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Cargill team to tackle fort cabin restoration

Armistead cabin is last vestige of Fort Dodge military post

September 13, 2012
By BILL SHEA, , Messenger News

A team of Cargill employees has volunteered to do a major restoration of the last remaining building from the original Fort Dodge military post.

The company wants to have a strong presence in the community, and fixing up the old Armistead cabin helps to achieve that goal, said Alan Viaene, the facility manager of the Cargill plant in the North Central Ag Industrial Park.

The Armistead cabin, built in the early 1850s, is on the grounds of the Fort Museum and Frontier Village on Kenyon Road. It was the office of Brevet Maj. Lewis A. Armistead, who was the second in command of Fort Dodge from 1850 to 1853. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Confederacy and was killed leading Pickett's Charge during the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Kim Alstott looks over some of the decay and aging evident on the Armistead Cabin at the Fort Museum.

City Councilman Kim Alstott, who is the vice chairman of the Fort Dodge Historical Foundation board that oversees the Fort Museum and Frontier Village, invited Cargill employees to get involved at the site about two months ago.

''They are very community-minded,'' Alstott said. ''We're very lucky to have a corporation like that come in.''

Nine employees from Cargill's project engineering team will begin a restoration project estimated to cost $24,000 this fall. Viaene said they hope to have the work done before next year's Frontier Days celebration.

The work will involve removing and replacing the substance, called chinking, which is between the logs that form the exterior walls of the building. The most deteriorated logs will be replaced, while the outer surface of other logs will be chiseled off. When all the work is done, the walls will be sprayed with a preservative.

Mark Johnson, a log cabin preservation expert from St. Peter, Minn., will advise the workers.

The Cargill employees who will work on the cabin are Aaron Becker, Jerry Eilers, Matt Herbert, Gary Hull, Erik Ingelin, Bob Marzean, Angela McCaulley, Aaron Rudd and Chad Smith.

The cabin project emerged from a conversation Alstott had with some Cargill employees during a cleanup project at Snell-Crawford Park on Williams Drive.

''I know that they like to help out the community, so I asked if they would be interested in helping out at the fort,'' Alstott said.

Following that conversation, Alstott sent a letter to Cargill representatives. Some discussions followed, and company workers visited the fort to see what projects they might in interested in doing. The Cargill workers decided to adopt the Armistead cabin and repair it.

Originally called Fort Clarke, the Fort Dodge military post was established on Aug. 2, 1850. The precise date that the Armistead cabin was built isn't known. The cabin, and all the other fort buildings were located along what is today's First Avenue North between Third and Fifth streets.

The cabin remained standing after the fort was closed on June 1, 1853. Some years later, it was incorporated into a larger structure which was built around it. The cabin was revealed when that structure was demolished.

The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution saved the cabin from demolition. Alstott said it was moved to Oleson Park on South 17th Street before being relocated to the Fort Museum and Frontier Village in 1964. Today, it houses exhibits on Armistead's life and military career.



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