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Log Cabin

Lake View’s historic log cabin had its beginning along the shore of the Racoon River five and one half miles east of Lake View. David W. Belt, a Civil Was veteran, along with his wife and their young family from Illinois, came by covered wagon to the land in 1870.  The site they chose on the south side of the road afforded them water and fuel for the soon to be constructed cabin.  They paid $5.00 an acre for the eighty-acre tract of land.  The Belt’s began constructing their 16 by 20-foot two story cabin when they arrived and completed the structure in 1872.  During construction, the Belt family lived in a dugout on a bluff near the cabin.

The Belt family consisted of sons Walter and William and one daughter, Fannie.  A second daughter, Jennie, had died in infancy.  The oldest son, Walter, was born in Illinois while the other children were born in the cabin.  Willie, the youngest, was born there in 1879.  His mother died two years later leaving Willie to be raised by Mrs. Belt’s sister, Ann Cargey, who came to live with them.

As the trees along the river were not large enough, Belt obtained logs for the structure from a large grove of trees located up river from the building site. He lashed four to six logs together and rode them down the river. The logs were then spliced, notched and hewn to size prior to being fastened into place and chinked with mud.  The young pioneer family took a liking to the Iowa prairie and, upon completion of the cabin, traded a team of horses and harnesses for a second eighty-acre tract of land.

Indians were a familiar sight to the Belt family.  In fact, many would winter behind the bluff near the Belt cabin.  The were very friendly.  Though they never stole, they often came around begging for food.  In the summer Sac and Fox Indians would stop at the cabin on their way to Black Hawk Lake, then named Wall Lake, to pick the lake’s crop of long flat reeds they found ideal for basket weaving.

David Belt and his family lived in the cabin until about 1900 when his daughter, Fannie, married Kent Sterling and took up residency in the cabin.  John Drilling, in the year prior to his marriage to Clara, boarded and roomed with the Sterling’s while farming his adjacent land to the southwest.  He told of the long winter nights in the upstairs of the cabin where frigid winds and snow blew through the crude wood walls.

In the spring of 1903, Walter Belt, the oldest son of David Belt, took his family to North Dakota and lived there for 11 years.  In the spring of 1914, the Sterling family moved to Minnesota and the Walter Belt family, along with their children Ray, Floyd, Wilbur, and Dorothy, moved into the cabin for a short time.  They were the last family to occupy the cabin.

On October 26, 1926, the three children of David Belt sold the cabin to the Lake View Park Commission for the price of one dollar plus a stipulation in the bill of sale that read:  “It being understood and agreed that said cabin is to be removed and placed by the said Park Commission in the public parks of Lake View and that the same shall be kept in repair and maintained as a permanent memorial and whenever, if ever the said cabin shall no longer be used for public purposes, it is hereby expressly provided that the title  to the said cabin shall become the property of the granter herein.” Signees of the agreement were Fannie E. Sterling, A.W. Belt and W.A. Belt.

Dr. E.E. Speaker got the C.C.C. Camp to cooperate with the Park Commission in moving the cabin in 1927. When the cabin was torn down, each log was numbered and then reconstructed at the cabin’s new site, a hillside across from Crescent Park. Funds for the move were obtained by selling $1.00 donations and the C.C.C. Camp furnished labor.  The mill stones used as steps at both the back and front entrances of the cabin came from Grant City.  A southern Iowa mason was called in to put up the cabin’s stone chimney, parts of which came from the original chimney.  As a finishing touch, the C.C.C. Camp added a well beside the building.  The original cabin did not have a porch or fireplace.  They were added later.

In the years following, interest in the cabin dwindled and the building received a greater share of abuse and neglect than the care and attention it was used to receiving.  About 1954 Sherman “Doc” Bromley, as head of the Boy Scouts, noticed that some repairs would have to be made to the cabin if it were to be saved from rotting and collapsing.  Thus, Bromley and the Scouts spent all of one summer rehabilitating the cabin.  Large rods were bored into the thick beams supporting the cabin corners.  A set of small pane windows from Grant City was contributed.  These were among several improvements made at that time.

The year 1966 found the community once again concerned about the condition of the log cabin.  At that time there was some talk of having the cabin renovated and possibly moved to nearer the lake.  The idea of a move was soon squelched.  A group of women from the community spear headed a drive to carry out renovations, however.  They formed a historical society and elected officers. Along with members of the women’s club and legion auxiliary, these women canvassed the town for donations and got the city council to contribute money for the project.  By Labor Day the cabin was ready for visitors when 243 guests registered at the open house.  Many antique artifacts had been donated for display.

