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Our Cabin Story

Imagine yourself arriving in America in 1888 after traveling across the ocean from Germany.  You and your wife cling to the few possessions you were able to bring with you and then set off in search of land to start a farm.  That is just what William and Augusta Gutknecht did over 120 years ago. They found land near Black River Falls, Wisconsin, but had no house to live in. The solution was to take a shovel, dig an enormous hole for a basement and then gather limestone rocks to line the walls of the basement. Next, cut trees and square the logs for the walls of the house, build a barn, buy cows and start clearing land to plant your first crop. It must have been a grueling life!

We saw an ad in the Country Today newspaper for that very cabin and went to Black River Falls for it’s auction. After the household items were sold, the auctioneer started the auction for the log cabin at $40,000. No one bid on the cabin until the price dropped to $500 (I guess that no one was shopping for a log cabin that day)! The man next to me bid $500 and then I bid $1,000 and the cabin was mine!

My family and I camped next to the cabin for about a week so that we could disassemble it and move it to our Christmas tree farm. We labeled the logs and hired a crane to place the logs on a trailer to transport them to their new home.

On the day the crane came, a 90-year- old gentleman pulled up and told us that he had something in the trunk of his car for us. When he opened the trunk, we saw two oval portraits done in charcoal, of William and Augusta Gutknecht, the people who built the cabin!

He told us that when he was nine years old, his parents died from different illnesses. No one could take in their seven children, so the children were “farmed out” to various people and this man went to live with his grandfather, the one who built the cabin.

After living in the cabin for most of his life, it was time to move to an assisted living facility. He asked us to hang the portraits of his grandparents in the cabin to keep his family history alive and we, of course, responded, “We’d be honored to.” (Check out the portraits in the Northeast corner of the cabin)

After the cabin was completed, we realized that we would need more room for people to warm themselves. Peter found old barn beams from a nearby dairy barn being torn down and then bought rocks, for $7 per load, from a gravel pit in Janesville. Peter split the rocks with a maul and then did the stone work between the beams.

The “stained glass” windows in the back of the cabin were fashioned, in true pioneer spirit, from discarded glass bottles found in dumpsters! Yes, I’m not too proud to dumpster dive!