April 15, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman
people cleaning cabin exterior

The cabins date back to the early 1800s.

Members of Muhlenberg County’s 4-H Teen Club gave up their spring vacation to help restore an historic cabin in a community park. Their job was to chink between the old logs to make it water tight.

“This club does a lot of leadership and community service work,” said Tommy Harrison, Muhlenberg County 4-H Youth Development agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “Judge-Executive Rodney Kirtley mentioned to me a couple of years ago that the cabin needed to be chinked. So, I took it to the group and they felt like it was a project they would be interested in doing. They decided to tackle it over spring break.”

The job meant rolling and cutting chicken wire to fit into the openings between the logs, then nailing it into place to provide a surface for the mud to adhere. The next step was to mix a mud-like product that would adhere to the chicken wire and fill the cracks between the logs, finishing off the cabin with an authentic look. The exterior chinking is angled so water would run off, while the interior chinking is placed in the opening in a straight up and down fashion.

“They are doing a beautiful job,” Harrison said.

Kirtley said the cabin dates back to the early 1800s and was moved to Paradise Park about three years ago. The county was having trouble finding someone to do the work until the 4-H Teen club stepped in to help.

“I think what is so nice is this group of kids, instead of taking their spring break and going to Florida and taking it easy for a week, they are here taking care of this,” he said. “They are going to be our future leaders, I can see that. They do stuff like this year-round. We are really proud of them.”

people cleaning cabin exterior

The cabins are a part of a park display that will show a 1920s coal camp.

The park is designed to show a 1920s coal camp and highlight the county’s music heritage, Kirtley said. At one time Muhlenberg County was the world’s largest coal-producing county, he noted. With the addition of the cabin, they have decided to show life not only of a coal camp but also the early 1800s, around the time when the county was founded. A performing arts center also is being constructed nearby.

According to the recent Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Asset Survey conducted locally, few youth in the county felt they had avenues to give back to their community. So a community group called Youth as Resources was formed to find and advertise opportunities for middle and high school students to volunteer, Harrison said.

“This is one of those opportunities,” he said. “Volunteering is what we are trying to get these youth accustomed to. Statistics show that youths who volunteer have a whole new outlook on careers. They are exposed to different opportunities. Studies show they do better in school, especially science and math, when they volunteer. They feel like a part of the community and they make connections within the community.”

About a dozen youth were busy trying to get the job done and finding it harder than they expected but rewarding.

Mackenzie Whitaker, club president, said the project interested her because she’d never had the opportunity to do anything like it before.

“I thought it would be neat,” she said. “It is fun but it is a whole lot of hard work, too. It’s probably a one-time thing.”

Whitaker said she hoped others will follow their example.

“Maybe other people will see how much work we put into this and it will inspire them to help the community out in other projects similar to this one,” she said. 

4-Her Sarah Heltsley and her father, Jeff, worked together as volunteers on the project.
“It’s pretty fun,” Sarah said. “It’s better than sitting around and doing nothing at home. The cabin is pretty cool. I like the room with the little loft in it.”

Jeff Heltsley said he had taken the week off to spend time with his family.

“I actually was planning to do some work around the house this week, but it’s a good time to do a little work for the area that you grew up in,” he said. “The kids have all been good workers, and this will help them out when they actually get a full-time job.”


Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278

Contacts: Tommy Harrison 270-338-7541