JOHNSON CABIN MUSEUM  


CABIN PRESERVATION STORY
2019-2021


Our Heartfelt Thanks to those who made
this preservation possible

Donors
Gage County Visitor Improvement Fund
Margaret & Martha Thomas Foundation
Gage County Foundation
Wymore Blue Springs Area Fund
City of Blue Springs

Consultants
Jerry Berggren of Berggren Architects
Nebraska State Historical Society

Contractors
Martin Walls, Inc
William's Midwest Housemovers, Inc
Keith Weyer & James Ullman
888 Log Guys
Van Winkle Masonry
B & J Hill Construction
Schmale Lawn & Landscape
Blue Springs Maintenance Shop

Volunteers who donated time and/or materials
Gene Reedy
Radar Reedy
Rosalee Reedy
Jan Morris
Dale Friedeman
Oren & Kathryn Bednar
Thema Anderson




National Registry Placement Ceremony

Featured Speaker - Ruben A. Acosta
Registry Coordinator for the Nebraska State Historical Society


Click to see video of Ruben's speech


Saturday, August 15, 2015
Blue Springs City Park
Blue Springs, Nebraska  

160th Anniverary as a Pioneer Cabin - 1855-2015
65th Anniversary as a Museum - 1950-2015

National Register of Historical Places - Listed 28 July 2015
Criteria A: Education as an example of mid century interpretations of history
via local history museums and relocated buildings. (The Cabin represents one approach
communities implemented across Nebraska to recognize and promote local history)


THE PIONEER CABIN
1855


When Reverend James H. Johnson (page 695) crossed the Missouri River in the spring of 1855, he knew little about the vast, treeless prairie that lay in front of him. A Methodist minister from Iowa, his calling was to minister to the Otoe-Missouria Indians, a tribe whose vast hunting lands had been reduced to 250 square miles of Federal Reservation land the year before. When wagon trains were making their way through the Kansas-Nebraska territory through the 1840s, millions of acres of grassland just west of the Missouri river were passed by unsettled and maps labeled his destination as part of "The Great American Desert" (a desert in those days was simply land that was treeless and remote).

Johnson had no thought of filing for "Homestead" land, the "Homestead Act of 1862" was seven years into his future, so he staked out (squatted on) a plot of ground near a creek in the Blue River Valley a few miles from the northern border of the Indian Reservation. There were mature oaks and cottonwoods in the valley and he felled several oaks to chop into logs for his cabin, logs that have now stood the test of time over 160 years. The log cabin, rising from the meadow, was a sturdy 14' x 16' one story with a loft. When it was finished, he dug a well near the entrance and hollowed out two oak branches for buckets. As the leaves began to turn and winter was destined to set in, James hitched his wagon and traveled 350 miles east to his family in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. There was little chance of survival alone through the harsh winters of the prairies of the Great Plains.

 



It is not known whether the Reverend returned to the cabin and his calling in 1856. In the Spring of 1857, he set out in a covered wagon drawn by a pair of oxen named Buck & Jerry. At his side was his family; wife Martha (33), daughters Mary (12) and Martha (5), and sons Thomas (10), Allen (8) , James (7) and Richard (4). They crossed the Missouri River at Nebraska City by ferry and started their new life surrounded by the beautiful Blue River Valley. Tragedy came quickly on the plains that fall, while gathering drift wood near the Blue River, eight year old Allen waded out on a sandbar, stepped into a hole and drowned. He was buried on the banks of the river and later reinterred as the first recorded burial in the Methodist Cemetery (the Blue Springs Cemetery) just north of Blue Springs.



The Cabin (photo undated) in its original surroundings 1/4 mile north
of Riverside Farm in a clearing just SE of the Mud Creek bridge.



