Pierce County women working on book about log structuresMost people have the same question when they hear about Mary Beeler and Dorothy Ahlgren’s latest project. “A lot of people wonder why two crazy, old ladies would want to do this,” Beeler said.
By: By Jen Cullen , Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
PRESCOTT, Wis. — Most people have the same question when they hear about Mary Beeler and Dorothy Ahlgren’s latest project.
“A lot of people wonder why two crazy, old ladies would want to do this,” Beeler said.
For years the two retired Prescott women have been pounding the pavement and thumbing through old newspapers and historical documents gathering whatever information they can about long-forgotten Pierce County log homes and structures.
“We knew if we didn’t, nobody else would,” Ahlgren said.
Most of the cabins, school houses, churches, barns and outbuildings have been gone for centuries.
But Ahlgren and Beeler — both members of the Pierce County Historical Association — do not want them to be forgotten as time marches on. The women hope to make a book from the information and photographs they’ve collected.
“Most people don’t realize how important log buildings were in Pierce County history,” Ahlgren said. “We think it’s interesting. It’s fascinating.”
The search began in 1998 when the 1850s Conlin log cabin was moved from Esdaile, Wis., to the Pierce County History Center in Bay City, Wis.
Pierce County Historical Association members began wondering how many other log homes existed in the county.
Their curiosity piqued, Ahlgren and Beeler — who won an award for a 600-page book on the history of Prescott — began collecting information.
An 1895 Pierce County atlas marking log home locations with a circle has played a crucial role in the hunt.
Other information has come from old photos, newspaper articles and documents or stories circulated among Pierce County families. And sometimes it’s just old-fashioned leg work.
“We’ve been on every back road in Pierce County and some I’ll never go on again,” Beeler said.
The women have had their fair share of surprises over the years. They have found completely restored homes and others that have been hidden for years.
Ahlgren and Beeler spoke with one homeowner who did not know he had a log house until he cut through the sheet rock and siding to discover his home encased a log cabin.
“There have been some really fascinating stories,” Ahlgren said.
Ahlgren and Beeler both have log home stories of their own.
Beeler’s mother lived in a log house when she moved to Pierce County from England and Ahlgren’s two grandfathers were born in log homes.
“It must be in the genes,” Ahlgren said.
The women — Beeler a retired newspaper reporter and Ahlgren a retired librarian — estimate they’ll spend a total of three years working on the book.
“We won’t stop because we’re tired of it,” Beeler said. “We’ll stop when we feel we’ve done a good job.”
Jen Cullen is a reporter at the Pierce County (Wis.) Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.