A family of Norwegian immigrants named Grinde settled near the southern Minnesota town of Nerstrand during the late 1860s. They built a cabin and began to work their newly acquired land. According to family stories, the Grindes tragically lost their cabin to fire 16 years later. A replacement log cabin was built in 1883 — but it was made in haste. For instance, a window cut was moved to accommodate a brick chimney. An opening along the south wall was “bricked” closed with mortared blocks of wood. Apparently this was destined to serve as an entry, which was later moved to the middle of that same wall.
The cabin stood on the family homestead until the farm was sold during the late 1980s. The last two family members occupying the “new” cabin were elderly Grinde sisters. When their property was sold they vacated and moved into town.
When we learned that the cabin was about to be bulldozed and burned, my wife and I began a rescue. Thanks to cooperation from the new owners, and with help from a tree maintenance company and their hydraulic arm, we disassembled, moved and stored the component logs on our nearby property. Family, friends and helpers gave us the restored version you see here over a 10-year period, with a lot of problem-solving along the way.
During the restoration and rebuilding we learned a lot about how 19th-century settlers built their cabin. It has been fun to add the semblance of a kitchen, a few bunks, a working wood stove, rocking chairs, a replica of a mid-19th-century black powder rifle, snowshoes, homemade baskets and pottery. Discovered during takedown were vintage newspapers from World War I, which were glued as insulation to the inside walls, and a 1934 Lou Gehrig Wheaties box. The cabin was covered with clapboard siding sometime during the 20th century, providing protection for the underlying logs, ensuring their survival until now. The sisters had no indoor plumbing until they left for town. They heated the cabin and cooked on a wood-fired kitchen stove. Rudimentary electric lighting was present, presumably added during the 1940s.
The cabin now serves as a guesthouse, a gathering place for a book club and a playhouse for grandkids. It is a great home for family antiques including my grandmother’s pickle-making crock, butter churn and more. The screen porch, made mostly of old barn lumber and logs, serves as a quiet place to read, to have coffee and conversation, and to be away from phones and laptops for a while.
GARY WAGENBACH, NERSTRAND
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