Purchase photos

A new, old home on the range

6/16/2013

By MIKE CORN

Son of the late C.W. "Bill" Corn

ATHOL -- It's not every day someone gets the chance to start a work week off with a serenade of the state song.

But that's exactly what Brian Luther and Dave Turnbull got as they were working on the restoration of the historic cabin where Dr. Brewster Higley penned the state song, "Home on the Range."

A Lawrence family visiting the cabin where Turnbull and Luther recently were working offered to sing a refrain from the song.

Luther, who has a video to prove it, was elated. He's long encouraged brothers Len and Linus Schamber, owners of Schamber Historic Preservation, to pursue getting the contract to restore the historic structure.

And that's what they actively are doing; although if all goes well, the project should be wrapped up shortly.

Soon, however, ownership of the cabin and a nest egg to maintain it, will be turned over to an as-yet-named nonprofit foundation.

There's plenty still to be done, however, and money to be raised, said cabin trustee and perhaps its No. 1 supporter, El Dean Holthus, to make sure the cabin stays where it is and is preserved.

The Schamber crew is giving it a good start.

Save for the two end walls, there's been nearly a complete reconstruction.

The stone wall on the north side was disassembled and rebuilt, using what good stones were left. The rest of the stones came from the area.

On the south, the oak and walnut logs -- some of which came from a nearby granary -- were removed, cleaned and then returned, anchored to end walls using a series of nails and dowel rods. The Schamber crew will use a mix of concrete and fiberglass strands to fill in the gaps.

They're also rebuilding the roof, making a sharply higher peak to allow for a loft. It likely originally was accessible by ladder, but Len Schamber said they expect to build a stairway to let people peek into the loft.

"It's going to be a beautiful building when it's done," Linus Schamber said.

Holtus agrees.

"I am totally and completely impressed," he said of the work done so far. "I've never been involved with a restoration before."

The project is costing more than $100,000, but he said it's well worth it.

Besides, the crew is working with something that's already 140 years old, and Holtus hopes the work will make it last that much longer.

"It's going to be a new, old cabin," he said.

While the work will wrap up soon, official dedication won't be until October 2014.

There's still landscaping to be done and a nature trail nearby to be completed, along with two bridges to cross Beaver Creek. And it will coincide with the Higley family reunion, which Holtus hopes will be in Smith County.

He's already working to get donations for the remaining work and moving toward a foundation.

"I'm 80 years old," he said, "so I've got to get as much done as fast as I can."

So he's charging ahead.

"It's a pretty special cabin," Holtus said.