When a couple of local business owners began tearing down an old house to make way for new construction, they had no idea of the history they would uncover.
Steve Shaffner and Brian Kennedy, co-owners of Tomcat Hill Cabins in rural Carbondale, recently started stripping the exterior off an old home on their property along Illinois 127 and were amazed by what they found underneath: the preserved remains of a 19th-century log cabin.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Shaffner said. “You can still see the round logs with the bark on them.”
Having lived in the home for years, Kennedy knew the house was originally a log-cabin-type construction before it was built over in the 1940s, but he was not aware of the age and completeness of the original structure.
“We decided to tear it apart, and it looks just like an old cabin underneath,” Kennedy said, “There’s not many around like it in Jackson County.”
As the partners’ interest in the property’s history grew, they decided to hire some local historians to look into the cabin’s past.
They learned the cabin was originally built around 1865 by a man named Franklin Robinson, a Civil War soldier, and was once part of a small settlement named Urbane, named for Robinson’s father, Urbane Robinson. Urbane once included two general stores, a post office and a doctor’s office but was eventually merged into the city of Pomona.
The cabin, preserved inside its new exterior since the 1940s, is the only part of Urbane still standing.
Juli Claussen, a professional genealogist and owner of Search & Genealogy Services in Murphysboro, was one of the historians who researched the cabin’s origin.
“It’s just so interesting to see what a cabin looked like in those days,” Claussen said. “With the fact that it’s on top of the hill and the history of the property, I am sure that that is the Robinsons’ cabin, built probably right after he returned from the Civil War.”
Claussen discovered that the Robinsons, responsible for much of the settlement in the Tomcat Hill area, even had connections with the family of noted pioneer Daniel Boone, as Franklin Robinson was married to the daughter of Rachel Boone, a relative of the famous settler.
Considering their newfound historic wealth, Shaffner and Kennedy hope to restore the cabin to what it would it have looked like when it was first built and have found that government grant money is available for such restorations.
They also plan to go over the area with a metal detector, as they have already found an 1864 penny, a musket ball and several Native American items on the hill.
“Until we tore everything off, we didn’t know what we had,” Shaffner said. “It’s just nice to know the history of it.”