Momentous find: 1880s Orem pioneer cabin tells the story of original settlers

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After partial demolition, an 1880s-era log cabin was revealed to be encapsulated in this Orem home, photo courtesy of the City of Orem

OREM, Utah (ABC4) – Stan Hanson’s family home was always special to him, even before he knew what was hidden within its walls. He always knew the house was built by his great-grandfather, Carl Isaac Hanson, and belonged to his family before it was purchased by the current owners. But it wasn’t until the home was set to be demolished that he realized how remarkable it truly is.  

In mid-October, Hanson, who now resides in Pleasant Grove, happened to be driving past the home when it was in the early stages of demolition. When he spotted knotty, wooden logs peeking out from underneath the drywall and siding, he left a note on the home explaining that he suspected the logs were part of his great-grandfather’s 1880s-era homestead.

“I drove by and I thought, ‘My word, I think that those are logs that are exposed,’ so I turned around and went back and stopped and sure enough,” Hanson remembers.

Prior to that day, Hanson didn’t know that the original cabin still existed. Over the years, the house had been modernized and added to, covering up the logs and effectively encapsulating history within the home’s walls. Knowing that these logs were the foundation of family – and Orem – history, he knew he couldn’t just let the demolition continue.

“It just kind of broke my heart to see that place go,” Hanson says. “I didn’t want to see it end up in a pile of rubble and I was willing and prepared myself to take the cabin and move it if they were going to demolish it. It meant that much to me.”

But Hanson wouldn’t have to do that. Bill Fairbanks, a local developer who was demolishing the home, found Hanson’s note and contacted the city of Orem. The family who had owned the home prior to demolition were also aware of the cabin’s presence and offered to donate the homestead to the city as a historical artifact.

Now, the city of Orem plans to restore the cabin and design a historical heritage park that will pay tribute to the pioneers of the region. This week, crews are securing the walls and prepping the cabin for transport, and next week, on the Dec. 28, the homestead will be moved by semi-flatbed to a restoration site while the heritage park is completed. The park will be located in South Central Orem and will take several years before it is able to open to the public, Downs says.

“There are so many people in the community whose ancestors were part of this history,” Downs says. “What we want to do with the park is pay respects to those who went before us to settle this community.”

Pioneers first attempted to settle in Orem in the late 1950s, but were largely unsuccessful because of the lack of water in the region. After a small canal was built to bring water to the area, settlers began to move in and the area achieved full-time occupation in 1877.

Carl Isaac Hanson emigrated from Sweden in 1883 to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah. He initially settled near Fairview, where he opened a blacksmith shop with his brother, Neils Hanson. The two twin brothers didn’t get along, so Carl moved to present-day Orem and Neils settled in Pleasant Grove, both opening their own blacksmithing ventures.

Carl Isaac married his wife, Mary, in 1885, and they homesteaded 160 acres on and around present-day 1400 State Street in Orem, where the cabin still stands.

Neils and Carl Isaac Hanson in front of their shop in near present-day Fairview, photo courtesy of the City of Orem

For Hanson, the discovery of the cabin is not only a historical heirloom, but also a source of pride for himself and his family.

“I’m very proud of it. My grandfather was a blacksmith by trade and I would imagine that the tools used to build that cabin were probably built with his hands and probably with his anvil in his blacksmith shop,” Hanson says, noting that he still owns the anvil.

And for the city of Orem, the cabin is a momentous find.

“We haven’t come across a cabin like this ever,” Downs says. “We honestly consider this as big of a find as back in the 1930s when someone was doing some excavation and found a mammoth skull. We believe that this is a find that is kind of at that level.”

When the heritage park is complete, it will provide Orem residents and visitors with a place to learn about their shared and treasured past.

“This cabin, while it was the Hanson family cabin, to us, finding it and preserving it is definitely to pay tribute to the Hansons, but it’s really to pay tribute to all of those families that came and settled this area and started a legacy of what this community has become,” Downs says. “So our big interest is, hey, cool cabin, but that cabin tells such a big story about this community.”

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