Work is underway to preserve the Raulerson cabin

OKEECHOBEE — For decades, the oldest dwelling in Okeechobee was hidden in plain sight, inside the white house at the corner of Ninth Street and Southwest Second Avenue.
The log cabin was built by the first white settlers to the area, Peter and Louisiana, who moved to what would become the City of Okeechobee in 1896.

Dale Barrett shows samples of the layers of wood that covered the log walls in the Raulerson cabin.

According to the Okeechobee Historical Society, Mr. Raulerson, a cattleman, moved his family from Basinger to this area known as the “Bend,” so he could have more land to pasture his herd. They lived in a barn until 1899 when the log cabin was built with the help of friends and families from established communities of Fort Basinger and Fort Drum. The original log cabin was two rooms, separated by a breezeway.

Over the years, the log walls were covered by layers of paneling. New exterior walls were added to enclose the porches, expanding the home’s living space.

In 2017, the Okeechobee Historical Society raised donations to purchase the site of the Raulerson family homestead. More donations are needed to pay for the work needed to preserve the historic home and make it safe for the public to visit.

On July 24, community leaders and members of the Historical Society were treated to a sneak peek at the work underway inside the old cabin. For the day, some items were loaned by Historical Society members and by the Okeechobee Historical Museum to furnish and decorate the rooms to give the viewers a better idea of what it will look like when completed.

Magi Cable, president of the Okeechobee Historical Society, showed visitors around the home. Mrs. Cable has “insider knowledge” of the historic cabin. She once lived there.

“After my mother passed away when I was in the eighth grade, Marie and C.L. Box became my guardians,” she explained. At that time, they were living in the home that had been built around the original Raulerson log cabin. Marie Box’s grandparents were Peter and Louisiana Raulerson.

Mrs. Cable said she reached out to Dale Barrett for help in removing the layers of walls inside the cabin to expose the original logs, knowing of his interest in historic buildings.

Although she only asked him to supervise the job, Mr. Barrett volunteered his family to do the work. Dale, his wife Karen and their grandchildren have worked to carefully peel back layers of history within the old building.

“It was like peeling back the layers of an onion,” said Mr. Barrett.

Within the walls, they found some pieces of history … the remains of a toy firetruck, a post card, a slingshot, two metal curtain rods.

Visitors were excited to see the progress — and the exposed logs — but there is much more work to be done before the cabin can be opened to the public. New flooring is required to make the building safe. A new roof is planned to cover over the existing cedar roof. The building will also be air conditioned to make it more comfortable for the visitors.

The cabin will be used for museum-type displays. A copy of the family tree will be on display in the home showing the Raulersons’ impact on the Okeechobee community.

Donations and grants are sought to complete the work.

Items on the “still to be done list” include:

• ADA ramp and parking space;
• ADA bathroom renovation:
• Painting the house;
• Replacing all floors:
• Upgrade electrical;
• Preserve logs;
• Install central air conditioning:
• Tent for termites;
• Replace ceiling tiles in front room and add lighting;
• Install historical marker;
• Install combo ceiling fans and lights in presentation room and breezeway;
• Purchase tables and chairs for presentation room;
• Purchase TV for presentations;
• Fix kitchen cabinets:
• Level and fix foundation;
• Add signage and log tags;
• Install family tree in front room.

The Historical Society also has a “wish list” for historic items to display in the home:

• Trunk or cedar chest;
• Old suitcase (a suitcase under a bed served as the original post office);
• Wooden tomato crates;
• Antique crib or cradle;
• Antique clothing like overalls, shirts and boots;
• Feather pillows;
• Taxidermied animals;
• Barrel.

Anyone who would like to help with monetary donations, donation of historic items, or skilled labor can contact the Historical Society at P.O. Box 973, Okeechobee, FL 34973 or email Magi Cable, at cable.magi@gmail.com for more information.

 

Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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