Ingram's Pioneer Log Cabin Village
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"The Centralia Sentinel" - Centralia, Illinois - Sunday, July 3, 1977
"Early Log Houses Get a New Lease on Life as Kinmundy’s Pioneer Village Opens Today"
by Judith Joy
When Erma Quick was 11 years old, she hired her friend, Nellie Maude, 12, to drive her to an antique sale in Mulkeytown. For fifty cents, plus some help with the dishes, Nellie agreed to drive Erma from her home in Christopher over to the sale in the family’s Model T.
Driver’s licenses weren’t required then; and as Erma Quick Ingram now recalls, "Kids were different in those days as they are now."
At the sale, little Erma bought an old captain’s chest for 50 cents and a marble-topped dresser which sold for the same price. She didn’t have too much money to splurge on sales at that age, but the auction marked the beginning of a lifelong passion for antiques and old buildings, which finally blossomed into the idea of recreating an early pioneer village of log houses.
Looking back now, Mrs. Ingram believes her interest in log cabins stemmed from her childhood admiration for Abraham Lincoln. Her father, Curtis Franklin Quick, frequently took Erma and her twin sister, Erna, on sightseeing trips when they were children and on their impromptu weekend excursions they visited many of the state’s historic and scenic areas.
Mr. Quick had been in the secret service until he was 45; but in 1917, he became freight agent for the Illinois Central in Christopher. Erma and her sister frequently took advantage of their railroad passes and the two children made their first trip by themselves when they were about five years old. Erma, who even showed a spirit of self-reliance, was put in charge of her twin on their first trip to visit their relations in Kinmundy.
This same spirit stood her in good stead when, in 1959, she decided to take her own two children on a three-month tour of Africa from Cairo to Capetown. Mrs. Ingram planned the tour herself and they traveled by train and local buses often sharing rides with tribesmen carrying their undiapered infants and livestock. Having read of Dr. Livingstone’s adventures, Mrs. Ingram planned to include a visit to the Belgian Congo on their itinerary and ended up getting lost herself, an event which she now recalls with some amusement.
It was two years after her return from Africa, in 1961, that she purchased the land northwest of Kinmundy which included a 7-acre reservoir that had once furnished water for the C&EI steam locomotives. This purchase, and the subsequent village restoration, were paid out of her savings earned as a music teacher in the Salem grade schools, where she taught for 27 years.
Although she had been interested in collecting antiques since her childhood, lack of funds had been a major constraint. After graduating from high school, Erma had worked her way through what is now Roosevelt University in Chicago. She later did graduate work at the University of Illinois and met all the requirements for a PhD at the University of Chicago except for writing her thesis.
During the years she had lived in southern Illinois, Mrs. Ingram had become increasingly distressed by the number of old buildings which were being torn down or abandoned to ruin. In 1963, she purchased her first log house and the dream of the pioneer village was on it’s way to becoming a reality. At that time, most of the log houses could be purchased for small sums, as many of the owners planned to get rid of them anyway. The main job was figuring out how to take them down and put them back together without getting the logs all mixed up.
Fortunately, at about this time, Mrs. Ingram’s son, Bob, who is now 30, was in high school and he and his friends provided the strong backs needed to move the heavy timbers. Some of Bob’s friends, like many teenagers, did more standing around than working; but even so they all learned by experience.
Most of the early cabins were in a state of disrepair by the time the Ingrams found them. The sashes had often rotted, the window glass was broken and the fireplaces had collapsed. Originally, the space between the logs was filled with mud chinking, which was often patched every year to keep out the breezes and the bugs. However, when the Ingrams reassembled the cabins, they used a mortar consisting of sand, cement, and lime, which is the same as that used at New Salem.
With the exception of one cabin, all were constructed of white oak timbers, which were usually about 10 to 12 inches wide. All the cabins had shake roofs and wooden floors. Although puncheon floors, made of logs sawed smooth on one side and left round on the bottom, were reportedly common, the Ingrams have never found one in this area.
