Indiana Pioneer Dwellings Keep Their Memory Alive

By Eric Olson

October 1, 2013 Updated Oct 1, 2013 at 9:46 AM EDT

WOLCOTTVILLE, Indiana--They cleared the forests and drained the swamps…lived lives of extreme hardship to carve a home out of the Indiana wilderness. We can only imagine how hard their lives were.

At LaGrange County’s David Rogers Park, LaGrange County’s oldest park, you can get a taste of pioneer life by walking through hand-hewn log homes pioneer settlers built and lived in. For thirty years park officials have been collecting log homes from around northeast Indiana, dismantling them and reassembling them here to create a pioneer village. This home, hill house, was built in Whitley County in 1854. This home, the Zumbrum house, was built near Wolf Lake in the 1870’s. Two of the finest homes came from Larry Wilkinson’s farm near Lake Wawa see, they were built in the 1840’s by the Ohlwine brothers on land they bought from the Wabash Erie Canal Company.

“We did play in them as kids,” says Wilkinson. “There was a lot of old magazines we found in them and we just like to explore as a kid and played in them.”

In 1988 the Wilkinson family donated the homes to the park…their aluminum siding was stripped off, the logs numbered and removed and reassembled at the park. Larry says Civil War era newspapers were found stuffed in the chinking between the logs as the homes were dismantled…and this date, 1844, carved on a log…covered up by siding for decades. Park officials who reassembled these structures say they got a real taste of life in the 1840’s.

“Doing just a little bit of hewing when we replaced logs ourselves,” says park official Jim Carr, “the amount of work, the amount of physical work that it took the amount of time that it took, probably not as much leisure time as now.”

These primitive dwellings that once sheltered pioneer families have a new mission, teaching modern day school children and others about life in Indiana as it was being transformed from Indian wilderness to settled agriculture. Walking through these small, intimate hand-built homes does more than anything else can to explain just how we got where we are today, and just how very difficult the journey was for those who traveled it. Eric Olson reporting, out in 21 Country.




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