Workshop Leads To Interesting Stories

I never know what my Memory To Memoir Workshop will bring me. Last summer, two different women shared tragic family stories. By summer’s end, I left them with a plan, well some direction at least, that they can continue to follow as they research and write.

This summer, another woman brought a set of stories to me, one about her father, a pioneering history enthusiast named “Crowfoot”; the other about an old log cabin. She had already drafted the cabin story several years ago.

Christine Staten, who lives a few miles south of Parker, shared on that first evening a story about our state’s heritage. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

In the workshop, I encourage participants to talk. Christine, who has a knack for storytelling, began by telling me about a log cabin that she and her husband Craig had moved to their property. “It belongs to George Diehm, and he wanted to build a new house, but to do so, the county said he had to bulldoze the old house,” Staten said.

Diehm, who lives a short distance south of Beagle, planned to build a house, but his ancestor’s clapboard-sided home stood on his chosen spot. Diehm thought there might be a large timber some place beneath the siding, Staten said, that he could use as a mantle on his new fireplace.

A log house came to light with the removal of each board. “He didn’t know there was a complete log house hidden beneath the siding,” Staten said.

The Diehms arrived from Germany before the Civil War, she told me. “They first settled in Missouri and built a cabin. When someone asked where they stood on the slavery issue, they said, against. And that cabin went up in smoke,” Staten said, “as did several more.”

She described how Diehm had told her the family eventually moved to Kansas. “One cabin after another kept getting torched. This was the only one of seven to remain standing,” Staten said.

In other words, I said, “This is a real story, holds a real connection to Bleeding Kansas and the border warfare.”

“Yes,” Staten said.

What once stood as a huge tree, possibly a Burr Oak, became a story and a half of square-cut logs taken from the trunk. Twisted and far from straight, yet squared-off logs apparently had been impressive branches. Women and children had used mud and small sticks and bark taken from the grand tree to fill the cracks.

All Diehm wanted to do, she said, once he found a whole house preserved under siding, was to move the building to a new location. “What he really wanted to do was to see if a museum would be interested in acquiring the building and restoring it. But even 12 years ago, there was no money for something like this,” Staten said.

This is when she volunteered to move the cabin to the new property she and her husband Craig had bought in Linn County.

The move was made in 1998, and the Miami County loss was for Linn County a gain of historic proportions. Now, if only a museum, a tourism entity someplace, a city or county group could find a way to acquire the cabin as a historical site and place it where people could appreciate what George Diehm’s ancestors and American pioneers in general went through in their day.

So far, the structure is resting well off of the ground away from termites, but the cabin needs plenty of tender loving care — spelled money.

The cabin’s predecessors burned to the ground. It’s safe enough for the present, thanks to Christine and Craig Staten, but only time will tell.

I know politicians and historians and citizens of many stripes continually talk about how to impact and present the history of Bleeding Kansas and Native American heritage of the region, well…I see the perfect place to begin.

Best yet, I covered a story a few years ago about the opening of the new rest area location along Highway 69 in Linn County, where it crosses Kansas Highway 52 near Trading Post. Displays abound there about the Frontier Military Highway and Native Americans.

This seems like the perfect place for the log house to sit and draw even further attention to our shared history.




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Posted by admin on Aug 3 2011. Filed under Kevin Gray, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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