Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hands-On Learning Opportunities

Kids like to touch things!
And history should never be out of reach.

One of the key components of the Harris Cabin Project is the opportunity to create a hands-on exhibit that brings the Pioneer time period to life for young students.

Museum tours often mean "no touching allowed", but the cabin restoration project is focused on allowing students to get up close and personal with early Indiana history.

We're very excited about this chance to provide an enhanced learning experience for students of all ages. 

With the combination of the rustic Harris Cabin and the stately Gaff Mansion, Hillforest Foundation will be in a unique position to showcase the growth and development between 1820 to 1860 to all of our visitors. 

Educational programming with be available that encompasses areas of Political Science, Folklore, Archaeology, Architecture, Building Sciences and Preservation Trades. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Treasure Trove Discovered

In early 2013, David Brady, a retired librarian in Manchester, UK purchased what appeared to be an unremarkable stack of old letters at auction. One of Brady's hobbies in retirement is collecting and transcribing old letters.

After reviewing the letters and researching their origin, Brady determined they were written by family patriarch Samuel Harris. Written from Harris in Aurora, Indiana to John Brown of Wigan, England, the collection of ten letters provides a detailed perspective into the world of the Harris family from 1821 to 1832. 

Brady reached out to the Dearborn County Historical Society for more information and society secretary Chris McHenry informed him that the family home referred to in the letters is actually still standing today and is undergoing restoration efforts.

While county records indicate the land for the Harris Cabin was not deeded to Samuel Harris from the Aurora Association until 1823, the letters reveal that the family began construction as early as November of 1822. Samuel's son William T. Harris was the home's builder and owner. The letters give a timeline of the family's journey to the New World and their adaptation to a new life in the "village" of Aurora.


Letter 5: 28th-31st  January 1825

Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana
Jan[uar]y 28, 1825


At this moment I see from my parlour window my son William Tell, with his straw hat and light summer dress (January 28th), driving his team of oxen, hauling wood for the supply of the steamboats.  This he does cheerfully.  I have not once heard him hint a wish for Old England again.


After the completion of his research David Brady hopes to publish the full collection of the letters.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just How Old is the Harris Cabin?

In an attempt to more firmly establish the construction date of the Harris Cabin, experts were brought in from Hanover College to perform dendrochronological tests. Sixty-five core samples were taken and analyzed. Test results supported the suspected date of the cabin's origins, with a harvest date of the timber being determined as 1821-1822.

Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating, is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings, also known as growth rings.

(October 2010) Darin Rubino, associate professor of biology at Hanover College taking core samples for a study to determine age of timber used in construction of cabin. Local boy scouts looking on watched the process unfold. 

(October 2010) Under the guidance of teacher Jeremy Baney, the South Dearborn High School film class helped create a documentary for Hillforest to showcase the restoration process.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hillforest Foundation Accepts the Donation of the Harris Cabin

Over the generations, previous owners of the home knew their house rested on the bare bones of a rustic log cabin. But probably very few ever guessed the true signifigence of the unique structure hidden underneath. 

Potentially the oldest pioneer cabin resting on its original foundation in Indiana, the Harris Cabin provides a glimpse at life in Aurora in the early 19th Century.

As early as 2004 local residents began to research just how old the former Ray Markwalter house really was. The current owner at the time, Marty Rahe, received permission for the Aurora Historic Preservation Committee to strip away the modifications from the structure. Rahe worked with the committee and Indiana Historic Landmarks to help determine the age of the cabin. County records indicate that the cabin was originally built around 1820. 

In 2007, Marty and his wife Maribeth generously donated the cabin to the Hillforest Historical Association.

(Nov. 2007) Hillforest Historical Foundation President Dee Hacker, left, and vice president Nancy Ray accept a deed for the 1820s Harris cabin from owner Marty Rahe.