Historical society saves 150-year-old log cabin

jlondberg@demo-mo.comAugust 6, 2015 

The Cass County Historical Society has saved a potentially significant bit of history.

Don Peters, executive director of the society, and Diane Magness, a research assistant, gave a presentation July 30 to two dozen history buffs, detailing the society’s work to preserve a log cabin near Freeman that is more than 150 years old.

“Don has ... dug out a real treasure, and I think we all need to be proud of what he saved because it was soon to be firewood,” said Larry Boucher, past president of the society’s board of directors. The cabin was disassembled, and each salvageable piece was preserved.

Peters said the cabin, which is north of Freeman and south of the Grand River, may be even more significant than its status as a relic provides. Peters revealed the cabin may have housed Union Gen. Thomas Ewing mere days before he issued General Order No. 11.

General Order No. 11 was issued in 1863 and forced the evacuation of families in four Missouri counties, including Cass County.

Peters and Magness cited multiple sources that pointed to Ewing, along with Kansas Sen. James Lane, meeting at a cabin.

Tom Rafiner’s novel, Cinders and Silence, was cited as saying the meeting took place in a cabin near Morristown.

And the owner of the cabin that the society preserved, Alfred Grundy Sloan, was a Union supporter.

“There weren’t many Union people around Morristown,” Magness said.

Peters acknowledged that they couldn’t prove that Sloan’s cabin was, in fact, the site of the meeting.

“But circumstantially, it’s pretty darn close. And if it is, this raises it into a whole new level of history in Cass County,” Peters said.

The cabin itself gave clues to the lives led there more than 150 years ago. The preservation team found newspaper covering some of the logs on the interior.

“Very cheap form of wallpaper,” Peters said.

The papers dated as far back as 1880 and the pages revealed their sources to be from the St. Louis Republican and a publication from Oklahoma.

The team also found wooden pegs whittled from walnut trees that served as nails in the logs.

In its original form, the cabin measured just 20 feet by 18 feet. Historical records put the size of the first family that lived in the dwelling at eight members. The second family consisted of 10 members in

Through the years, owners made additions around the cabin, obscuring it completely beneath a more modern facade, which almost led to its destruction.

After a Kansas man purchased the land and ordered the structure be taken down, a heady member of the wrecking crew noticed the cabin situated amid the more modern additions.

Descendants of Alfred Sloan were in attendance for the presentation. Sloan’s great-granddaughter, Mildred Duncan, recalled spending Sundays at the property.

“Big events and family would come on Sunday. It was a beautiful place,” said Duncan, 96. “I think it’s great to save it.”

Joann Weddington, Duncan’s daughter, was pleased that the society was able to preserve a portion of her family’s and Cass County’s history.

The preservation team disassembled the cabin log by log. Peters said the team saved every piece possible.

That included the logs, some of which had rotted, and materials between the logs for sealing — stones used for chinking and an unknown substance, possibly chalk or ash, used for grout.

Now the cabin survives in pieces, wrapped in plastic and marked to be reassembled if the proper location presents itself.

“We had no plans on what to do with it, but we knew it couldn’t be destroyed,” Peters said.

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