Homesteader's cabin has had many roles in its lifetime
Monday, March 26, 2012 6:50 AM
"That log house was used for many things before it came back to being used as a house. First, it was a hog house, then it became a chicken coop, then a calf pen, a bull pen and a birthing house for Holsteins," said Winnie Unnasch, recounting the many incarnations the old homesteader's cabin on their Pilot Mound farm has taken since being moved from its original location.
This old Trulson homestead cabin sits on the current day Rich and Winnie Unnasch farm in Pilot Mound Township, Fillmore County. The Unnasch family has had fun restoring the cabin and making it a guest home for family and friends.
"Now we use it for people who come for parties and stay over the weekend."
"It's over 100 years old, for sure. It was brought over the river before the farm was built. It was the Trulson cabin and we have a picture of the cabin when it was across the river, but we don't know who's in the picture.
"This house was built in 1917, so that one has got to be a few years older because it was brought here in the early 1900s," she elaborated.
"They didn't bring over all the logs, though - from the picture, it was getting pretty bad, so they only brought over part of it. They probably lived in it before and after...there was writing on the wall when we remodeled it."
The Pilot Mound Trulson family's descendants last toured their ancestral homestead during a family reunion several years ago and, at that time, the Unnasches were still planning what to do with the derelict old structure that stands a hike away from the "new house," their 1917 farmhouse.
Winnie related that she, her husband, Rich, and their son, Karl, concluded that it would serve well as a bunkhouse if it was properly restored.
Reconstructing the cabin took some down-home engineering. "It's all hand-hewn logs - the bottom three rounds were put in from an old barn that was torn down up the road. We took it all down...Karl and two of our grandsons laid it down just like it had fallen apart.
"We opened up the ends the same way, but what's odd is that when we put the logs back together, they didn't fit right. And the 4-ft. doors were not good for people who were taller, so we made it taller, so it's about five and a half feet, maybe six - it has new logs in the foundation after we got done.
"It did have a cement floor. It must've been put in after the Trulsons moved in from across the river. We tore that out and put a new cement floor in, new rafter logs in, too.
"The roof was shot, so we put a new roof on it because there was a big hole in the old roof. We broke only one beam putting them up."
The Unnasches chose to expand the cabin's guest capacity by hoisting beams up and fencing a new loft in with tree limbs from their farm.
"We added a loft. It's big enough for a regular mattress so two people can stay up there."
She continued, "After Karl and Rich put the logs up, Karl did a lot of work on the cabin. He and our grandson, Dalton, put in a lot of time. Rich and I chinked it up after Karl put it together, and it was getting late in the summer, so we wanted to get it closed up before winter.
"But there was a big hole in the wall and we didn't know what to do with it, so Karl made a stained-glass window that opens inside."
Pilot Mound artist Karl's stained glass windows are the cabin's gems - one depicting bread, grapes and wine is "grace" in the wall alongside the table.
The grand clerestory stained glass has unique form, in that it forms an angel, but also lines up with a tree outside the cabin so that if one stands back and views the "ornaments" that represent the Unnasch family's birthstones as they align with the tree, the parts of the whole collaborate to create the image of a Christmas tree.
Still rustic, the cabin has no running water or electricity, so anyone who sleeps there must appreciate candlelight and moonlight trips to the house or woods.
The chandelier Karl fashioned of hay-rake tines and parts of a dump rake lowers on a pulley for easy lighting and the woodstove is good for heating.
A homemade rope bed welcomes overnight guests who've spent time sharing in family fun on the farm and are too tuckered to navigate the roads home.
"The cookstove is not period, but it works. I've baked bread in it. There's no electricity or running water, no toilet, but it's mostly family members who stay here, so they know to plan ahead if they stay in the old cabin."
And the Unnasches have "converting things" like the restored settler's cabin down to a T - now that they've finished that project, it's on to making hay in the barn, as Winnie concluded, "We're really good at converting things...we've converted the barn, too, so it's a great place for parties."