Eighty years later, Hummel visits home of his birth

Posted 4/10/15

By Cindy Gladden Record Staff Writer Eighty years ago Wes Hummel was born in a log cabin nestled in a Wright City valley. Hummel, of Chesterfield, was treated to a very special birthday gift from his …

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Eighty years later, Hummel visits home of his birth

Record Staff WriterEighty years ago Wes Hummel was born in a log cabin nestled in a Wright City valley.Hummel, of Chesterfield, was treated to a very special birthday gift from his wife Jane. He returned to the cabin with family, friends and members of the Innsbrook Historical Society who restored his family home.“Our friends all ask about it,” he said. “My wife is an event planner and she thought it would be a nice accommodation for my birthday.”The cabin, which is owned by the Innsbrook Historical Society, has undergone a complete restoration over the past five years. It is located near the Alpine Dam in what is now called Alpine Valley.“We started in the spring of 2010,” said Historical Society member John Welter. “We are in the fifth year of a three-year project. We are 95 percent done.”Welter said the Innsbrook Corporation deeded the cabin and a couple of acres to the historical society so the work could be completed. More than 70 volunteers have given of their time and talents to restore what some would have given up on long ago.The cabin was originally built by at least two different German craftsmen in the 1840s, according to Welter. The George Hummel family lived there off and on from 1932 until 1945. They were the last family to permanently live in the cabin.Hummel’s older sister, Gerry (Geraldine) Hummel Murphy, of Truesdale, has very good memories of living at the cabin during World War II. Her mother Elsie worked in St. Louis during the week, taking the train from Truesdale or bus from Warrenton and returning on the weekends. She was a welder for Curtiss Wright, the precursor to McDonnell-Douglas.It was a difficult time for Hummel’s father, who was a carpenter and a beef cattle farmer. Every job was geared to the war effort. He remained on the farm while his wife stayed in St. Louis performing her duties as what we think of as a “Rosie the Riveter.”Although Murphy was not born at the cabin, her younger siblings, Phyllis and Wes, were. She remembers having a crank telephone there. Four families were on the same line and each family had to maintain their own utilities.“We were two longs and a short,” she said about their phone number.“We eked out a living there,” said Wes. “We stayed there with our father until our grandfather died, then we moved to the Truesdale farm.”Wes said his father kept a journal of the workings on the farm. On the day he was born, March 18, 1935, it said “Cold and clear. Repaired fences. A boy was born today.”Wes remembers the hard work he and his siblings did each day to keep the farm going. The children shelled corn, milked cows and churned butter. Gerry took care of the cooking, Phyllis was skilled with the milk cows and Wes, the youngest, scattered corn to the chickens, gathered eggs and split firewood.During the birthday celebration, both Wes and Gerry told visitors what the cabin looked like while they were living there. They also told many childhood tales of living there.Wayne Edwards of Innsbrook served as a volunteer project manager in transforming the dogtrot-style cabin. Edwards said part of the building had to be jacked up while replacing a few rotted logs. New walnut flooring was laid from trees on the property that had to be cleared for electric service.“Volunteers rebuilt the stone porch,” said Edwards. “We now use the porch for a stage for concerts. We have had some charity events there, musicians, a champagne brunch, a German dinner and an Abe Lincoln re-enactor.”Welter said having Hummel return to the cabin lends a bit of credibility to the project. He said it was great to have someone visit who had actually been born there.Innsbrook residents donated furnishings for use in the cabin. Artifacts found are displayed on a walnut table in the living room. The cabin stays open 24/7 for the enjoyment of the community and their friends. Rocking chairs grace the 40-foot long porch that overlooks a beautiful valley.The Hummels remember the same valley, or holler, from their childhood. Instead of trying to call their neighbors on the phone, they rang a big bell, then hollered their message across the valley.They also remember the golden glow produced by the old lead-glass windows that volunteers couldn’t reproduce. But, Innsbrook residents can enjoy stepping back in time as they visit the cabin thanks to the skills of their neighbors.To find out more information about events held at the cabin or to see restoration photos, visit innsbrookhistoricalsociety.org.

The Innsbrook Historical Society welcomed visitors to a restored cabin where Wes Hummel was born 80 years ago. A birthday party was held Saturday, Sept. 19, in Hummel’s honor. Cindy Gladden Photo.