Time Machine

Time Machine: Center Point's old log cabin lives on

Built in the 1850s by pioneer Jacob Floyd, it moved into town in 1976

Bernita Roseberry, former president of the Center Point Historical Society, stands outside the 16-by-16-foot Strait log cabin in Wakema Park in May 1987 in Center Point. The cabin was donated to the Center Point Historical Society in 1976 and moved from its original location on the northeast bank of the Cedar River, south of Center Point, into the city. (Gazette archives)
Bernita Roseberry, former president of the Center Point Historical Society, stands outside the 16-by-16-foot Strait log cabin in Wakema Park in May 1987 in Center Point. The cabin was donated to the Center Point Historical Society in 1976 and moved from its original location on the northeast bank of the Cedar River, south of Center Point, into the city. (Gazette archives)
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The likely builder of the 16-foot-square basswood cabin that once sat high on a hill above the Cedar River was pioneer Jacob L. Floyd.

The land itself, about 4 miles south of Center Point, was bought by Jacob, who arrived in Linn County from Ohio in 1855 with his wife Mary, daughters Barbara and Sarah, and son John.

The family probably had a lot of interaction with Native Americans, indicated by the abundance of arrowheads, flint chips and clam shells discovered by amateur explorers on the hill.

Jacob served in the Civil War in the 16th Iowa Regiment and returned to the cabin after the war, living there until his wife died in 1896.

In 1897, Jacob married a widow with two sons. The new union became rocky in a very short time, and the pair separated for a while. They reconciled and in the spring of 1899, Jacob passed the cabin on to his daughter, Anna, and her husband, Peter Hanson.

family squabble

Jacob and his wife moved to the Central Park development in northeast Cedar Rapids, where Jacob began investing in real estate.

The home front became stormy again. A disagreement arose over leaving the doors open at night. Mrs. Floyd insisted they remain open. After being bitten by bugs for several nights, Jacob closed the doors, then went to the basement for a bath. While he was occupied, his wife summoned the police and had him locked up, claiming he was insane.

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Police summoned the commissioners for the insane, who examined Jacob and found no grounds for that assumption.

“Mr. Floyd talked very intelligently about everything, answering all questions promptly and without hesitancy,” they said.

Jacob died on March 3, 1905, at the age of 73, and is buried in the Center Point cemetery.

life in the cabin

Peter and Anna Floyd Hansen moved into her father’s cabin in 1902, moving it from its hilltop perch to bottomland. Once it was in place, the Hansens built a two-room addition.

A spinning wheel was the focus of a Hansen family story. Anna would hum while she worked, spinning faster and faster to keep time with her song, until her husband would say, “Now, now, now, that’s fast enough now.”

When Peter died in 1913, his daughter Ella, who had married Ben Strait, moved into the cabin with Anna.

The Straits’ oldest child, Lois, recalled for a reporter in 1976 how her mother and grandmother spoke their native Danish so much that when she started school, she spoke a mixture of Danish and English.

Lois was born in the cabin in 1918. It was a tense time for her parents because they were unsure whether Ben would be called to duty in the first World War. When Ben went into town to buy supplies for his newborn daughter, he discovered the war was over.

Three more children — Alvin (or “Bud”), Clair and Fay — were born in the cabin, and another story was added to the addition.

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Ella cultivated a large garden, canning up to 600 quarts of produce a year. She baked all the bread, and the family raised and sold chickens, using the profits to buy clothes and supplies for school.

Ben ran a sorghum mill on the farm and sold firewood from the abundant timber.

For entertainment, Ben played the violin and Ella the harmonica and organ.

Living in a cabin was usually not a big deal for the kids, but Fay recalled, “The biggest kick I got as a kid was watching somebody come in and bump his head!”

The cabin’s headroom was 5 feet, 9 inches. The original beams, which had been replaced in 1934, were even lower. The original cabin door was only 5 1/2 feet high.

cabin sits empty

Every fall, after Ella plastered the cabin’s outdoor cracks and foundation to keep the inside dry, she would give the exterior a coat of whitewash.

Even though Ella would have liked to move into a farmhouse, the family’s money went into their barns.

The Straits left the cabin in 1965, moving to Center Point, where Ben died in 1970 and Ella in 1975.

While the cabin sat empty, it was vandalized and an old trunk that had belonged to the Hansens was destroyed.

move into town

In 1976, in honor of the nation’s bicentennial, Fay Strait and his wife, Lila, donated the cabin to the new Center Point Community Historical Society’s Bicentennial Committee and the city. The organizations faced a problem: Even if money were available to move the cabin, it sat in a valley in a spot without easy access.

In May, nurseryman/carpenter Roy Ferguson volunteered to move the cabin to Wakema Park. Ferguson and other helpers dismantled the cabin and reassembled it in the park, replacing the logs that had rotted.

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The Historical Society restored the interior, and the Linn County Historical Museum Association provided a historical marker. A ceremony presenting the cabin to the community was held Aug. 30, 1977. It was opened to the public Oct. 9, 1978.

In August 2017, the cabin was moved again to a spot near the Center Point Historical Depot Museum near the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, where it will be part of the museum’s educational programming.

l Comments: (319) 398-8338; d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

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