Fortunately, the fire did not spread to the cabin and it was not damaged. “It’s standard operating procedure for us to protect any historically important buildings that are in harm’s way during a wildfire. We consider the safety of our firefighters first, but in this case the cabin was about a mile down slope from the fire which allowed time to take defensive action,” said Kevin Donham, Fire and Aviation Staff Officer for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
Located along the Butte Fork Trail #957 in the Red Buttes Wilderness area, the cabin was built in the early 1920s as a combined trail shelter/tool house for the newly completed trail. It was likely built by C.C. Winningham, a Siskiyou Mountains (then Applegate) Ranger District seasonal employee. Forest Service Archaeologist/Historian Janet Joyer observed, “During that era, the Forest Service was mainly concerned with the basics of forest stewardship. They were still surveying the boundaries of the Forest, administering very small timber sales to mining companies, issuing grazing permits, planting trees, building trails and lookouts, fighting fires and laying telephone lines. The lone forest ranger often spent weeks at a time on horseback making inspection trips throughout the Forest.”
Summer field crews depended on small shelters throughout the forest to store their tools. When passing the tool house, they could also enjoy the rare luxury of a roof over their heads. “I think it’s fitting that a shelter that made the work of our early Forest Service forebears a little easier would now be protected by hard working firefighters so it can be enjoyed and appreciated by future generations,” said Joyer.
The cabin is a shake-over-pole gable roofed structure built almost entirely of native materials processed on site, such as axe-split “lumber” of cedar, hatchet-peeled fir posts, and sugar pine shakes. It has a dirt floor, no windows and a single door. The floor plan is roughly square with ten feet on a side and it is twelve feet high to the peak of the roof.
One of only three remaining trail shelters on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the cabin is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to volunteer assistance with repair and restoration projects, the cabin is in good condition. The Fort Complex firefighters ensured the unique symbol of Forest Service history and culture was preserved.