July 21, 2024

Musings from the Museum

If you have visited the museum in the past, but not since it opened up for this summer season, then you might notice some of the changes the moment you walk through the door. The newly installed air purification has been running for three months. In addition, there are now the options of heating, cooling, and dehumidifying the museum. Such climate control will help preserve the items given to us over the last 50-some years. The installation came about this summer due to the support of the Clarke County Development Corporation and Lakeside Casino.

But it is not only the trove of treasures inside the museum building that will invite your attention. The 1855 log cabin built by George and Julia Harlan is a structure nearly as old as the state of Iowa itself. This month, the South Central Iowa Community Foundation awarded a grant of $3,500 for the 12′ by 14′ log cabin.

It is in need of wood preservation, re-chinking, and general inspection of the structure–built from white oak logs cut from trees that could have been growing during the American Revolution.

George and Julia Harlan passed away in 1888 and are buried in Union Chapel in Fremont Township less than a mile from where their log cabin home originally stood. Over the years, the log cabin had been incorporated into the farm house. By the time Joe and Beulah Pollard had bought the farm land in the 1940′s, the memory of the ‘log cabin room’ had faded.

In 1940 the Clarke Electric Cooperative was created and by the end of 1941, “some thirty or forty homes had been hooked to the power line.” December of 1941 brought the United States into the war in Asia and Europe.

It would not be until 1948 that electricity reached the Pollard farm house. While doing the wiring, there was some trouble passing a wire through a wall. They discovered that there was another wall, a log wall.

In May of 1970, the Pollards built a new house and dismantled the log cabin and placed it in the care of the newly forming Clarke County Historical Society which would be having its first monthly meeting the following month.

The trust that Joe and Beulah had in the founders of the Historical Society and the community of Clarke County was not misplaced. The $3,500 donation from SCICF will be added to the $5,000 granted last year by Clarke Electric Coop through its Operation Round-Up. Each cooperative member has the option to ‘round up’ each month’s electric bill to the next whole dollar amount … with that extra money going into a program that provides financial support to groups within the 8 counties covered by Clarke Electric.

The Harlan log cabin has witnessed much of Clarke County’s history ...all but 8 years or so of Iowa’s statehood.

With continued awareness and support, the log cabin may be around for another 168 years.

Some Harlan history

The oldest son, Valentine Harlan, would have been thirteen when the cabin was built and Jacob was 10. Both of them must have done their share to help build the log cabin.

According to an August 26, 1926 letter published in the Osceola Sentinel from R.T. Hudgel, in spring of 1860, 5 years after George Harlan arrived in Clarke County, he headed out to Colorado with a party of Clarke County men and the lure of finding silver and making his fortune. He left behind his wife, and his children, Jerome was 2, Nathan 6, Sarah 9. The oldest, Valentine, was18, Jacob was 16.

The article says the party headed by ox-drawn wagon to Colorado. It goes on to say that the Civil War broke out the following year and some in the party returned to Iowa and others joined the military in Colorado. George must have been among those who returned as Valentine enlisted in the army on July 1, 1861 and headed off to the War of the Rebellion as it was then called. Osceola had only been established 10 years earlier.  Valentine enlisted for a second tour and was discharged at the war’s end. Upon return, he married a local girl, Elizabeth Mussleman, who had lost her husband in the Civil War. Valentine’s younger brother Jacob enlisted in 1863. He, too, survived the war and returned to Clarke County to farm, marrying a sister to his brother’s wife.

They all lived in Fremont Township not far from their original log cabin home. If only the walls of the Harlan log cabin could share some of its stories.