Editor’s note: A few weeks ago, the Inquirer ran some photos of a new roof being put atop the old log cabin in Heise Park. Constructed about 1822, the home at one time was the site of Galion’s first public library. It was later purchased by the Galion Historical Society and about 35 years became property of the City of Galion, who had it moved to Heise Park.
This article below appeared Jan. 1, 1984 in the Galion Inquirer. It shares the past history of the cabin.
GALION — America, they say, is a nation of homebodies.
Certainly, this was true of the original occupants of Galion’s most recent — and perhaps most significant — historical find, a log home uncovered last month behind Galion Public Library. Contrary to what was previously believed, the structure is not a log cabin, but rather a fine log home built as early as 1822.
“What you have here is one of the finest log buildings I’ve seen in a long time,” Mike Bonne, of the Hoosier Cabin Company, of Carthage Indiana, told a committee working to preserve the structure. Bonne presented his report Thursday to the 12-member committee and later to about 50 residents attending an information session at the Galion Community Center YMCA.
Local historians, until Bonne’s visit, knew little of the building’s real significance. It served as Galion’s first public library, from 1901 to 1904, having been purchased from George Todhunter. Officially known as the Galion Public Library and Reading room, the building was vacated in 1904 when the present library was dedicated.
About that time, the building was moved from the front portion of the (library) lot, near North Market Street, to the present site. “It’s probably in its original position. They just scooted it back,” Bonne said.
According to Galion Historical Society records, the last caretaker moved out in 1955, at which time the building was leased to the historical society by the library board. It served for some time as the society’s museum, housing local and regional artifacts and furnishings.
Bonne, however, revealed a much earlier, and richer, legacy.
He estimates the house was built about 1822, when records indicate the first water-powered sawmill existed in Galion. A portion of the structure was built with mechanically-sawn wood, while the beams were carefully hand-sewn.
One unusual feature of the home, according to Bonne, is the chink used to fill crevices between the logs. In addition to wood chinks installed diagonally, daubing of clay and hair was used to fill the gaps. While horsehair or straw was commonly used as a binder, Bonne said the hair he found in the daubing was much finer than hair found on horses or cattle.
When finished, the house was sided with clapboard and plastered with clay on the interior. A chair rail, or wooden molding, was added to protect the plaster, as well as a plate rail from which the original occupants probably hung plates or ornaments.
“It’s probably a middle-class house,” Bonne said, guessing that the head of the household was a mill owner, blacksmith or businessman. It is unlikely, he said, that the home was occupied by a farmer or pioneer family.
Bonne said the structure never contained a fireplace, but was heated with wood stoves. A chimney on the building’s north side is thought to be original.
“It was heated from the beginning with wood stoves,” Bonne said, noting that 60 to 80 percent of America’s log homes did not contain fireplaces.
Five to 10 years after its construction, Bonne believes that an addition was built on the home’s east side, giving it the appearance of a Cape Cod or saltbox. The addition no longer exists.
Bonne called the home’s history between 1830 and 1892 a “blank area” when few improvements or revisions were made. In 1892, however, a major transformation took place. Bonne said old newspapers used to plaster the walls point to this fact.
About this time, another addition was built on the home’s south side and a window was changed to a door, Bonne said. A staircase, originally constructed in the northwest corner of the building was moved to the southwest side. Ceiling beams that had been exposed were plastered over in a modernization attempt.
“A lot of the plaster in the building was touched up at this particular time,” Bonne said. “The staircase move was the major thing.”
Revisions also took place when the library association acquired the building in 1901, Bonne said. An interior wall was also removed, probably to convert the downstairs into a one-room structure that would suit the library’s needs. The inside was painted and modernized at this time.
The interior wall, which is now missing, was reconstructed when the building ceased to be a library, and again became a dwelling. A bathroom was added when pressurized water came into use in Galion, probably between 1820 and 1830. in addition, two windows were installed that were not original to the structure.
“It’s been — on-and-off — a residence for people since the library moved it back,” Bonne said.
Editor’s note: Doug Osborne saw the recent photos and shared these memories of the old cabin.
“On Dec. 11, 1988, I was president of the Galion Historical Society. On this Sunday afternoon, we put on “An 1840s Early Settlers Christmas.” We staged it at the log house and included a fire in the fireplace, oil lamps, candles, clocks, baskets’ etc. We also staged the house with period 1840 furniture and created period clothing for the presenters.
Dr. Bernard Mansfield was also present as a traveling country doctor, sharing his visits for the day and stopped by to attend to our ill daughter. We all memorized the skit I prepared and ad-libbed often.
This was a very cold day, the ground was covered with snow, yet 270 people lined up in front of the cabin awaiting their turn to enter and experience the presentation.
I am very happy to see the preservation being done to the cabin, which is a piece of our local history.”
The log cabin in Galion now has a new cedar shingle roof. It was built about 1822 on North Market Street, and moved to Heise Park more than 30 years ago.
Constructed almost 200 years ago, it was used as Galion’s first public library