Family history set in mortar and logs


Deep within the leafy recesses of Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge near Seymour sits an old log cabin and barn.

It’s not easy to find, but once you reach Myers Cabin, you’re transported back to life in the 1800s — no running water, no electricity, but plenty of rustic charm.

“I think I could handle it for a night,” Teresa Sturgill said of the idea of staying in the cabin. “It would be nice and peaceful.”

On Saturday, crowds of people gathered at the cabin for the annual Log Cabin Day Festival. The event served as the kickoff for National Wildlife Refuge Week, which runs through Sunday.

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Teresa, her husband, Elmer, and their daughter, Rachel Wade, all of Seymour, took in the sights and sounds of the festival and even the smell of ham and beans cooking in a big iron kettle over a fire.

“We like everything about it,” Elmer Sturgill said of the festival while sitting in a fold-out chair beneath a shade tree.

“Especially the free ham and beans and homemade cornbread,” Teresa Sturgill added.

There also was hand-churned butter thanks to volunteers from the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society, who dressed up in period clothing and spent hours demonstrating the process, along with interactive displays of how to build a miniature log cabin, create quilt blocks, make button and string toys and blacksmithing.

Guests were invited to sit on bales of hay around the front of the cabin to listen to storyteller Sharon Kirk Clifton of Seymour and old-time music performed on a dulcimer and washboards by John Sheckler of Madison.

“The music has been wonderful,” Elmer Sturgill said.

Donna Stanley, park ranger, said the warm sunshine, clear blue sky and fall foliage provided the perfect backdrop for the day.

“The weather was beautiful, the ham and beans delicious and our hard-working volunteers had all kinds of interesting activities going on,” she said.

This was the second time the Sturgills had participated in the event.

During the festival, guests can take guided tours of areas of the refuge that are usually closed to the public.

“It was great,” Teresa Sturgill said. “We got to see a bald eagle’s nest. We waited a while hoping to see an eagle, but they weren’t there. At least we got to see their nest, though. That was neat, just to know they are there.”

On at least one of the tours, Stanley said the eagles made an appearance, much to the delight of visitors.

“The eagles cooperated and showed themselves for a little while,” she said.

The closed area will remain open to walk-in visitors all this week, Stanley said.

For Elmer Sturgill, the event brings back childhood memories of growing up in a log cabin in Kentucky, he said.

The Myers Cabin was built around 1870 by Louis Myers with the help of Alvis and Samuel Banks, who hewed the logs, according to Phil McClure’s book, “Our Memories of Home: A Link to the Muscatatuck.”

The two-room dwelling served as the home of Louis and Nancy Myers and their family. It remained occupied until the mid-1960s, when it was purchased by the state Department of Natural Resources for the purpose of creating the refuge.

McClure, along with two of his friends, Mark Wolfal and Richard “Dick” Shrake, spent two years in 1995 and 1996 restoring the cabin, volunteering their time as members of the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society. They filled the cabin with furniture and other items appropriate to the time the cabin was built.

The idea was to open the cabin to the public to give people an idea of what it was like to live in the area at that time.

Tony and Traci Yoder of Reddington brought their children to the cabin to spend the day outdoors together.

Traci Yoder said her great-grandparents owned property there before it became the refuge.

It’s been a few years since they have attended the Log Cabin Day Festival, but they frequent the refuge throughout the year to hike and enjoy nature.

“This is a good way to remind the kids of how it used to be,” she said of the event. “And to appreciate what they have now.”

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