Gratzes create cabin-in-the-woods paradise


In 1828, Benjamin and Elizabeth Piatt travelled on “corduroy” roads (when there was a road) by Conestoga wagon with family members from Cincinnati to West Liberty. They were moving into their recently built large double-cabin of hewed logs in the Logan County countryside. Benjamin named the cabin “Mac-O-Cheek” after a small creek that ran through the valley named for a Shawnee Indian tribe that lived in a village in the area.

The children included oldest daughter Hannah, who did not want to move to the country, and youngest daughter Martha, who loved the novelty of change. Daughter Arabella McCullough and her daughter Elizabeth, who was visiting them at the time, was excited for her parents’ new venture. Eight-year-old son Donn and 6-year-old were the two youngest in the family. The servant girl, Patsey Jackson, travelled with them. The oldest son, Wykoff, was established as a lawyer n Cincinnati.

Benjamin was a court circuit judge, which required him to travel a lot. He built a saw mill on his farm property and had an orchard, which he tended well. Elizabeth set up house for the family, making durable rugs that lasted for many years. She also worked on the landscaping, with walks, planted hedges, fish pond, flowers beds and borders of roses, lilacs and wax-berries.

Several additions were built onto the cabin during those years. As a young boy Abram built a platform, with seats, into the branches of an old oak tree, and the front porch with pillars and chairs were his handiwork. Donn was story teller to his nieces and nephews and both boys taught them to ride a horse and row a boat on the lily pond.

The family moved temporarily to Cincinnati so the younger boys could get the proper schooling. The farm was rented to Mr. Seig with the understanding that Benjamin and his family would live with him during the summer months. Benjamin practiced law with his son, Wykoff, while in Cincinnati.

Permanent move to farm

Three years later the family returned to the farm for good. They discussed building a new home, but too many memories of the cabin won and a compromise was made to update the outside by adding weather board and plaster to the inside.

At this time Benjamin built a mill for flour-making, a huge barn, tenant houses and other buildings. Near the front gate was Benjamin’s law office, where Donn studied law from his father. The home had many visitors over the years and the family enjoyed picnics at “Bald Knob” and “Squaw Rock”. They had driving and riding parties with their ponies; Blue, Dick and Fidget and fun with the pet dog, Fuz.

Benjamin and Elizabeth took care of Abram’s children after the death of his wife during his service in the Civil War. Over the years, besides their children and grandchildren who lived with them they also adopted orphans or took others children into their home for a total of seventeen.

Benjamin passed away on April 28, 1863, when he was 84 after a carbuncle developed. Three years to the day Elizabeth passed away at 86 in 1866 from natural causes.

As family passed away into death the little cabin sat empty of the life that made it a cherished, loving home.

In 1975, the property was bought by Dave and Jane Younkman who planned to build a home nearby. They discovered the house, falling apart, covered in brush and brambles, barely recognizable as it once was and discussed what they should do with it. After researching the property and finding out the history of the cabin in the woods the Younkman’s restored the home and opened an antique gift shop called, “The Pioneer House.” They shared the cabin’s history with their customers.

Jane’s health declined and the cabin property was sold on February 20, 2004, to Matthew Jones. It was thought he would keep the gift shop business going but sold it instead. Michael Kuntz and family purchased the property on December 29, 2008 and were the first to live in the house after many years. They added the full bath and updated the kitchen in the home.

Gratzes buy the cabin property

Once again the cabin sold on Oct. 8, 2013, to Ronald and Bobbi Gratz. They loved the age of the home, its history and that it had ample storage. They envisioned what they wanted their new home to look like and have worked hard at making that a reality.

As you travel down the long winding driveway to the home you see the old Pioneer House sign leading to the front of the cabin. There are whimsical statues, yard ornaments and bird houses leading the way to the back of the home.

Their love for antiques shows when you see the inside décor and it is like stepping into the past, offering a comfortable and homey atmosphere. Ron and Bobbi are members of West Liberty Historical Society and Ron is a Lions Club Member. They raise Welsh Springer Dogs and recently showed one of them at an All Breed Stock Show in North Carolina and belong to the WelshSpringer_H Club of America.

They are creating several garden full of charm and beauty, enhancing the ambience of the area. The veggie garden is called the “Williamsburg Working Garden” and is fenced, in hopes of keeping critters out. There is a “Fairy Garden” and the “Meditation Garden”. Their home has been issued a “Bird Friendly Habitat” and “Certified Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation.

Once again the little cabin in the woods is a cherished and loving home with family who love it and appreciate the beauty of the area.

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This is the Gratz family home.
http://www.weeklycurrents.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2017/09/web1_DSC_0001-1.jpgThis is the Gratz family home. Tami Wenger | Contributing photographer

Bobbi and Ron Gratz sit in the Meditation Garden.
http://www.weeklycurrents.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2017/09/web1_DSC_0008-1.jpgBobbi and Ron Gratz sit in the Meditation Garden. Tami Wenger | Contributing photographer

The Gratzes raise and show Welsh Springer Dogs.
http://www.weeklycurrents.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2017/09/web1_0934BDEB-5b1-5d-1.jpgThe Gratzes raise and show Welsh Springer Dogs. Photo used by permission of Bobbi Gratz
Early home of the Piatt family

By Tami Wenger

Contributing writer

Tami Wenger is a regular contributor to this newspaper.