WATCH: Historian shares new details on origins of pioneer cabin in Hamilton

Studying history is often like doing detective work and for a Hamilton Schools’ teacher his recent sleuthing cracked the case on the origin and identity of the builder of a beloved, downtown landmark.

Local historian Chris Maraschiello, a history teacher at Hamilton Freshman School, has discovered new origin details of the Hamilton’s Historic Log House, which has stood on the riverfront, adjacent to the city’s popular “Billy Yank” World War I memorial, since the early 1960s.

ExploreHamilton’s oldest surviving structure is hiding in plain sight

The cabin, which is owned by Historic Hamilton Inc., was moved from the Rossville neighborhood across the river and reassembled at its current location in the 1960s. After a rehabilitation, it was re-dedicated in May of 2016.

It is the oldest surviving structure in Hamilton.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“With some research and help from the folks at Butler County Historical Society and Lane Library Cummins room, we have been able to identify the correct build date and builder of the house,” said Maraschiello, who is the docent in charge of tours of the one-room, log cabin.

For decades the cabin was believed to have been built by the area’s first settlers in 1804.

“We confirmed that the actual construction date of log house was 1817 based on archival evidence and scientific dating of log samples,” which were sent to an Ohio college for testing,” he said.

“The builder was a man named John McKeen of Pennsylvania who came to Ohio in 1805 and then to Hamilton in 1817.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“He was a cooper and he was ruling elder in the Hamilton Presbyterian Church. He died in 1835 and was buried in the Rossville Burial ground. His tombstone was discovered in 1888,” said Maraschiello.

Historic Hamilton Inc. is the umbrella organization serving the historic districts of the city. In 2011 the group helped to raise $80,000 to cover repairs and renovations of the more than two-century cabin.

The riverfront historic structure, which is open for tours Memorial Day through Labor Day, is also helping today’s students in Maraschiello’s classes better understand the study of both past times and historical structures.

The cabin, he said, “models for students historical thinking skills taught in classroom and helps make the history student as detective in critically examining all evidence and looking at the source of the evidence, closely reading the evidence, placing the evidence in context and then corroborating the evidence.”

“I teach my kids that historians are like detectives. While events don’t change, what does change is the discovery of new evidence, which changes interpretation,” he said.

“It’s sort of fun.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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