Have you considered using social media to discover more about your ancestors? Social media can be a powerful tool – both to learn more about our ancestors and to share stories about them. What was social media before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc? The local newspaper often featured community happenings, gossip columns, and reporting of every nature. I recently saw a Facebook post from a relative giving the history of the cabin that my grandfather, Edward Raymond Kelsey, moved to his home place in 1952. Using the information from the posts and newspaper articles, I was able to reconstruct the story of the cabin.
Memories of the Cabin
I grew up visiting my Kelsey grandparents each Sunday and remember the cabin well. Grandpa Kelsey collected antiques and filled the cabin with them. He especially liked to collect anything having to do with horses and farming – displaying the antique farm equipment on the outside of the cabin.
My mother and his daughter, Anna, compiled his history and wrote the following. 1
Dad occupied his spare time collecting antiques – at one time he was the proud owner of an old coffee grinder, bear trap, saddle, lanterns, bridles, etc. A shotgun used in the wild west was also in his possession. He kept his antiques in a cabin near the home. The century old cabin was hauled, after being dismantled piece by piece, from Cassia Creek. The cabin had been used there for a living quarters, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and bunk house for freight drivers in its day. Old newspapers lined the cabin originally with an 1881 dateline. When the cabin was moved, each log was numbered as dismantled and reset on the farm site. The numbering still shows. The cabin was donated to the Cassia County Historical Society after Dad’s death; it now rests on that site and has been restored as a schoolhouse.
As Anna mentioned, after Ed’s death on 9 March 1972, the family donated the cabin to the Cassia County Museum where it stands today. I knew only that Ed dismantled the cabin log by log – then reassembled it on his property in Declo, Idaho. A series of Facebook posts by an extended family member shared more details.
After Ed Kelsey and his sons (Ted, Bill, Bob) reassembled the cabin at the Declo ranch about 1955, they put spikes and glue on it to stabilize it. Also as mentioned at the museum, they cut the long ends off of the upper timbers. In 1972, it wasn’t necessary to take the cabin apart but was loaded in one piece of a trailer, and hauled to Burley.2
History and Location of the Cabin
Thanks to the Facebook posts, I learned more about the history and location of the cabin. Early southern Idaho settler, William Kelsey Rice, built the cabin in 1872, on the Cassia Creek, in Cassia County, Idaho. He and his wife were the second settlers in the small community of Elba.3 The 1880 census shows him farming with a wife, four daughters, and a son. 4 Despite the same name of “Kelsey” there is no family connection.
The museum holds the photos below. One shows the William Kelsey Rice Ranch, with the Rice family pictured in front. Apparently, the cabin was somewhere on this property. After the Rice family built a larger home, the cabin became a schoolhouse for the neighborhood children. The photos were shared on Facebook – spreading the outreach of the cabin’s history.
Additional blog posts used Google maps to show the location and described more about the cabin’s history.5
The old homestead cabin was located near the south edge of the modern Bridge across Cassia Creek, one mile east of Connor creek store, and about seven miles upstream from Malta. The bridge is actually an enormous culvert. The tiny Rice Creek came in from the north. According to Uncle Bob Kelsey’s newspaper interview, the stagecoach station, store, and permanent Rice farmhouse were to the south of the Kelton stagecoach road. The old cabin was north near the creek. I rode up there last fall. There is nothing left on the south side of the creek. The north side has the later large Edward Conant frame house and a depression Era nice brick home, probably built by the Wards.6
Moving the Cabin to the Cassia County Museum
The Cassia County Museum opened in 1972. Ed’s oldest son, Charles Edward “Ted” Kelsey, had been instrumental in its conception and development but didn’t live to see it to fruition. Tragically, Ted died at the age of 52 in 1971, six months before his father, Edward Raymond Kelsey. After Ed’s death on 9 March 1872, his five living children and widow, Florence, opted to move the cabin from the Kelsey homestead to the museum grounds. The cabin would be a lasting memorial to their husband and father and his love of preserving history.
The moving of the cabin was well-chronicled in the local paper, The South Idaho Press. The photos below show that this time, the cabin was moved whole – loaded onto a trailer and pulled into Burley with a pickup truck. 7
The cabin looked forlorn when it was first moved to the museum site in 1972. Years later, grass, trees, and flowers adorn the grounds. The family created a plaque that notes it’s history.
I’m grateful that the cabin has been preserved and now anyone can visit a bit of early Idaho history. The cabin at one time was a schoolhouse and the museum has restored it as a schoolhouse. The middle photo shows the remnant of the markings Grandpa Kelsey used when disassembling and reassembling the cabin in 1952.
Thanks to social media – current and historical – the cabin’s story can be preserved for future generations.
- Anna Mae Kelsey Shults, compiler, “Edward Raymond Kelsey, ” memories, Edward Raymond Kelsey (1886-1972) KVG6-HWB, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/4172779 : accessed 12 February 2023).
- Marylou Matthews Tribe, post about Ed Kelsey cabin history with photo of school children, 24 December 2022, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/marylou.matthews.5 : accessed 12 February 2023). here
- Cassia County Historical Museum, Idaho Heritage Trust https://www.idahoheritagetrust.org/projects-grants/cassia-county-historical-museum/ : accessed 12 February 2023).(
- 1880 U.S. Census, Cassia County, Idaho, population schedule, Elba, Cassia Creek, enumeration district (ED) 13, sheet 11C (stamped), p. 155 (penned), dwelling 79, family 83, Wm K Rice household, digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 February 2023); citing NARA microfilm publication T9.
- Marylou Matthews Tribe, post about Ed Kelsey cabin, the original location at Conant, Idaho, 23 December 2022, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/marylou.matthews.5 : accessed 12 February 2023).
- Marylou Matthews Tribe, post about the old homestead cabin and description, Bob Kelsey interview, posted 23 December 2022, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/marylou.matthews.5 : accessed 12 February 2023).
- “History was Moving,” South Idaho Press, (Burley, Idaho), Thursday, 3 August 1972, page 1.
Declo native, here! 🙋♀️ I’ve seen this cabin driving past the museum all growing up and it was fun to read more about it! My great grandma grew up in Elba (her grandparents were early Elba settlers). I got out my Elba history book to see if there were any more pictures of the cabin in it, but it only mentions the Connor Creek schoolhouse briefly. Elba had a separate log schoolhouse and I think when they built the first brick school the Connor Creek kids started going to the Elba school.
Thanks for adding this information!