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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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John and MargaretheKemp Cabin (C. Cartwright photo, 2007)

John and MargaretheKemp Cabin (C. Cartwright photo, 2007)

John and MargaretheKemp Cabin (C. Cartwright photo, 2007)

John and MargaretheKemp Cabin corner detail (C. Cartwright photo, 2007)

Kemp, John and Margarethe, Cabin
6950 State Highway 78, Town of Mazomanie, Dane County
Builder: John Kemp
Date of construction: 1863

The John and Margarethe Kemp Cabin sits on a hill in the Black Hawk Unit of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, a state recreation area. This small log cabin, erected about 1863 by German immigrant John Kemp, is a rare historic resource, a log cabin that sits on its original site with little development around it. As such, visitors can see not only an authentic pioneer log cabin, featuring log construction with most of its historic features intact, but also they can see it from a similar perspective as its original owners did. They can see the land as it might have been and experience the isolation of a farmstead set back almost a mile from the road. Few log cabins in Wisconsin have such integrity to their sites.

The Kemp Cabin has many details of American and Wisconsin log construction. Its single-pen form, log walls filled with wood and mortar chinking, and common corner notching can be traced to the log construction forms of Swedish and German immigrants that are found in the eastern United States. It is also typical of cabins built in Wisconsin during the 19th century, especially by German immigrants. Like most German ethnic log cabins, the Kemp cabin has wide spaces between logs that are filled in with a large amount of both wood and mortar chinking. The half or full dovetail corners favored by many German ethnic log cabin builders are not seen in this cabin. Rather a simpler type of notching, the square notch, is used. Also different is the fact that the logs are kept rounded on the exterior. German ethnic cabins commonly used logs hewn on both sides. In this cabin, only the interior logs are hewn.

The Kemps built an original 80 acres into a 200 acre farm between 1863 and 1900. Later, another family of ethnic Germans, the Wachters, owned the farm for 50 years, using the cabin as their farmhouse until the 1920s. In 1961, Larrie and Diana Isenring acquired the farm and additional acreage and built and operated a large campground. They used the old cabin as a store and for lodging.

In 1989, the Isenrings sold the campground to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the recreation area, keeping the land available for public use. Almost all of the farm buildings and structures built by the Kemps, the Wachters, and the Isenrings were demolished; today, the cabin sits almost alone on its original site.

The cabin may be seen by visiting the Black Hawk Unit of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway.

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