Reverend Johnson fulfilled his calling to preach to the Indians and went on to organize the first Sunday School and Methodist Class. They met in area log cabins in the winters and in the shade of nearby Oak Groves in the summer. In 1862, a typhoid epidemic broke out. Johnson road horseback from place to place offering to care for the sick until he was stricken and died at the age of 45, leaving Martha with 6 children to raise. She went on to live the life of a true pioneer, facing prairie fires (1871 the worst) and grasshopper invasions which in 1876 darkened the sun and stopped trains. Martha passed on in 1899 and rests beside James in the Blue Springs Cemetery.


Martha M. Johnson


In the summer of 1861, James & Catherine Hollingworth (son Joseph page 156) arrived in the area with their large family of 25 children and grandchildren. The Johnson's had built a new stick frame house on their land and James rented the cabin from Martha for 2 seasons and helped with the farming. The Hollingworth family went on to own large limestone quarries a few miles to the north and were instrumental in founding Holmesville.


Johnson Cabin moved to Blue Springs City Park
February 1949
 

 

THE MUSEUM
1950

"In order to bring back some of the memories of old time Blue Springs, the project is being opened to bring the cabin into the park." Maude Boston.

The little cabin project launched in November of 1948 and opened as a museum in May of 1950 went on to exhibit the history of the Blue Springs area to thousands of visitors over the span of 65 years.


 
Maude Boston was a pioneer in the use of the 1855 log cabin as a museum. Following her lead, the Homestead National Monument moved the 1867 Palmer-Epard cabin to their park in June of 1950. In Bellevue, the 1830s cabin, now a museum, was lived in as a private residence until 1954 when the Sarpy County Historical Society purchased the property. It should be noted, with due respect, the 1855 Mayhew cabin in Nebraska City was opened to the public in 1938 to help to tell the story of the Underground Railroad.

Boston's "Pioneer Club" was organized for the purpose of raising funds, gathering volunteers to move the cabin to the Blue Springs City Park, for its restoration, collection and preparation of local historical memorabilia for display and for acting as museum custodians and docents.

After three days of preparation, the Pioneer Club and its volunteers successfully loaded and moved the 14 x 16 foot cabin 1 ½ miles to the city park on February 22, 1949. Through the summer months that followed, materials and money came in to prepare for the restoration of the building. Salvaged brick from the burned Blue Springs Methodist church was donated for the fireplace, native wood from the original land was chopped and sawed to replace logs in the walls where necessary, windows were donated, and native walnut slabs were used to build the front door.

In May of 1949 a concrete foundation and floor was poured, left over concrete was used for a sidewalk. A limestone block from the foundation of the Methodist Church was used for the stoop at the cabin door and suitable local clay was found for chinking the log walls. By November 9, 1949, the new shingled roof and gabled ends had been completed (materials from the Wymore Lumber Company cost $98.63). Two upstairs windows were oiled, broken panes replaced and installed. Brick was fashioned into a fireplace around an old window opening once used at the cabins original site to vent a stove pipe (the original window frame can still be seen framing the interior fireplace). Only the bottom log at the rear of the building was left to reveal the original site of a long abandoned fireplace. The search went on some time for a downstairs window needed to fit the original opening. Mr. Peckham donated the steps from the old Blue Springs Opera House for the stairway and a platform was built for its landing.

By May of 1950, the last window had been installed and volunteers were working to have the exterior finished by Decoration Day. Visitors were already stopping by to see the little museum which opened that May. In May of 1951, Maude's husband, Jess, fixed a little fire in the fireplace and the Pioneer Club held its first meeting of that year in the cabin.

