Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Austin Log Cabin

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Austin Log Cabin. Photo by Jack Pearce [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

You probably drove by it on South Raccoon Road on the way from Austintown to Canfield. For many years it was the eyesore at the corner of South Raccoon Road and Burgett Road, just north of where Raccoon takes a bend to the right. It was an old home covered with fake brick shingles that sat vacant between 1964 and 1973. In that year, St. Andrews Episcopal Church, located next door to the property, acquired the property and started tearing down the house, until they discovered the log beams beneath the layers of siding. The log beams were joined at the corners by what was known as a “steeple notch,” a technique only used before 1824. Clearly this was a building that went back to the very earliest years of Austintown Township.

A title search on the property traced it all the way back to Calvin Austin, a land agent for the Connecticut Land Company, and later a judge, residing in Warren, then the county seat for the area that included Austintown and Youngstown. Austintown is name after him. In 1814, he sold just over 150 acres to John Packard for $500. It is likely he built the cabin the same year. Here is a brief history of the ownership of the cabin:

1827: Upon John’s death, the cabin was willed to William Packard, his son.
1828: William and Martha Packard transfer 30 acres to Samuel Dorwat
1829: Samuel and Sarah Dorwat sell 10 acres, including the house to Henry and Polly Lawrence for $50.
1845: The Lawrences sell the property to Abraham and Rebecca Dustman for $406. The Dustmans built a barn on the property that burned down in a fire.
1850: The Dustmans sold the house and property to Henry and Margaret Wehr for $510. The Wehrs added a hog shed and dug wells.
Date unknown: Levi (nephew) and Emma Wehr acquire the property. Levi builds a second barn in 1910.
1940’s: Willard Wesley Stricklin owned the home, digging out the root cellar under the kitchen.
1948: Joseph Hanko acquires home, digs out cellar under main house and adds small bathroom extension.
1964: House vacant.
1973: St. Andrews Episcopal Church acquires property.

When the cabin was discovered beneath the siding, the Austintown Community Council came together to raise funds to restore the cabin. A fundraiser was staged at the intersection of Mahoning Avenue and Raccoon Road. School children and PTAs chipped in. Bake sales and book sales were organized. This all-volunteer effort raised $50,000 that was supplemented with a Bicentennial grant of $2500. Working with an architect familiar with historic preservation, the roof was removed and replaced with a wood shake roof, interior walls were removed, windows replaced with those from a hundred year old school house. The chinking was replaced with a cement mixture and the logs were sealed. A restored fireplace was built with one hundred year old brick. A new furnace and plumbing were added. During the restoration, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 30, 1974. This became Austintown’s Bicentennial Project and was dedicated on July 4, 1976 after a parade down Raccoon Road to the site.

The Austintown Historical Society was formed the same month to maintain the cabin, which it has done since that time. The cabin serves as a historic museum for Austintown Township. Period furnishings include a bed Frank Ohl slept in, a spinning wheel and a yarn winder. The upstairs has been set up to resemble a one room school house and contains various memorabilia pertaining to John Fitch, who donated land for Austintown’s first high school, which bore his name as does the present high school. The basement contains a collection of farm implements, meticulously labeled as part of an Eagle Scout project. Also onsite is a family genealogy of Calvin Austin and his wedding certificate. Outdoors, there is a corn crib brought from another location, a three-seat outhouse, a smokehouse, a coal car, and various farm implements.

The late Dr. John White, an anthropology professor from Youngstown State supervised archaeological digs on the site. He located evidence of a multi-purpose shed used as a chicken coop, a stock well, a chicken house, two other outdoor privies, the foundations of the first and second barns on the property, a hog shed, a house well, a cistern, and a summer house. A book, The Archaeology of the Log House, written by Dr. White, along with various artifacts are on display at the house.

The Austin Log Cabin is located at 3797 S Raccoon Rd, Canfield, OH 44406. The phone number posted online is: (330) 799-8051. It is open for free tours on the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 4 pm, and other times by appointment. The cabin offers a combination of local history and captures what living conditions were like in the early years of the Western Reserve when the area was slowly becoming dotted with cabins like this one. As I write, the upcoming Sunday is the first of the month. This might make a great afternoon outing!

Sources:

Austin Log HouseWikipedia

Joyce Hunsinger Pogany, “History of Austintown and the Log Cabin” The Town Crier, March 10, 2017.

Vision of the Valley – Austin Log Cabin” YouTube video.

 

4 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Austin Log Cabin

  1. Yes, I always knew that this was something special. I used to live in Austintown b4 I moved here 2 Tyler TX and down here we’ve many historical sites that go back to the 1800s and signs posted on on our highways (ie, State highway 271 N&S) and our CHURCH (Starrville Methodist Church is also located on the National register of historic places) has the original building next to the new building!

  2. Just to emphasize, Joyce Pogany has been the driving force for historical preservation in Austintown for many many years.

  3. My aunt’s mother, Margaret Brobst, was very involved in the historical society and the log cabin. She always had good stories to tell.

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