do that kind of work.”
A City Council subcommittee of Karen DeLuccie, Curt Dougherty and John Perkins, formed last year to help gather citizen feedback on cabin possibilities after Dougherty urged city staff to do something with the structure, supported the proposal, and Urfer said the Tourism Commission and Trails Museum Friends Group also gave endorsements. Nearly all citizen feedback called for restoration of some kind, possibly at the current site, but DeLuccie said that option just wasn’t feasible.
Once the cabin is moved, Urfer said, his department will have a plan to enhance the site of the replica spring and Trail of Death marker next to it. A carved stone installed next to the cabin commemorates the approximate area where Potawatomi Indians stopped at a spring on their forced relocation journey from Indiana to Kansas in 1838.
“Decoupling it a bit will be good,” Urfer said of the current cabin area. “The site is blessed; we need to do more than just that marker.”