From the first news of plans for a museum, the people of Southern Gage County began donating treasured local memorabilia to exhibit. Ninety years young, Caroline Yother was among the first to donate an old iron tea kettle. A photograph of the original lady of the house, Martha Johnson, was donated by the Johnson family along with their story and hearty well wishes for the success of the little museum. No photo of the gentleman of the house who passed on in 1862 was ever found. There was a chair from one of the first settler's in the area, most certainly brought with the family from Richmond, VA. Buffalo horns, carriage lamps, a cutting board, a newspaper from the Civil War era printed on wallpaper, a family bible donated by the Gambee's, a side saddle over 70 years old in 1949 whose 84 year old owner could still read, write and crochet without glasses added to the collection. A tin of buttons, a soap stone once used as a foot warmer on long wagon rides, dishes, rocking chairs, pioneer farm tools, kitchen utensils, traveling trunks, turn of the century band uniforms, and antique dressers from landmark living rooms ... the collection was indeed large by the time the museum doors opened. Among crowd favorites is the buffalo robe donated by the Coleman family with the fur trader's trademark hidden on the back for decades (now on display). There are old town records: 1870s voter lists, town council minutes, photo albums sadly without names of faces. There are photos of several later residents of the cabin and posted stories of their life there. Where evidence no longer remained, the elders of the town were there to tell its stories.




Memorial Day 1957
Photo by Elwin Trump
Left to Right - Juanita Trump, Mabel Harris, Grace Rice, Mrs. Schwab (Rev), Hattie Tays,
Maude Boston, Kate Wilterdink, Mrs. Foreman, Vera Reedy, Myrle Davis, Dan Hevelone,
Jess Boston. seated near table - Laura Balgue, Elizabeth Evans.

For over 65 years, the Johnson Cabin Museum's care has been lovingly handed down through the generations. We've attempted to list some of the organizations and people who played a substantial part in its restoration, preservation and opening of its door to the public through the years.

To the people of Blue Springs - this is YOUR heritage!


The Pioneer’s Club


“Anyone interested in paying tribute to our early pioneers and who wishes to have a part in helping preserve some of the relics of that early day so that coming generations may know, first hand, something of the way of life of those souls who braved the wilds and passed this way so that we, today, might have a rich and abundant life - is welcome to join this club.”

Maude (Reedy) Boston (1897-1990)
Jesse Boston (1888-1979)
Laura Rice (1883-1970)
Myrle Davis (1895-1979)
Estel Smith (1884-1962)
Mabel Harris (1880-1968)
Caroline Richardson
Ida (Ellis) Zeman (1909-1998)
Ada Knight (1878-1961)
Kate Wilterdink
Nettie Davis (1892-1965)
Gertrude Thoman (1884-1974)
Helen (Knight) Crane (1895-1977)
Juanita “Nita” Trump (1896-1982)
~~
Move to Blue Springs Park – February 22, 1949
Homer Knight (1873-1963)
Mike Martin
Claude Miller(1893-1959)
William Linscott (1876-1962)
Lewis Reedy (1909-1978)
Jesse Boston (1888-1979)
Denny Rice
Dorrance Costello (1906-1970)
Gus Haubel
Louis Crafford (1885-1954)
Coy Richardson
Jasper Martin (1882-1967)
Harley Trump (1895-1961)
Earl Wickersham
Ray Baker (1900-1982)
Elmer Boughen (1916-1970)
Burlington Railroad
The Friendship Circle
Helena Casebeer (1914-2000)
Louise (Rathe) Hobbs (1914-2008)
Chris (1903-1967) & Eva (1909-1977) Petersen (Petersen Grocery)
Mary Creek (1915-1979)
Wilma (Wignall) Maine (1910-1996)
Gretta Coleman (1903-1978)
Guy Leta Hagood (1914-1998)
Marie Cole (1910-1980)
~~
Blue Springs United Methodist Church
Willing Workers
~~
Gage County Heritage Preservation
~~
City of Blue Springs
Mayor Joe Schiermeyer (1896-1981)
Councilman Tom Wolf (1953-2015)
Councilman Gary Neumann (1944-2015)
Mayor Lonnie Meyer
Councilman Radar Reedy
Councilwoman Verona Neumann
Councilman Glenn Mewes
Councilman Hugh Carmichael
~~
Gene & Rosalee Reedy
Jan Eloise Morris
~~
Dedicated to the Family and Descendants of
Reverend James H. and Martha Johnson
True Pioneers of Gage County



In 2016, funds were raised to plant a river birch on the John Cabin Museum grounds.

