History of the Cabin

The North Log Cabin The North Log Cabin is the oldest known log cabin in Tompkins and Cayuga Counties.  Originally built in around 1800 by Thomas North in what is now the Town of Lansing, New York, the cabin has been used as a home, a school, and a museum display it its more than 200 years of existance.  North was part of a family that played a significant part in American History.  Members of his family moved west to Michigan around 1836 and named the new settlement Lansing after their home in New York.

Only the four walls of the 18' x 24' cabin are original.  They are slotted on the ends to fit the cabin together similarly to Lincoln Logs.  A kind of mud cement was used to seal the logs against the wind.  During its 50 years at the Cayuga Museum in Auburn, New York it had stairs to a loft, and a faux fireplace.  There it was a tribute exhibit to Millard Fillmore, who had been born in a similar log cabin built around the same time.  It has been disassembled and moved three times in 1844, 1958, and 2007.

Roger North was the first of his family to come to America in 1704.  He moved to Pennsylvania in 1750, and in 1757 his son Thomas was born.  Thomas migrated to the Town of Milton in New York around 1790.  

The land had been divided into military lots, awarded to Revolutionary War soldiers in payment for their service.  These lots were doled out by Colonel John Lansing, the military secretary of General Philip Schuyler in 1776 and 1777.  He later became a State Supreme Court Judge.  The Town of Milton became Genoa in 1808.  Then in 1817 Tompkins County was split off and the Town of Lansing was named for Judge Lansing.

Thomas North bought Lot 71 from John Lawrence on April 5th, 1791.  The 600 acre lot went for $3 per acre.  North paid $1,800.  Thomas North originally built the cabin near the southeast corner of the lot near what is now the intersection of of Searles and Conlon Roads in Lansing.  His sons were allotted parcels of land, which they cleared for farming.

The North Log Cabin Hiram Moe bought the farm that included the cabin from Joseph E. North in 1839.  His son Erastus Moe sold it to Walter Searles in 1853.  Before Searles obtained the farm the cabin itself had been sold to Daniel Tichenor, who wanted it for his family to live in.  Prior to that it was being used as a school house.

Around 1844 Tichenor bought an acre of land on 578 Conlon Road from Samuel Davis.  He disassembled the cabin log by log and moved it the short distance to his new land.  There he reassembled it.  Eventually he added a kitchen, and because the contrast between the original cabin and the addition was so stark he enclosed the whole building with pine siding.

In 1957 Elizabeth Tichenor Dedricks wrote a letter to her niece and nephew recalling her childhood in the cabin.  She and twins Frank and Sarah were born in the cabin, and she even lived in it for a year after her own two children were born.  She was born in 1883.

"(He) put every log back in place," Elizabeth recalled.  "And I think I am safe in saying there isn't a spike, nail, or wooden peg in it that his hands didn't put there. Father and his first wife Sally spent many happy years there."

Tichenor sold the cabin 1891.  Just after 1900 there were six known log cabins in Lansing.  The North cabin may or may not have been one of them, because by that time it appeared to be a pine sided house.  By 1958 people had forgotten that a log cabin had been encased in a pine sided home about a hundred years before.  Some of the pine boards were in need of repair and they were pulled off to reveal the cabin.

Realizing the significance of the building Tompkins County Historian W. Glenn Norris bought the cabin from then owner Julius Buckingham for one dollar with the intention of transferring ownership to Professor Walter K. Long for the Cayuga Museum of History and Art.  Long wanted the cabin because it resembled the one where President Millard Fillmore was born in 1800.  Later that year the cabin was reduced to logs once again.

North Log Cabin Long corresponded with a number of historians and curators who had experience and knowledge of log cabins, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the New York State Historical Association, and historical associations around the country that had their own log cabins.  He got advice on the kind of shingles to put on the roof, and on how to preserve the cabin and protect it against bugs and other threats.  But his toughest task was to find the money and people to reassemble the cabin.

He tirelessly approached local people, raising over $5,000 from the Rotary Club and others, lining up construction equipment, and getting volunteers to commit to helping reassemble the structure.  By November he had his building permit, and on June 30 the Rotary Club held a ribbon cutting to celebrate opening the cabin to the public.

The Fillmore exhibit ran for years, but in 2007 the museum contacted Town of Lansing officials to say that they were planning to get rid of the cabin.  They gave the Town until the end of the year to come and get it if Town officials wanted it.  Then Deputy Supervisor Bud Shattuck did want it, but there was no funding to move and restore the cabin.  After getting a reprieve from the Museum he finally arranged for the Town Highway Department to disassemble the cabin and cart it back to Lansing.

Only the four walls were original, so no attempt was made to save the roof, which was in need of repair anyway.  The logs were dumped in a pile near the Highway Department, and then restacked by volunteers from Cornell that Shattuck was able to get for a day's work.  There it languished until April 2009, when Shattuck held a meeting of interested parties to see if someone could be found to take the lead in raising money, volunteers, and materials to restore the cabin on a site at the entrance to Salt Point.