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Humbargar Family of Saline County

Solomon Humbargar and familySolomon Humbargar was a quiet man and a hard worker who built a log house along the riverbank near what would become the town of Culver in Saline County. As a teenager in 1857, he moved with his family from Ohio to an area on the Solomon River in the northeast part of the county.

Humbargar later moved to the north bank of the Saline River in a wooded setting in the valley. The Homestead Act of 1862 made it possible for individuals who made improvements on undeveloped land to file for a deed of title and receive up to 160 acres of land. Humbargar applied for his land grant in 1866, built a log house, and received title to the land on March 15, 1872, signed by President Ulysses S. Grant. In addition to farming, he worked as a buffalo hunter and scout. While he was away on a hunting trip in the mid 1860s, the dwelling burned. Humbargar immediately rebuilt on the site.

Humbargar cabinUsing his skills with a broadax, he selected large cottonwood logs about 15 inches to 20 inches in height, which weighed about 600 pounds each. He made the walls 10 feet high and about 8 inches thick and created hand-hewn dovetail joints, designed to allow water to drain rather than collect in the corners. The ceiling joists and rafters probably came from a sawmill in Salina. Humbargar used short, split boards and stones for chinking materials and a lime and sand mixture may have been used for daubing. The house offered a sleeping loft accessible by stairs. Humbargar’s 14 foot by 16 foot house would be home to his family for nearly 30 years. In 1871 Humbargar married Nancy Ann Alley. Their two sons, Charles and Howard, were both born in the log house.

The family made modest improvements to the log house. Nancy Ann covered the walls with newspapers as insulation. (An 1872 issue still remains affixed to the stairway.) She later used wallpaper she had purchased from a store. Nancy Ann cooked meals for the family, made clothes, and assisted with farm chores.  The family had an orchard the size of a city block with apple, pear, and peach trees and a well-stocked chicken house. In the woods nearby they found wild plums, grapes, elderberries, currants, and gooseberries.

Solomon raised corn, barley, millet, sorghum, cane, and wheat. He dug a 35-foot deep well, which he lined with native stone. In addition to providing water, the well was used to keep milk, cheese, and butter cool. He built a smoke cellar, also lined with native stone, where the family kept sausage, bacon, smoked ham, and other meats. Above the cellar was a workshop and storeroom where pickled meats, apples, and vegetables were stored and where the family hung onion string from the rafters. Solomon used the shop area to work on his guns, saws, and other tools. He built a lean-to on the rear of the house sometime prior to 1883.

In the late 1880s the family moved the log house about 100 yards to the west and began construction on a new frame farmhouse. In the last few years of his life, several attempts were made to interview Solomon about his early years. He adamantly resisted those attempts, leaving local historians to turn to neighbors for information about this early settler. Solomon died in 1917 and the log house was turned into a grain storage shed. In the 1960s it was vacant and portions began to deteriorate.

The Humbargar descendents decided to preserve the log house, and after several years of planning, donated it to the Kansas Museum of History in 1986, where it was partially reconstructed and placed on display in the main gallery. One of the newspapers Nancy Ann used to make the house warmer, an 1872 issue. still remains affixed to the stairway.

Entry: Humbargar Family of Saline County

Author: Joyce Corbin

Date Created: January 2010

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.