Floyd Andrick loves exploring log homes in Midland County

In the fall of 2022, while speaking with Rose Ann Wendt Treilsch of Hope, we discussed a plan to dismantle the 1876 log house built by her great-grandfather, Gustav Wendt.

Since that time, I have enjoyed meeting many individuals who own or have information about the few remaining original log homes in Midland County. Likewise, I enjoyed traveling about 200 miles around the county to check out leads on a few old homes.

Several individuals have been very helpful in providing information in response to my “Ask Midland” inquiry regarding any existing original log homes. All responses were much appreciated, although time did not allow for responding and checking each of the many threads.

Before the advent of steam engines to power sawmills and produce lumber, the common form of construction for homes and other structures was stacked logs. Very few of those stacked log structures still exist here in Midland County, while at one time they were common. By 1900, sawn lumber was being used to construct most homes and all other buildings.

The first log house I remember seeing, when I was 5 years old, was Gustav Wendt’s log house on the southwest corner of Hull and Stark roads in Hope. After the house was built in 1876, Gustav Wendt and his wife Lotte lived there with their four children…most likely all of them born in the house.

Subsequent generations of the Wendt family lived in the house, the last being Ted and Alice Wendt in the mid-1950s. The old house has remained vacant since then and unfortunately has become very “shaky”.

The next log house that comes to mind is the Hiram Thornton log house located at 3920 West River Road. Hiram built the house in the late 1870s, and it is one of the few buildings that has been well maintained by its current owners, Michelle and Warren Doedy. Together they have spent a great deal of time, effort and expense preserving the original structure and logs used to build the house some 150 years ago.

Members of the Thornton family occupied the house until a few years ago, when it was sold to the Doydes. Jake Haas, director of historical programs and exhibits at the Midland County Historical Society’s Midland Center for the Arts, and I recently enjoyed a wonderful tour of the house given by Michelle Doede. Superlatives are not enough to describe the degree of dedication the Doydes family has put into preserving this wonderful old log house, which deserves a full-page story.

The log cabin home that many have visited and enjoyed seeing is the Smith Cabin, built in 1879 on Five Mile Road in Lincoln Township near Averill. Members of the Smith family occupied the house in the 1920s. In 1971, the house was purchased from Byron and Kate Day by the Sanford Historical Society and moved to the museum grounds, where it can be viewed and enjoyed today. It has been very well maintained by the organization’s volunteers.

Another log cabin home that has been meticulously cared for and well maintained is the Love Family Home. Initially, the house was built in the 1870s on Love Road south of Sanford, overlooking the Tittabawassee River. Mrs. Gertrude Love, who was Sanford’s mail carrier for many years, lived in the house until her death in the 1970s.

The house later became owned by Robert Keyes and in 1995 was purchased by Richard Osborne. Mr. Osborne dismantled the house, numbering every record in the process, and then rebuilt the house on his Gordonville Road property. Mr. Osborne is returning from Florida as this article is being published, and I look forward to meeting him and touring the house very soon. He explained over the phone that the house was livable with old furniture and household supplies. One would never guess the age of the house by the excellent condition and dedication Mr. Osborne gave to the structure.

Today, strangers to this area can speed down a long, tree-lined driveway on Stark Road near Sturgeon Creek and not know that there are two well-maintained log homes. The two homes exist because of the dedication of the former Reverend and Mrs. Leonard Newman. One house, dating from 1870, was dismantled in Clare and then rebuilt on the Stark Road site by Rev. Newman. The Newman family lived in the other log house, built from logs felled on their Stark Road property.

There is another log cabin open for the public to enjoy on the campus of the Chippewa Nature Center. The cabin was built in the 1970s from logs salvaged from James Vining’s 1875 home and 1890 Wilder home, both in Gladwin County. Educational events are frequently held at the cabin by Chippewa Nature Center staff.

One log house that can be easily seen while driving is the August Pomranky log cabin house, which is now used as a storage shed. Located on Bofranchi Road, the house was moved several feet by the 2020 flood, but is still standing strong. Cliff Pombrani, who is over 90 years old, easily recalls his childhood memories of the little wooden house.

In my quest to write about the last remaining log houses, I learned of many log houses that I would not have otherwise known existed. These homes are built of wood and have been clad in shingles, shingles, and aluminum or vinyl siding. I had the pleasure of getting to know the owners of two of these homes.

One is owned by Tony Coggins, whose home is on Five Mile Road off Schearer Road in Hope. This house was likely built by Fred Crane in the late 1800s.

Another such house is that of Carol and Lynn Murray, who live in an 1896 log house on Castor Road near North Bradley. The house was built using black ash logs by Lynn’s grandparents, Holly and Pauline Holstrom. The wooden construction can be easily seen in this photo of the staircase leading to the second floor.

If it weren’t for the limitations of space and time, this article could go on and on as there are so many great stories to go along with each log cabin/home. Likewise, there are many other record structures that can be included. However, the ages of these structures have not been verified to confirm whether they are original log homes from the late 1800s: A small log cabin stands behind a brick house on South Homer Road. There is another small log cabin behind a house on the corner of Homer Road and M-20. On Beamish Road west of Stark is a log barn owned by Jerry Nightlinger. He shared that years ago, there were two other wooden houses located on this road…and they are now long gone.

There is a well maintained log house on Sugnet Road near the hospital which certainly has an interesting history. There are these and many other log structures for which I have not been able to verify historical information. There are certainly more original log cabins/homes in the county that are hidden by some form of siding.

My sincere thanks and appreciation to everyone who provided me with information and assistance in writing this article in MDN.

Someday soon, my nephew Dan Andrick, Brent Thornton, Rose Ann Wendt Trelich, who owns Gustav Wendt’s 1876 log house in Hope, and I will participate in dismantling this structure.

Mr. Thornton will salvage the still solid logs for woodworking purposes. The remaining logs will be collected and burned… and returned to the soil from which they grew nearly 150 years ago.

Floyd Andrick resides in Midland and is an active 25-year member of the Midland County Historical Society Board of Directors.

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