An edition of the Lake View Resort in August of 1986 shows Kenneth Pugh replacing the porch on the log cabin.  In September of 2000, the local Cub Scout troop buried a millennium time capsule on the grounds of the log cabin.  At various times over the years, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts used the cabin for their meetings and outings.  The log cabin also offered a picturesque site for photo opportunities.  This was particularly true during the 1980 Lake View Centennial.

In the year 2000, some forty years after the historical society originally spear headed a renovation, the subject surfaced again.  The cabin had suffered from neglect and was showing signs of deterioration, particularly on the back side.  Kay Lierman Montano was instrumental in spearheading the drive to renovate, a role her mother, Beryl Lierman, and Ava Zielman had taken back in the ‘60s renovation.  After many setbacks in funding and working with professional restorers, the extensive renovation was completed in the fall of 2008. Most of the labor at that time was completed by city workers and volunteer Ron Bettin.  A grand re-opening was held Memorial weekend of 2009.

The cabin, sharing grounds with the Lake View Historical Museum and a replica of a country school, is once again open to visitors and sits as a reminder of our pioneer heritage.  Two activities currently provide great use of the cabin.  Fair weather monthly gatherings of “Coffee at the Cabin” are held on the porch for any who wish to participate.  The local mayor is usually present at the coffees to give updates on city matters.  In August each year, a company of several volunteers puts on Pioneer Days, an activity which allows people of all ages to participate in games, cooking, laundry, milking and other activities enjoyed by the pioneers in the area.  Regularly scheduled visiting hours allow visitors to view the cabin’s interior each year from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.

Descendants of the Belt family currently (2018) reside in Lake View.  They include Dennis Meyer and his son, Eric.  Dennis’ mother was Ruth Belt Meyer whose father was Ray Belt.  Ray was a son of Walter Belt, the eldest son of David Belt who built the cabin.

Lake View’s historic log cabin had its beginning along the shore of the Racoon River five and one-half miles east of Lake View on the south side of the road.  David Belt, a Civil War veteran, brought his family from Illinois by covered wagon in 1870.  They purchased eighty acres of land for $5.00 an acre and began building the cabin.

A 16 by 20-foot two story cabin was built with logs from a large grove up river from the building site.  Belt lashed several logs together and rode them down the river.  The logs were prepared, fastened into place and chinked with mud.  The structure was completed in 1872.

Mr. and Mrs. Belt’s family consisted of sons Walter and William and one daughter, Fannie.  A second daughter died in infancy.  The two youngest children were born at the cabin.  Willie, the youngest, was born there in 1879.  His mother died two years later.

The family lived in the cabin until about 1900 when daughter, Fannie, then married to Kent Sterling, took up residency there.  The Sterling family moved to Minnesota in 1914 at which time the Walter Belt family moved into the cabin.  Walter’s children consisted of Ray, Floyd, Wilbur and Dorothy.  They lived in the cabin a short time and were the last to occupy the structure.

On October 26, 1926, the three children of David Belt sold the cabin to the Lake View Park Commission for the price of one dollar.  The sale came with the stipulation that the cabin be kept in repair and maintained as a permanent memorial.  If ever the cabin should no longer be used for public purposes, it was to become the property of the granter.

Dr. E.E. Speaker got the C.C.C. Camp to cooperate with the Park Commission in moving the cabin in 1927. Funds for the move were obtained by selling $1.00 donations.

A stone fireplace and porch were added some years after the cabin found a new home overlooking Crescent Park.

In the years following, interest in maintaining the log cabin dwindled.  There was a time in the early 1950’s when the Boy Scouts and their leader spent a summer in rehabilitating the structure.  The year 1966 found the community once again concerned about the log cabin’s condition.  A group of women from the community spear headed a drive to carry out renovations. They formed a historical society and canvased the town for donations.   By Labor Day the cabin was ready for visitors when over 200 guests registered at an open house.

In 2006, some forty years after the original drive to renovate the cabin, the subject of renovation surfaced again.  As shown here, the cabin had suffered neglect and was deteriorating.  With labor provided by the city and volunteers, the cabin received an extensive rehabilitation and opened in 2009.

In addition to being open to visitors, the cabin hosts a monthly “coffee at the cabin” as well as a Pioneer Day each August.