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Tuesday, September 02, 2014, 3:02 p.m.
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‘New’ trapper cabin opening at Pioneer Village

By Angela Spencer

This article was published May 1, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

the-new-trapper-cabin-at-pioneer-village-in-searcy-was-constructed-from-old-logs-reclaimed-from-part-of-a-house-that-was-being-torn-down

The new trapper cabin at Pioneer Village in Searcy was constructed from old logs reclaimed from part of a house that was being torn down.

SEARCY — White County’s Pioneer Village in Searcy has recently gained a new building, and the village will be ready to show off the structure at the upcoming Pioneer Village Spring Open House.

Elizabeth Heard, chairwoman of Pioneer Village, said things are coming together in the trapper cabin that combines local historic materials with detailed descriptions of a real trapper cabin from the 1830s.

“Although it is a ‘new’ structure, it’s really old,” Heard said. “It differs from the other buildings here because the other buildings here in the village were actually buildings that were originally in another location and moved here. For the trapper cabin, we have taken old materials to construct an old “new” trapper cabin.”

The logs used to build the trapper cabin came from an old home in Searcy that started out as a log cabin. As the house was expanded and changed, the logs had been buried under newer material.

“It had a stucco exterior,” Heard said. “No one knew the logs were there until they started taking that house down and knocking some of that stucco off.”

In 2006, the logs were donated to the White County Historical Society, but they remained in storage until January 2013, when a plan was made to build a cabin out of the old logs. The cabin was finished in November 2013, but it was not furnished in time for the village’s fall open house.

The cabin design came from the records of Friedrich Gerstacker, a German who traveled the American West from 1837 to 1842. For a short time in 1838, after a night with the Hilger family in White County, he stayed in the woods near the Little Red River with a trapper named Turoski, whom he described as a “Polish officer, who sought and found in America security against the political persecutions that he would have been exposed to in Europe.”

“For whatever reason, [Gerstacker] documented that trapper cabin as to the size and the contents,” Heard said. “We have taken that piece of history and replicated this cabin with our 125-year-old logs.”

In chapter 4 of Gerstacker’s book Wild Sports in the Far West, the author recounts his time with Turoski in the trapper cabin.

“To give my reader an idea of the bachelor life of an American backwoodsman, I will describe one of the nights that I passed at Turoski’s,” Gerstacker wrote. “Hilger’s daughter had gone home to visit her parents, who lived three miles off, and we two were alone. The Pole’s dwelling was nothing but a simple rough log-house, without any window, and all the chinks between the logs were left open probably to admit fresh air.”

The trapper cabin at Pioneer Village is just a small shelter. The original one that Gerstacker stayed in would probably have been a safe haven from bad weather and a place to take a quick nap but not much more.

“In the documentation, it says that there was a chair, a table, two plates, a cup and a specific number of silverware,” Heard said. “That was it. He wasn’t laid up in his cabin. He was out in the woods trapping and hunting.”

The Pioneer Village Spring Open House will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Heard said volunteers at the event will wear period costumes, and village crafters will demonstrate woodworking, spinning, Dutch-oven cooking, quilting, smithing and more. Handmade items and food will be offered for sale.

In addition, there will be antique tractors, cars and trucks, and toy trains on display; pioneer games and activities; and live farm animals.

Pioneer Village is at 1200 Higginson St. in Searcy, behind Land O’ Frost. Admission to the open house is free, but donations will be accepted.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

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