By Samantha Hofland
My first impression of the “Main House” or “Randolph Cabin” was how old and very run-down it is. However, as we delved deeper into exploring and mapping it, the more evidence you could see of the life it used to have. The patchwork and ingenuity used to build and repair the house over the years is amazing. The Moon family started building the cabin and the Randolph family completed it with whatever materials they could find around the homestead. “The cabin remains a testament to folks who wasted nothing. Not a piece of twine or a single scrap of newspaper…” (Devlin 2014:1).
The house does not look like much today, but you can see the care and thought put into the house. From the walkway lined with Dane’s Blood flowers to the front door with decorative door knob, the lilac trees, and bay window, there are small hints that give us the sense of home from when the Randolph family lived here.
In April 1907, William and Emma Randolph and their two boys bought the homestead from George and Helen Moon. Before the Randolph’s took over the property, George and Helen had already started construction on the Main House and completed the living room and attic. The Randolphs added the kitchen, pantry, and bedroom (DeSilvey 2002:58-59). They also planted their own kitchen garden to the north of the house (Hagen 2010). In 1911, the Randolph’s youngest son William was born just as the farm really began to thrive (DeSilvey 2002:20-21).
Even through the Great Depression the family and the farm were able to survive by making do with what they already had, placing further emphasis on the cycle of reuse that was already deeply engrained into life at the homestead. The cabin itself reflects this cycle with its mixture of salvaged lumber and boxcar wood used as siding for the house. There are obvious areas in which damage to the house was patched with whatever was on hand, such as extra tin and salvaged lumber. When the East side of the house (bedroom) was added they overlapped the siding onto the existing north elevation. “This overlapping was done crudely, apparently in an attempt to visually integrate the addition with the original building” (Hagen 2010).
When exploring inside the house you can get a sense of what life may have been like for the Randolphs. If you look past the state of decay the house is now in, you can imagine the boys taking off their boots in the mudroom so they could come in and wash up for dinner, while Emma stood cooking at the stove. The attached “cold-storage” pantry would have been full of canned goods and other foods. Some of those still remain. The family might have gathered in the living room to read before bed, perhaps from the quite varied collection of books including National Geographic, or Popular Mechanics periodicals, which we discovered while working in the cabin this summer.
The family moved up to what is now the caretakers house in 1946 after a fire nearly burned down the main cabin in 1945 (Hagen 2010). William and Emma lived in the newly renovated house until 1956 when Emma passed away. William followed just a few months later (DeSilvey 2002:35-36). It is likely that their youngest son Bill continued to live in the main house until his parents' deaths, when he moved up to the renovated house. Bill passed away in 1995.
After his death there were multiple estate sales and it is unknown what objects from the main house were sold. There has been relatively little activity from humans in the house since then and other critters have taken up residence - bull snakes, mice, wasps, spiders, and even a badger who burrowed through the kitchen wall on the west side to make the stove his new home.