Bev McCulloch rebuilds 1829 log cabin
When Benjamin Fry built his log cabin south of the town that would one day become Plattsburg, northwest Missouri looked a little different. In 1829, the cabin was on Missouri’s frontier. The Platte Purchase had not been made, Kansas City was not incorporated as a town and Smithville Lake was more than a century away from existing. But today Fry’s cabin looks much the same as it did almost 200 years ago, thanks to a retired music teacher who couldn’t let a piece of history be forgotten.
The cabin, which in 1991 was part of a barn across the road from where Bev and her late husband, Ron, lived, was due to be dismantled. “I thought maybe I’d try to save it, but the only thing I’d ever built was a doghouse,” recalls Bev, a Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative member.
Saving Fry’s cabin took Bev a little more effort than tacking together Fido’s abode. Pressed for time, she paid the cabin’s owner $100, and with the help of friends, family, neighbors, some chains and a pickup, Bev transported the cabin one log and foundation rock at a time to their farm. For the next three years, on a hillside in the woods, Fry’s cabin — now known as McCulloch’s Deer Creek Cabin — was rebuilt.
“For the longest time we were just trying to get it up,” Bev says. “The flood of ’93 hit and you couldn’t get a tractor or a truck in here. But everybody was safe and nobody got hurt. That was my goal.”
Bev had the foresight to label the logs before dismantling the structure. Wrangling the 200-year-old oak and walnut timbers, some weighing as much as a half a ton, took some ingenuity: With an iron bar and rocks, Bev managed to raise them on to a ramp built from other trees on the property, and hoisted each piece into position using a tractor and cable. She added windows to the west wall, and learned to chink the spaces between the logs using a mix of water and homemade plaster. With no way to raise the last three logs high enough, Bev stopped at the sixth level and built a loft and roof.
“I learned a lot of skills. When you do your rafters you have to cut what’s called a ‘bird’s mouth’ — just a 90-degree chunk — out of it, then it will lay flat on the plate.” She points out a conspicuously newer looking piece of the roof. “The ridge crown was the hardest thing because I had to splice it and had to lift it with help.”