Emmet County Historical Society board members are taking advantage of the recent mild fall weather to do an extensive restoration of the Brujeld cabin on the museum grounds on South 18th Street, across from Iowa Lakes Community College.
The cabin, built sometime before 1861, was originally located southeast of Estherville along with several other cabins in what was known as the Brighton settlement, according to Don Koons. The cabin was moved to Riverside Park south of the swimming pool in 1935. It served a number of functions there - including as a Boy Scout cabin - until it was moved to the museum grounds in 1996.
There is firm documentation Frank and Jesse James stayed were overnight guests in the cabin before they went north to try to rob the bank in Northfield, Minn. - a failed attempt that was the beginning of the end of the James/Younger gang.
"We're just trying to save it if we can," said Don Valen. "If the walls could talk it could be very interesting."
Koons said museum board members plan on putting in a wood floor, and Wayne Petersen said a lot of chinking needs to be done plus there are plans for putting in the loft that was taken out years ago.
Valen said there will be a fundraising dinner 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Estherville VFW for the restoration. The biggest expense, though - labor - is free, thanks to the volunteer efforts of board members.
Valen said one of the biggest challenges has been determining how to make the restoration historically accurate.
"We're not trying to make it new," Valen said. "We're just trying to make it like it used to be."
The solid oak walls have stood the test of time - and elements. Koons said when the cabin sat along the Des Moines floodwaters were three feet up the sides.
Koons said the museum board hopes the cabin can be a place people can use for parties and reunions - while keeping it historically accurate.
"We're going to try to restore it with what was here at that time of the century," Koons said.
The museum is open daily June through August and tours are welcomed.