Left to Right - Mike Trump (standing where his grandmother Juanita Trump stood in 1957), Sam, Radar, Rosalee & Gene Reedy are standing where Gene's aunt, Maude Boston, stood. Vera (Reedy) Crumb is standing where she stood at the age of 13 in 1957, Janet & Randy Roberts (donors for tree), Joyce & Frank Swanson (donors for tree), Deb & Bill Swanson (donors for tree), Maurice Cullison now owns the Mabel Harris house (donor for tree), Neil VanBoening, Jan Eloise Morris.

Tree Donor's not pictured. Dean Cole, Mae Marie Schultze, Paul & Loretta Shoup, Robert & Arnola Zabokrtsky, Dean Scheideler, Kim Ruhge.

May 8, 2016 - Photo Courtesy Wymore Arbor State




TIMELINE

Summer 1855 - Rev James H. Johnson arrives in Gage County from Mount Pleasant, Iowa with the intention of ministering to the Otoe-Missouri Reservation. He builds the cabin (see notarized letter submitted by Edward Clawson - Exhibit) near the Big Blue River on land as a squatter and returns to Iowa for the winter.

Summer 1857 - James returns to Gage County with his family (wife Martha, daughters Mary and Martha and sons, Allen, James and Richard). That fall Allen drowned in the river and would later be reinterred to become the first recorded burial in the Methodist Cemetery (now the Blue Springs Cemetery).

Oct 1859 - James enters into a Bond agreement with Charles T. Hillyer of Hartford CT to purchase the 160 acres (Twp 002N Rng 007E SE1/4 Sec 9) where the cabin stood for $286.

Sept 1860 - Patent is issued to Charles T Hillyer for same property. Johnson Family is living in the Cabin

1862 - Rev. James dies in a typhoid epidemic leaving Martha to raise her children on the Frontier. James Hollingworth and his family arrive from Wisconsin and rent the cabin from Martha for 2 seasons. Her family lives in a frame house recently built nearby on the farmstead.

April 1863 - Hillyer Quit Claims Deed to the property to Johnson Heirs in receipt of $300

1877 - Martha Johnson Quit Claims the property to her daughter Mattie Johnson (later Clawson) and the property is owned by Johnson descendants until Mrs. C. B Cross (granddaughter of James) sells it in 1946.

1880 criteria - Map of original cabin and surroundings drawn in 1953 by Edward Clawson, grandson, who was born in the cabin in 1884. His notes indicate the cabin was moved in its early years, probably before 1890 where it remained until it was moved to the City Park in 1949.

1921 - photo of cabin rented by the Tays Family. Mr & Mrs. Tays (pictured) lived in the cabin that summer and their daughter's family rented the larger house in the background. (Exhibit)

1946 - Ray Martin purchases the property

1948 - Ray Martin donates the cabin. "Blue Springs Park Home for Old Cabin" Beatrice Daily Sun Dec 1948

February 22, 1949 - Cabin is moved to Blue Springs City Park and funded by donations to the Pioneer Club

Decoration Day 1950 - Johnson Cabin was opened to the public housing a collection of historic relics & articles donated by local citizens.

1963 - The City of Blue Springs becomes owner and caretaker of the Cabin.

Present - The Johnson Cabin Museum is opened on summer holidays, town picnics & by appointment.

 


CABIN PRESERVATION STORY
2019-2021
by Jan Eloise Morris


Heavy rainfall in the summer of 2018 crept into the four corners of the Johnson Cabin Museum for the first time. The restoration work of the Pioneer Club 70 years before had kept the interior dry over the years, but large cracks in the concrete floor were now heaving and unstabilizing the sill logs laid upon it. Outside, water had found its way beside the 160 year old oak logs recently encased in well-meaning cement. Decades of rainwater flowing from higher ground to the north and west of the cabin found its way under the foundation and had taken its final blow.

