Nestled deep within the acres of forest at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Seymour sits an old log cabin.
For most of the year, it is left alone.
But on one fall day, the cabin and the grounds around it are filled with the sights, sounds and smells of pioneer times.
On Saturday, people of all ages gathered at Myers Cabin for the annual Log Cabin Day Festival. The event is organized by the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society and kicks off National Wildlife Refuge Week, which runs through Saturday.
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The event featured several displays depicting a time before modern conveniences. Volunteers dressed up in period clothing and spent hours demonstrating what life was like for the early settlers.
Ed Kellar of Hayden, president of the wildlife society, helped park cars for the first half of the day and then made his way to the cabin, where his wife, Lois, was set up showing people the art of basket weaving.
“It’s a great opportunity to reflect on our history and heritage,” he said of the event. “It’s important to know where we started and what our ancestors found when they got here. I think it’s good to be reminded of that and of how far we’ve come. Back then, they had to make everything. Now, we just go to the store and buy it.”
In the pioneer chores area, visitors could wash and dry clothing with an old-fashioned washboard and wringer, churn butter, shell and grind corn for cornmeal, cut grass with a manual push mower and use a two-person hand saw to cut up a log.
There also was an area of crafts and activities, giving children an opportunity to experience what kids did for fun before video games and cellphones. Each child was able to make button and string toys, write and draw with a quill, decorate gourd water dippers, make quilt blocks and use chalk to write on pieces of slate.
Log Cabin Day is great for kids because it gets them outside and educates them on history in a fun, hands-on way, said Genevieve Bleu of Seymour.
She brought her daughters, Helena, 5, and Search, 3, to the festival. Both girls jumped in to mow and shell and grind corn.
The family often visits the refuge to walk around and enjoy nature, Genevieve said.
“We love anything to do at Muscatatuck,” she said. “I like that they are learning about practical tools and history.”
One of the highlights was a free lunch of ham and beans cooked the old-fashioned way in a large iron kettle over a fire.
Guests were invited to sit on bales of hay around the front of the cabin to enjoy storytelling and old-time music. There was also a demonstration on blacksmithing.
The Myers Cabin was built around 1870 by Louis Myers with the help of Alvis and Samuel Banks, who hewed the logs.
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.
Genevieve Dorsett, 6, of Scottsburg was having so much fun learning about the pioneers Saturday she didn’t want to leave.
“Dad, I want one of these so I can use it at home,” she said, while dipping a quill into a pot of ink.
Although it might take longer to do her homework, Dorsett said she wouldn’t mind.
“I think it’s fun,” she said.
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As part of National Wildlife Week, Muscatatuck Waterfowl Sanctuary Area will be open to walk-in visitors through Saturday.
Entries in the Muscatatuck Refuge Week photography contest also will be on display in the refuge visitor center
For information, email [email protected] or call 812-522-4352, ext. 12.