Friday, July 15, 2011
I love stories about strong women who have dealt with adversity in their lives and come through the other side. This story certainly fits that definition and so much more. Yesterday, I had to meet a client at a local historical landmark where she was working a shift to cover the open hours at this landmark.
This is the information that I took out of the flyer on the Baker cabin.
“Built during the summer of 1889 near Etna, Wyoming, the Baker cabin is the oldest surviving home in Star Valley. It was also the first in the lower valley to have a wooden floor and a shingled roof. Prior to this construction the earliest pioneers lived in squat, rough-hewn, 12 x 14 cabins with dirt floors, sod roofs and oiled paper windows.
This building would be considered unique if only for its architectural style and superb craftsmanship. It has endured since 1889 - through hard use and two difficult moves. The tight fitting joints withstood skidding for over two miles, pulled by a 12-horse team from its place in the northeast quadrant of Section 23. When over 100 years old, it was loaded on a semi-truck and moved to this location, still structurally sound.
Another unique feature is that the master builder of the cabin was a 32-year old housewife, Anna Eliza Baker. She, her husband, Alonzo, and their seven children including a small baby lived the winter of 1888-1889 in Star Valley in a tent and an overturned wagonbox. The following spring Alonzo and their eldest son, Lonny, aged 10 years, found work for the summer near Deer Lodge, Montana, where they built a section of road bed for a railroad.
While caring for six children, Anna Eliza constructed the cabin, aided only by her 12-year old daughter May. They hauled stone for the foundation from the east side of the valley, probably Prater Canyon. They cut trees and hauled logs from the same area. With techniques learned in Utah from her carpenter father, John Dodds Telford, Anna Eliza hand-hewed the logs to the proper size and thickness. Uniform poles were used for the joists in the floor and ceiling. By hand, she fashioned precise dovetail joints in each of the log corners. Anna Eliza constructed a fine wooden floor and a shingled roof. Shingles were probably purchased near Bedford from the new Turner family shingle mill. When others learned of her carpentry skills, they sought Anna Eliza’s help with their own projects. She hand crafted the furniture used by her own family and by many other pioneer families of the area. She is remembered not only for carpentry skills but for the loving care of both family and possessions. Her children recalled that she scrubbed the cabin floor every day and scoured and burnished the floor with sand.
Anna Eliza lived in the cabin only ten years. During that time she gave birth to five more children. She died there on March 25, 1899, while giving birth to her twelfth child. She was 42 years old. Her obituary states that she was mourned by many family members and friends. There were more than 200 people in 35 sleighs at the cemetery in Glenco (Thayne) for her burial. In 1891 her daughter May, attending school in Logan, Utah, had contracted diphtheria and passed away at the age of 14 years. One of her babies had also died . In 1899, when Anna passed away, the two eldest daughters, aged 16 and 19 years, were left to care for the newborn baby and the other younger children.
In 1902, Alonzo Baker married Louise K. Speidel. They had another six children, three of whom were born in the cabin.
In 1912 Alonzo sold the property. During the next 25 years the following lived in the cabin: Reynold Robinson, Rob Erickson, Roy Keepers, Kenneth Clinger, Cecil Skinner, W. Schofield and Tol Chapman. Early this century the building was converted into a granary and chicken coop. Later it was used as a farm utility building. In 1991, the cabin was moved to its present site and restored by the Baker family, the Star Valley Historical Society, Camp Eliza of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and the Etna Ward. It was dedicated September 26, 1997.
Yes, in my book Anna was an amazing woman. Talk about multi-tasking…..take care of six children all the while you are constructing a house. Hauling stone, cutting logs and shaping them into a home for her family. When I stood inside the cabin and looked around, at the wide floor boards and rough walls, I tried to imagine her raising 10 or 11 children in that small house. That little house has stood the test of time for sure…..a true labor of love from Anna’s heart and hands to her family. What a pioneer woman she was !