Sturgis log cabin to get new home at Camp Fort Hill

By Rosalie Currier

Posted Apr. 6, 2015 at 2:00 PM

David Sturgis is sharing his family history with Camp Fort Hill in the form of a hand-hewn log cabin built in 1850 by his great-grandfather, Thomas Sturgis.

Sturgis always knew the building on his land had at least one log wall, but most of it was covered with clapboard siding. The interior was plaster over lath board.

Although urged to bulldoze the 22-by-18 foot building, Sturgis never did and recently with some grandchildren, started removing clapboard and plaster to uncover a solid log home.

Sturgis remembers his father — the second Thomas Sturgis — telling how they moved the cabin in 1912 before building the existing farm house.

Soon, the little log house will again be moved. This time, log-by-log to Camp Fort Hill where it will be rebuilt across from the nature center.

Eric Eishen and Dave Ludders are leading the project and looking for help. The bottom row of logs need to be replaced for which Eishen has chosen tulip poplar because “It’s virtually impervious to insects,” he said.

Eishen has those logs donated, hand-hewn and waiting at the camp. They will also reconstruct the roof as it would have been originally built.

One reason the cabin has survived 165 years is the logs were covered, Eishen said. While removing layers, they discovered its history. Originally, the interior was white washed, before covered with lath and plaster. A piece of plank shows evidence of being cut at a water powered saw mill, he said. Inside the wall they found a antique sharpening tool.

Now it’s nearly ready for the next step — to move the logs, reassemble and roof it, hopefully before winter.

Although they are leading the effort, Ludders and Eishen can’t do the project alone. Its completion date will depend on volunteers offering funding, in-kind donations or sweat equity, Ludders said. Or all three.

For several reasons, they plan to go beyond the orignal design by adding a wrap-around porch , Eishen said. A porch will help protect the logs while providing a comfortable outdoor area for those visiting the historic home.

Finding the right home for this piece of local history is important to Sturgis, a direct descendant of Judge John Sturgis, an original founder of the city.

John’s son, Thomas built the cabin. Thomas’ son Joseph lived there, followed by a second Thomas who was David’s father.

“We want it to go to Camp Fort Hill,” Sturgis said. “Their purpose is great.”