HIGHLAND PARK – Murder and mayhem in a one-room cabin that at one point housed up to nine family members sounds like a work of fiction, but these events took place in and around Stupey Cabin, which was built 170 years ago.
The Stupey Cabin is Highland Park’s oldest structure, and in honor of its 170th Anniversary, the Highland Park Historical Society, City of Highland Park, Park District of Highland Park and Highland Park Library are sponsoring a special event on September 16 featuring face painting, games from the 19th century, poetry and more.
The unsolved murder occurred before the turn of the century. According to a November 16, 1893 Chicago Daily Tribune article, a 40-year-old wagonmaker, Peter Zimmer, who lived alone in the Stupe House cottage, was found dead in his bed “under circumstances which point more strongly to murder than suicide.” Zimmer boarded with John Stupe, son of the original owner of Stupe Cabin.
Nancy Webster, an archivist for the Highland Park Historical Society said, “The murder took place on Stupey land in a Stupey building, but it’s not clear if it’s the ‘Stupey Cabin.’”
Stupe or Stupey? Webster said this is the spelling transcribed from Stupey’s Prussian passport and military records. “However, other records and documents use multiple variations before standardizing itself to Stupey in the United States.”
In addition to her work at the Highland Park Historical Society, Webster works at the Highland Park Library, but for purposes of this story, she is responding as an employee of the Historical Society.
Webster explained that the one-room Stupey Cabin has a loft for children’s’ sleeping quarters and a hook in the ceiling for a cradle.
Though it has the appearance of a log cabin, Webster said, Stupey Cabin was built from square-notched, square-hewn white oak planks. To fill open spaces, a plaster of clay, twigs and straw were used.
“Five people lived in the cabin in 1850, and based on the date the family moved into a new dwelling and birth-dates, up to nine family members lived in the cabin, it appears,” she said.
Webster shared more of the backstory from a March 18,2013 article she wrote for the Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-03-18/news/ct-tl-lk-0321-history-20130319_1_stupey-cabin-francis-stupey-highland-park
Francis (or Franz) Stupey emigrated from Germany, in 1846, with his wife, Margaretha Stupey. The Stupeys bought 100 acres of land for $400, which is now the Exmoor Country Club. After the land was cleared for farming, the Stupeys used some of the timber to build the cabin where they lived. The Stupey’s daughter Margaret or Maggie, was born in the cabin in 1856.
Margaretha gave birth to five of her nine children in the Stupey cabin. Three were born prior to when the cabin was built and one after the Stupey’s installed a frame house on the property.
Webster added that the cabin became the property of the Exmoor Country Club when it bought the Stupey farm in 1896. The country club donated Stupey Cabin to the Highland Park Historical society in 1968, which restored the cabin and moved it to its present site on St. Johns Avenue, southwest of the public library. A year later, the Stupey Cabin opened to the public for Highland Park’s centennial celebration.
As part of the upcoming 170th Anniversary Celebration of the Stupey Cabin, the Historical Society has invited Highland Park Poetry to share poetry about the Stupey Cabin, or some aspect of its history or the people connected to it in a cash prize contest at the September 16 event from 4 to 7 p.m.
Entries must be submitted by September 7, and the poet or a proxy must be present to perform the piece at the event.
“The occasion seeks to evoke the spirit of the historic times so the entertainment emphasis is on live performance – music, poetry, storytelling,” said Jennifer Dotson, founder and program director.
For more information visit: http://www.highlandparkpoetry.org/
The free event will include tours of the Stupey Cabin, pony rides and a petting zoo. Food and beer will be available at the beer garden for purchase and a donation to “Save the Stupey Cabin” is kindly requested.
All events will take place in front of Stupey Cabin located in Laurel Park, on St. Johns Avenue between the Highland Park Library and City Hall.
“The 170th Anniversary of Stupey Cabin is a celebration of our town’s pioneer roots, in partnership with the City of Highland Park, the Park District and the Library,” said Historical Society President Rob Rotering.
Volunteers are still needed for the event. For more information visit: www.highlandparkhistory.com