In the middle of the Winnetoon Village Park is a tiny log cabin, moved here from its original spot on the Oleson family homestead just a bit south of town. It generates a lot of interest from tourists, especially wondering how a family could live in something so small. It wasn’t always this size.
In 1872 Ole Hendriksen Kuslien and his wife, Alette left Norway with five of their seven grown children. They met with their two eldest sons, who had already emigrated to America, settling in WI. From there the entire family set out for Knox County, NE in two wagons pulled by four oxen. The trip took 10 weeks. The group consisted of twelve, Ole, Alette, their children, Henry, his wife, Hellen, sons, Johann-age 4, born in Norway and Mathias-age 2, born in La Cross, WI., Rasmus, Gilbert, Anna, Caroline, Louise and Oliver.
They took up homesteads south and east of where the village of Winnetoon would later be developed. Here they built their log cabins.
With his oxen, Ole and his sons hauled oak logs over the trail from the river town of Niobrara, 30 miles to the north. He used his winged divider tool to scribe the logs where the notches were to be cut. This tool was marked with his initials OHSK …Ole Henry Son Kuslein. (Ole became Ole Henryson, Ole Oleson and finally, Ole Olson, according to name change papers in our family files).
Grandma’s “chicken coup” was at least three times bigger when I first saw it in the late 1940’s. It was a dusty, smelly place filled with nasty leghorn hens, who would peck me as I gathered eggs. The front part was porch like with burlap covering the glassless window openings. The door hung crookedly, making it hard to pull open. A tree had grown up through back of the cabin.
It was years later that I became intrigued by Great Great Grandpa Oleson’s log cabin. No one else in the family seemed to care. Then, Grandma Fredrickson died, the farm was sold. The log cabin was now the property of the new owners.
I approached them about it. Finally, they agreed to let me have Grandpa’s cabin, but it must be moved. This was a big problem, but, just in case…I spent hours inside that dusty, bug infested cabin, ripping out the remaining lathe and plaster. For someone with allergies and asthma this had to be a labor of love, or stupidity.
It was moved, but fell apart. Now, I had a cabin in even worse shape. My dilapidated cabin waited for several years.
Then, Cowboy Joe came to the rescue. Using a chain saw, and a skid loader, he recon- structed the cabin with what logs he could salvage. Thus, Grandpa Oleson’s log cabin is about 1/3rd its original size.
Great Great Grandpa’s log cabin is special to me, but his divider tool inscribed with his initials may mean even more.
…Gayle Neuhaus, Winnetoon, NE
Read more, or learn how to construct your own log home by clicking here.