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Saving history: Doud cabin to be stabilized, Sunnyside School roof repaired

BEMIDJI - In 1882, before the railroads had reached the Bemidji area, a middle-aged Civil War veteran signed on as a stagecoach driver on the route between Fosston and Lake Bemidji.

Ten years later, according to Beltrami County Historical Society documents, Freeman "Freem" Doud filed for a homestead on Diamond Point. Shaynowishkung "Chief Bemidji" and others of his family and tribe were already living near the lake, but promoters hyping the area to attract white settlers touted the area as beaches strewn with precious gems, actually quartz crystals. Doud and his wife, Betsy, built a three-room cabin from squared-off logs on the point and became one of the first pioneer families in the area.

Freem, who was born in Hume, N.Y., in 1836, had earlier moved west and served with the 18th Wisconsin Infantry until his discharge March 14, 1865. He was 56 years old when he chose Bemidji as his final home. He died in 1909. Betsy died in 1916. By that time, Bemidji was a regional population center.

In 1921, the city paid $2,600 for the Doud property and established Diamond Point Park. The cabin was moved some time later to the old Beltrami County Fairgrounds near where the MarketPlace Foods/Target complex now stands. In 1992, when the current fairgrounds opened on U.S. Highway 71 north of Bemidji, the cabin was installed at the new site.

Now, the Beltrami County Agricultural Association, a.k.a. the Fair Board, has secured grants to rehabilitate the 110-year-old Doud Cabin. The Fair Board has contracted with Jamie Olson of Creative Logs Structures to stabilize the Doud Cabin. As an adjunct project, the roof of the nearby historic Sunnyside School will be repaired.

Donna Kimmes, a member of the last eighth grade to graduate from the Sunnyside School in 1963, said alumni decided in 1996 to open the building so visitors can experience attending a one-room school.

"The problem with wood ... if you just let it go, it rots," Olson said. "What we do is called restoration."

Olson said water penetrates the cracks in the logs and, along with sun exposure, causes deterioration.

"I'm going to repair on site," Olson said.

The work on the Doud Cabin will continue through this year's fair, scheduled from Aug. 8-12, to provide fairgoers opportunities to observe the rehab and interact with the logsmiths and carpenters. Activities organized by the Beltrami County Historical Society in relation to the Doud Cabin and Sunnyside School will include scavenger hunts, spelling bees, butter, ice cream, basket and rope making crafts, a quilt raffle and an ice cream sale.

Paul Hokuf, fairgrounds facility manager, and his wife, Sharon, applied and received a Minnesota Department of Agriculture Legacy Act County Fair Arts Access and Cultural Heritage grant of $7,500 and Neilson Foundation grant of $16,000 for the restoration projects. The Beltrami County Historical Society also contributed $1,000 to the project and made commemorative Doud Cabin buttons for sale at Minnesota Nice, Bemidji Woolen Mills, Beltrami County History Center and at the Fair Office.

For more details, contact Paul and Sharon Hokuf by calling 243-2779 or 556-7718 or writing an email to