Most of the cabins in the village came from Marion County and many of the families which built them still have descendants living in this area. The oldest cabin, built around 1818, stood close to the old halfway house east of Salem on Route 50. This cabin is made of walnut logs and consists of one very small room.
Tradition has it, says Mrs. Ingram, that a young couple were traveling from the east to Missouri, where they intended to settle. After leaving Indiana, the woman, who was pregnant, was unable to continue the trip and the cabin was hastily erected as a shelter.
The majority of the log houses in the village were built during a fifty-year period between 1818 and the end of the Civil War. However, the cabins often continued to be used for storage even after the family moved to a newer and grander home. One family in the Kinmundy area maintained their cabin, and during really cold winter days, moved back to their log house which was warmer and easier to heat than their new home.
With their relatively small size and thick walls, a well-chinked cabin must have been a fairly snug shelter. Because they had few windows, the interiors were often whitewashed to reflect more light. In the early days, entire families often lived in one room, the children sleeping on the floor in trundle beds or on pallets. Sometimes a ladder or stairway led to an upstairs loft where the children slept to give the parents more privacy.
All eight of the cabins which are now open are furnished with bedsteads, corner cupboards, tables, chairs and primitive antique cooking and implements which Mrs. Ingram has spent years in collecting. Most of her purchases were made from antique dealers in the area with less than half the furnishings having been acquired at auction.
The cabins are arranged along the pathway through the woods and the visitor has the feeling of somehow being transported back in time to an early settlement on the edge of the frontier. The buildings have been furnished to represent a variety of trades. There is a small shop with its rolls of calico, an apothecary, a cobbler and even a small cabin which provided a home for a Methodist circuit rider.
The largest cabin in the village came from Effingham county where it was being used as a barn. It was originally an inn and served as a stopping place for those traveling between St. Louis and Terre Haute. The building was constructed in 1828, and at one time had an outside stairway, so that the guests didn’t have to disturb the family when they went upstairs to the large sleeping room.
The Strullmeyer cabin, which dates from the same period, had an unusual history in that it was moved from St. Peter to Loogootee by a man named Strickler. The logs still bear incised Roman numerals which Strickler used to identify them before he disassembled the structure in 1870.
The Strullmeyer family bought the cabin in 1907, and Mrs. Ingram then purchased in from Ivan and Willard Strullmeyer. Mrs. Ingram believes that the old timers horses and mules did a better job of moving the buildings than some of the inept workmen with modern equipment. However, she admits having had a "lot of lucky breaks" and receiving the unexpected help from many people who have been smitten with her enthusiasm to preserve something of the past.
At an age when many women find themselves exhausted after a few hours of bridge or shopping trips, Mrs. Ingram is still spending hours on her hands and knees oil finishing the floors or moving furniture. And although the frontier village is still not fully completed, she is busily planning her next projects. These include the restoration of the old Kinmundy mill and a museum to house some of her other collections.
Those who know Erma Ingram and her determination, don’t put it past her.
The pioneer village can be reached by driving west on Monroe St. in Kinmundy until one reaches the 2125N signpost. Turn left (south) there and continue across the railroad tracks to the village parking lot.
The village will be open every day, starting today. Admission is $1 for adults, 50 cents for high school students, and 25 cents for children. On Sunday the hours are from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. On other days the hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Picnic tables are available and lemonade and iced tea will be on sale. No alcoholic beverages will be permitted at any time.
Bank fishing is permitted, but no frogging or hunting is allowed. A dock facility for boats with trolling motors will be completed later in the season.
No one is permitted in the area after closing and it will be patrolled by a watchman and guard dogs.
Bill Chasteen (numbering the logs), Jim Lane (now deceased), Robert Ingram, Mr. Smith (holding baby), Garrel Eagan, Jack Mulvaney and Leonard. The reconstructed inn is shown in the photo in the lower left.
The model in this picture is Margaret Shufeldt (Mrs. Eugene) of Kinmundy.
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