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Art center’s cabin has colorful past

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CACCC Log Cabin

In the early 1800s, western Pennsylvania was frontier territory, wild and untamed. Abram Stutzman, a local circuit-riding Dunkard minister who had already built four log cabins in and around what is now Johnstown, built a fifth one along the wagon trail near the foot of Laurel Ridge on the Johnstown side.

The setting was ideal.

A freshwater spring provided a year-round source of water, making it a reliable watering spot for travelers along the trail that is now Menoher Boulevard. There were no other such places along the trail for travelers, and the cabin became a natural rest stop for the weary and “saddle sore.”

The open and welcoming nature of both Rev. Stutzman and his wife, Sarah, soon became well known, and it wasn’t long before those who stopped included not only travelers, but also those who just wanted a break in their daily life.  

“Let’s go see the Stutzmans,” became the refrain and the Stutzmans were only too happy for the visits. Their kitchen never closed, and apparently Sarah knew how to use it. And, of course, there was always that fresh-water spring and the pond it created. It was a welcome refresher on a hot day, for human and horse alike.

As a minister, Rev. Stutzman soon saw another use for his pond and baptisms became a regular event, followed by weddings. The Stutzman daughters would be married inside the cabin, in their own spacious parlor.

The good pastor knew how to read and write, a luxury few people in the area enjoyed. So, Stutzman took it upon himself to become a teacher and his home became a school of sorts.

For those who couldn’t spare the time to learn, or who didn’t have the desire, they knew whom to come to if they needed a letter written or a document explained. And Stutzman always obliged. Years later, when a public school was built only a half mile away, it seemed only fitting to name it for Stutzman, who was unofficially the first teacher in that area. The Stutzman School was torn down in 2015, replaced by a pharmacy chain.

Sometime in the early 1900s, a man named Christopher Palliser purchased the property and stocked the pond with fish.

What seemed like a good idea quickly went sour when the fish disappeared. Wild animals enjoyed the feast, along with a local poacher who was only too happy to see the fish all gathered into one place for him to catch.

Two local streets surrounding the property today (Christopher and Palliser streets) are a reminder of this well-intended man.

The Pallisers renovated the old cabin extensively over the years they lived there, covering the outside of the structure with stucco to modernize it. It now looked like the other homes springing up in the area.

As the older Pallisers passed away, eventually the family willed the property to Westmont Borough.

In 1968, the borough donated the home and surrounding grounds to Johnstown Arts Associates, a group of artists who used the property for exhibits, classes and art studios. It became the first permanent home for the Johnstown Allied Artists.   

However, for the building to be open to the public, it had to be upgraded to modern safety standards. In the process of installing fire safety improvements the stucco was removed, revealing the original log structure.  

The log cabin remains today, along with the pond, on the property of what is now known as the Community Arts Center of Cambria County on Menoher Boulevard.

It is easily seen while traveling on the upgraded and more modern wagon trail, and provides an outstanding link to our area’s past.

The cabin is host for the popular Log Cabin Arts Festival, attended by thousands every year from around the country and, according to the folks at CACCC, from around the world.  

Many thanks to Community Arts Center of Cambria County for providing the background information for this post.  

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