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Dickinson Log Cabin

This historic log cabin, now located on the grounds of the Wayne County Historical Museum, was renovated in 2006, thanks to multiple grants.  It was originally located south of North A Street in the block between Fort Wayne Avenue and North Third Street. The log cabin had been built there by Solomon W. Dickinson in 1823.

Photo taken August 24, 2006

Historic Log Cabin Receives
Reprinted with permission from the Palladium-Item (Richmond, IN) in ZEAL section, Page: 10, 11S
Original print date: July 30, 2006; Author: Carolyn Lafever
When work began on the site for the new Richmond city building in 1967, several older buildings had to be removed. Demolition began on a double house that had stood on Fort Wayne Avenue for many years. As the wrecking crews began to take off the siding, they uncovered a startling sight. One half of the house was made of logs.

Recognizing the log structure could be of historical value, the Wayne County Historical Museum was contacted. Its officials readily agreed to have the log structure moved to the museum's grounds on North A Street.

Area residents who were interested in Richmond's history had long expressed a belief that there was a log cabin on the block south of North A Street in the block between Fort Wayne Avenue and North Third Street. After some research, it was determined the log cabin had been built there by Solomon W. Dickinson in 1823.

Dickinson and his wife, Hannah, who was a Quaker preacher, were married in 1811. An interesting description of their wedding was recorded some years later.

"Solomon White Dickinson of the city of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania and his wife Hannah W. Antrim, having consent of parents of the said city, having declared intentions of marriage with each other before a monthly meeting of the religious society of Friends, on the 2nd day of the 5th month in the year 1811 — they appeared in a public meeting of the said Friends on Mulberry St. in Philadelphia.

"On this occasion openly declared, 'he, Solomon White Dickinson took the said Hannah W. Antrim to be his wife — promising with Divine assistance to be unto her a loving and faithful husband until death should separate them.'

"Hannah made the same Declaration. This was made before 50 Friends and witnesses."

Solomon lived in Philadelphia for 12 years after his marriage. He decided to come "west to a Quaker settlement in Indiana, which they had named Richmond." He was a merchant in Philadelphia, and his trade was tinsmithing.

Tinsmiths were important in new settlements because they worked in light metals. Blacksmiths worked with heavier metals and were kept busy making plows and farm tools, shoeing horses and making and repairing iron household items.

The tinsmith made items of tin and copper. His work included metal cups and pitchers, lanterns, tin tableware and other items. Both metal workers had plenty of work on the frontier, as the nearest market was located at Cincinnati.

Upon arrival in Richmond, Solomon set to work immediately to build a log house. Hand-hewn logs were prepared for the floor support and the walls. Wood building materials were in great supply from the forest that covered most of Wayne County. The logs ranged from 18 to 20 inches thick. Logs for the floor were spaced three to five feet apart and sturdy boards placed on top.

The Dickinson homestead was the fifth house built in Richmond.

Richmond in 1823 was only a settlement, according to a written account of the Dickinson family. It consisted of a few families living in their covered wagons and camping.

Only a few log structures, such as the trading post, had been built since the settlement was platted in 1816 and named in 1818. There were plenty of business opportunities for ambitious merchants as the settlement grew.

Solomon added to his reputation for metal work when he invented a new cooking stove. Cooking stoves for the kitchen were not used much before 1830 because they were expensive and not readily available. He received a patent for it and began manufacturing stoves in his Richmond shop by 1835.

The advertisements asserted the new stove would save fuel and "save female labor."

Solomon and Hannah raised nine children in their Richmond home. Family members lived in the home for several years. Some time after the Civil War, additions were made to the house and it became a double house with the second section the same size as the original.

In 1967 when the log house was discovered, it was relocated to the grounds of the museum where it is now. The 20-ton house was prepared and transported by the Oberle-Jordre Co. The stone fireplace was taken later to the site. The house was completely restored and furnished in the period of the early 1800s.

Several items belonging to the Dickinson family were given for the house. They included a cherry frame rope bed in the "Cannon Ball" style. It was used by five generations of the family. An interested person gave a trundle bed that would fit under the large bed.

Chairs, an 1810 cupboard with dishes and other furnishings from the family and friends of the museum completed the exhibit.

In 1969, the log house was ready for museum visitors. They could view the lower floor and climb the narrow stairs to the second floor. But for several years, the stairs have been too unstable for people to climb. By the late 1990s, the house visibly needed repair. Some of the old logs had deteriorated badly and something had to be done.

A plan for restoration was made and funds sought to replace the bad logs and stabilize the building. In the spring of 2006, the work began. It was completed in early June and will soon be open again for viewing by museum visitors.

Amos B. Schwartz Construction Co. of Geneva, Ind., did the restoration. Schwartz has had extensive experience in repairing and restoring historic buildings, bridges and barns.

It is very fortunate that one of the earliest-built homes in Richmond has survived and has been restored by the Wayne County Historical Museum with gifts from the Dickinson family and other sponsors. Visitors to the museum will be able to step into one of the earliest homes of early Wayne County.

Pioneer Days in August would be a good opportunity to see the restored Dickinson cabin and other interesting exhibits at the Wayne County Historical Museum. Pioneer Days are Aug. 26- 27. A fun chuck wagon dinner starts the festival at 6 p.m. Aug. 25 and will highlight the history theme of early Wayne County, 1810-30.

For more information, call the Wayne County Historical Museum at (765) 962-5756.

Carolyn Lafever, a volunteer at the Wayne County Historical Museum, is the Wayne County Historian and author of the "Pictorial History of Wayne County." Her e-mail is celafever@gmail.com.


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