In January of 2019, on the recommendations of the Nebraska State Historical Society, Gene Reedy and I met with Jerry Berggren of Berggren Architects. Jerry, highly respected for his work in historic preservation and restoration, offered his consultation services without charge and provided a detailed plan to save our historic treasure. He suggested excavating along the southwest corner to determine the depth of the concrete foundation and underpinning the existing foundation below frost level in three foot sections. This process required the interior concrete to be removed and replaced. The process would be delicate, difficult to engineer and could not guarantee future cracking of a new foundation. He also suggested a berm to be put in place to the north and west to keep future water flow away from the cabin.

In early February, Gene & Radar Reedy and I met with local contractors; James Ullman, Keith Weyer and Todd Lineweber to discuss a plan forward. While Jerry's plan to underpin the cabin would work, a discussion concerning the cabin's low point in its surroundings presented future drainage issues. Some of the men had experience in moving cabins and houses and it was suggested the best solution would be to move the old cabin 20 foot to the north on higher ground. Two long years later, I often thing of that day. "Move it 20 feet" they said. "It will be great" they said ...

That afternoon, I contacted John Williams of William's Midwest Housemovers, Inc. located in Hastings, they are the best movers in Nebraska with years of experience with difficult moving issues. After quite a search, I found Butch Bouvier in Council Bluffs. Butch did an extensive restoration of the Mayhew Cabin in Nebraska log by log in 2005, nearly 15 years before. James Ullman & Keith Weyer, our local sawmill operators, were hired to source and mill 2 new courses of logs for the bottom of the cabin, as well as install a new oak wood floor. B&J Hill Construction provided a bid for grading and new sidewalks. Dustin Martin of Martin Walls, Inc provided a bid to dig and pour new concrete footings. After clearing our project with the Nebraska State Historical Society and Jerry Berggren, our search for funding began.
With costs mounting for the project, our first grant submission was passed over. The $38,000 estimate was well above their capacity to fund. I then worked with the City of Blue Springs to formulate submissions for two matching grants. On June 22, 2019 the Gage County Visitor Improvement Fund approved 50% funding for our project, which would pay for $19,000 of approved expenses upon completion. The City of Blue Springs agreed to front the costs until completion of their portion. On July 25, 2019 the Margaret & Martha Thomas Foundation approved and funded the 2nd half of the project.

On July 12th, the cabin made an appearance on Pure Nebraska, the last documented filming of the cabin in its 2nd chapter of existence.

Step Back in Time at the Johnson Cabin Museum

On August 9th 28 kids from Lincoln's Little Kingdom were the last group to tour the museum to date.

The Work Begins


On August 19, 2019 Dustin Martin arrived to dig the footings and pour the concrete for the new foundation. Dustin's grandfather, Ray Martin, donated the shell of the old cabin to the Pioneer Club 70 years before and it was moved to the park on February 22, 1949.


On August 29th, with the help of Gene Reedy and Dave Friedeman, we packed up the cabin contents and moved them to Blue Springs City Hall for safe keeping.



Early on the morning of September 5th, John Williams of William's Midwest Housemovers arrived to move the cabin. They spent the morning sawing through the decayed bottom logs, shoring up the delicate old log walls and brick chimney with steel. In the afternoon they placed steel rails and a ball bearing system over to and above the new concrete footings. Early the next morning the structure was smoothly moved over its new footings.

Butch Bouvier arrived with his young assistant to go over the details of the cabin with John Williams and stayed to take measurements and talk over the work ahead with James Ullman who would be providing the hewn logs for replacement on the new concrete sill. Once this was accomplished the movers would come back and set the cabin on its new logs. While, all of the contractors involved in this process were seasoned experts, none of this work had been linked together before. John Williams supported the delicate walls and brick chimney with enough steel beams to keep the building stable, a procedure which would prove to save the structure in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, Bouvier, who had recently been through heart surgery and had taken on another cabin project closer to his home, seemed a bit overwhelmed by the steel beams he would need to work around. A week later, he ended up in the emergency room with fluid around his heart and had to back out of his commitment to the project.


