Humboldt County
Historical Association

PO Box 162
Humboldt, Iowa

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     The Log Cabin was built in the 1970s and is an exact replica of a one-room pioneer log cabin. It is furnished with antiques that could have been used by a family living in the cabin. An oaken bucket and dipper sit on the dry sink, along with soap dish and baking pan. The bedstead is a hand-tooled wooden frame with rope strung between wooden pegs to support the mattress filled with corn husks. A bearskin rug provides extra warmth for cold nights. Overhead is a loft accessible by ladder, the sleeping place for children. The north wall has a sturdy, workable fieldstone fireplace, with soup kettle and tongs. The spinning center includes a yarn winder, wool carders, and a large spinning wheel.

Be sure to visit the Log Cabin when you are out at the Humboldt County Museum, This cabin is a replica of the homes of pioneer days, based on an original structure from Renwick. William (Bill) Housel and his wife Harriett conceived the idea of erecting this cabin.  It is a tribute their determination and love of Humboldt County’s historical past.
     In 1974, Mr. and Mrs. Housel approached the Humboldt County Historical Association with the idea of moving an authentic log cabin onto grounds. It was moved, but when the time came to install it, it was found that the cabin was in such bad condition that it was not suitable for public use. So it was decided to build a replica.
      The actual work on the replica cabin began in1975 under the guidance of Hr. Housel and contractor, Carl Marcellus. Long hours were spent poring over reference books, drawing the plans, finding the materials, and then constructing this unique building.
      The logs for the walls were made from old Iowa Public Service poles, sawn flat on one side. The floor, the door and the window planks came from the dismantled Northwestern Railway Depot in Dakota city. They were chosen because of their resemblance to the puncheon floors used in early log cabins.
      Joists for the floor came from the former Humboldt Livestock Auction Corrals, and were also used for the rafters as well as the studding at the gables, cross-ties to the two topside logs, and joists for the loft floor. The dimensions of the old cabin—14′ X 17′—were copied, as was the shape of the logs, the log-notches and the flush outside corners. The aim was to make the cabin as authentic looking as possible. The cedar roof shakes were chosen for their roughness, and the roof has a fairly steep pitch to shed water and snow.
      Field stones for the chimney and fireplace came from Corinth Township. The black and white conglomerate stone in front center was given by John Olson of Livermore, who found it along the Des Moines River near Bradgate. The mantle over the fireplace is the only thing that was used from the original log cabin.
      Wayne Johnson, stone mason of rural Humboldt, Steve Samuels and P. & M. Stone Company provided the limestone for the hearth. Hugh Edwards gave the strap hinges for the door, made from wagon wheel tires by Fred Hawkins, who had a blacksmith shop in Humboldt for many years.
        A crane to hold pots over the fire in the fireplace was made by Dale Kerns of Humboldt, and Ole Fjetland of Dakota City contributed a hand-forged hook for use on the chain, so the cook could vary the height of pots suspended over the fire.
         The cabin, authentically furnished in the style of its day, includes many original artifacts—a cradle, spinning wheel, dry sink, rope-tied bed, and utility corner featuring an old wooden wash tub.



     Next to the Log Cabin, is the Kettle Shed. It was built in the 1980s to house a very old and very large iron kettle once used on the Sidney Parsons farm south of Humboldt,  donated by Carl and Carol Parsons and Paul and Katie Parsons.

     Do you make your own soap or boil clams to feed your hogs? You need the Kettle Shed and its Kettle.
     The huge kettle was donated to the Museum by Carl and Carol Parsons in 1987.  Carl’s Kettle is no small thing. About a yard across the top, this immovable kettle sits in a circular frame on fire bricks. It is actually sitting on the fire, with an iron door at the bottom for fuel. At the back of the stove under the kettle, a pipe takes the smoke out through the roof of the shed.
     The kettle was used on the Parson’s farm to cook freshwater clams from the river to be fed to the hogs. It also heated wash water when the weather was good enough to wash outdoors. At hog butchering time, the kettle heated the water that was needed to scald the hogs. This made it easier to scrape away the bristles of hair.
     The kettle could be used by the housewife to make homemade soap. Cooking fat was saved until there was enough and then it was boiled with lye. Wood ashes were saved and water was poured through them. This gave you lye. Depending on the quantities of the ingredients, you got a soft soap which was stored in a crock and spooned into the wash tub at laundry time. When hard soap was made, the hot soap was poured into a paper-lined box or pan and cut into cakes when cool.
     There are cakes of homemade soap for sale in the Museum Gift Shop. There are also cakes of this soap in the Log Cabin. It is not a smooth, sweet-smelling soap—and it is hard on skin and clothes. But it cleaned and could be made from ingredients that every family had.
     Another use for the giant kettle was dyeing the homespun fabric produced by pioneer women. There were many different sources of color—the bark of certain trees, berries, shells of nuts, leaves, etc. These could be boiled or steeped in the pot and the fabric simmered until the desired color was achieved. There is a quilted homespun bedspread on the bed in the Frances Messer room in the Mill Farm House. It is a rich brown in color, and was completely made by hand and home dyed by the Messer family.
     If you had enough apples, you could make apple butter in the kettle. On display in the Kettle Shed are some wooden tools shaped like a small hoe. Apple butter will readily stick and burn so the wooden hoe was used to stir the mixture and keep it from ticking. You needed at least four bushels of apples and 40 pounds of sugar. When it was done, it was stored in a stone jar, similar to those on display in the pantry of the Mill Farm House.

     There are many other articles on display, including hog butchering, lard-making, and sausage stuffing appliances.

The Log Cabin and Kettle Shed are open
June through September on
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
10:00 - 4:00
Sunday 1:30 - 4:30

Museum Director: Connie Overby (515) 890 9652