Bourns Cabin reborn

May 06, 1999

Bourns CabinBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Writer

photos: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The rebirth of Bourns Cabin, Waynesboro's oldest and most famous structure, was completed after more than two years of work with a rededication ceremony Thursday before some of the school kids who raised nearly $4,000 to help pay for the renovation.

Proudest among the Hooverville Elementary fifth graders in the audience was 11-year-old Damanda Forrest. She sold nearly $250 worth of Bourns Cabin certificates. "My family is big," she said. "They all helped."

Hooverville classmate Kelly Barley, 9, presented Mayor Louis Barlup with a model of the cabin that she and her grandfather made from wood from the original cabin.


Kelly BarleyThe cabin was built in 1790 by John Bourns, or Burns, depending on which local history is read. It was Waynesboro's first church, built to serve all congregations on Sundays and be a school house during the week.

The first settlers came to the area around 1750 and held religious services in their homes until Bourns built the 16-by-21-foot cabin, according to local historian Frances Miller, one of Thursday's speakers. The first teacher who kept records was Francis McKenna. He was paid $5 per student for six months of instruction, Miller said.

Later the cabin became home to the Christian Dowlan family. Dowlan was married twice and had 21 children, all reared in the cabin, Miller said.

Maggie Dowlan was the last of her family to live in the cabin. "Miss Maggie," as she was known, had no running water in the cabin. Miller said she remembers walking by the cabin on her way to school in the 1930s and seeing Dowlan there.

"She washed her clothes in a washtub with a scrub board," she said.

Dowlan moved from the cabin to the Franklin County Home in the late 1940s and eventually died there, Miller said. The cabin sat vacant until 1997, when local historical craftsman Terry Pelton won a contract to dismantle and rebuild it.

Pelton was not present Thursday. He said at the time of the dismantling that he hoped to reuse some of the original logs, but he soon learned that they were too far gone to be of any use. He had to hand hew new logs using 18th century tools.

Now that it's been restored, the cabin will sit on its hillside perch as a symbol of Waynesboro's past, Barlup said.

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