After nearly two months of stressful searching for a log expert to replace Butch, I sent photos to Bob Savage of 888 Log Guys near Springfield, Missouri asking them for an estimate. Bob returned a plan within a week on how to replace the logs and thought they could work with our budget. Radar & Gene Reedy and James Ullman took over the logistics of the project.


James found oak logs south of Wymore. The oak trees that became the logs were harvested from Oren & Kathryn Bednar's land in Range 6 Township 2 Section 36 of Sicily Township. For over 100 years, they grew along Otoe Creek. They were cut down over 10 years ago, which fit our purpose well as the logs needed for the cabin could not be green.

The 888 Log Guys crew arrived late on the rainy afternoon of November 18th. The logs were delivered the next morning and other materials were sourced in Beatrice. The crew began work on the east and west walls where there was less presence of steel beams. The next day, William's Midwest Movers returned to pull the beams from the north and south side, set the cabin down on the new logs now carrying the weight of the cabin on the east and west side. After the movers shored up the brick chimney while it waited for masons to replace the bricks at the base, the log crew installed the new logs on the north and south sides of the cabin. On Saturday, with the help of Radar and Gene, they worked until after dark to finish the job. Without question, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to, Todd, the antique cabin expert and his assistant from 888 Log Guys who literally saved the structure and came in under budget.

When we were cleaning up the grounds on November 23rd, Linda Hohensee found a 2019 penny on the grounds, knowing it was a lucky penny I kept it for the cabin collection. A few days later I noticed we are carrying on an old cabin tradition when I came across a letter from the Johnson family who found an 1857 one cent piece on the original grounds of the cabin and kept it as a remembrance.


With winter setting in, work again slowed down. There was enough oak material left for oak flooring and James and Keith went to work on the new oak flooring complete with a trap door to access the floor below. James also adjusted the walnut door to fit its new opening.


Van Winkle Masonry came to repair the brick chimney with locally sourced antique bricks. We were very fortunate to find bricks that match, donated by Thelma Anderson. The original cabin bricks were salvaged from the ruins of the Blue Springs Methodist Church 1882-1948.

In March, Radar and Gene donated more time and equipment to remove the old cabin foundation and clean up the grounds.

On May 1st, B & J Hill Construction did rough grading of the grounds and installed handicap access sidewalks. Schmale Lawn & Landscape worked the last week of May to fine grade the grounds and seeded with a fescue blend.

With these projects complete, the City of Blue Springs commitments to the two matching grants were complete and a request for final payment of the 2nd grant was sent to the Gage County Advisory Committee in June and the City was reimbursed the full $19,000 commitment. We wish to thank the City of Blue Springs for their understanding and support throughout this preservation.



When it was determined that due to the Covid Pandemic, the museum could not open for the summer of 2020, work again slowed on finishing the cabin. Gene spent most of the summer filling in between the new logs for chinking and maintaining the new grass. Having lost some of it in the heat of summer, a new seeding was done again in the fall.


As part of my contribution to the 3rd chapter of the cabin's history, I planted 2 deep purple lilacs which were transplanted from our family farm. My Dad, Robert Morris, and I transplanted them from my grandparents farm to our farm in the late 1950s. They were originally planted by the CCC boys on my grandparent's farm in the 1930s to control erosion.

With a small amount of money left over and several hundred additional funding from the City, the 888 Log guys returned in October, 2020 to chink the exterior of the building before another winter set in.

This spring, 2021, Rosalee & Gene Reedy, working on behalf of the City of Blue Springs received donations from the Wymore Blue Springs Area Fund and The Gage County Foundation. The 888 Log Guy's crew returned in early July 2021 to complete the interior & additional exterior chinking. The Cabin and Exhibits were cleaned and moved back the week of August 8th.

 

First re-opening August 14, 2021
The Blue Springs Celebration.