Donald Geiselman is shown in this 1963 photograph near the log cabin Boy Scout Troop 149 built in West Manchester Township.  MORE SUBMITTED PHOTOS
Donald Geiselman is shown in this 1963 photograph near the log cabin Boy Scout Troop 149 built in West Manchester Township.
MORE SUBMITTED PHOTOS (Submitted)

Close your eyes for a moment.

You're standing in a forest of pine trees, and everywhere you look are adults, a few young men and a couple dozen teenagers working up a sweat.

Imagine trees reaching high into the sky one moment, then crashing to the ground the next. And boys with axes, going from top to bottom on each tree, removing branches as they went along, and finally sawing every tree for length.

Then picture in your mind boys and men working together, four on one side and four on the other, hands looped around ropes, then lifting and shifting in unison the largest trees until they sit in their final resting place.

Add to that all the measuring, notching of logs, cutting in the windows and doorways and construction of a stone fireplace and hearth.

It could have been 1763 and the building of a log cabin in one of America's rural settlements.

Or it could have been 1963 and the building of a log cabin meeting place by Boy Scout Troop 149 in West Manchester Township.

Hard work: Building a log cabin, of course, is a difficult job for boys or young men in any century. It's hard work. Dangerous work. Work that defines the adults they will become later in life.

But 50 years ago, the men and boys of Troop 149 took on the task of building their own log cabin, a two-year project that required boys to work like men and men to keep everyone pointed in the right direction.

I was a 14-year-old member of Troop 149 in 1962 and 1963, one of about 20 teenagers who took on the hard work of building a log cabin the way it was done in this country's pioneer days.

The log cabin sits on the back of the lot next to St. Paul Lutheran Church, 250 Trinity Road, in West Manchester Township. If you don't know it's there, you don't even look for it. I know it's there, so I look every time, and the memories come flooding back.

Boy Scout Troop 149 holds their meeting around a campfire outside of the group’s log cabin. MORE LOG CABIN PHOTOS
Boy Scout Troop 149 holds their meeting around a campfire outside of the group's log cabin.
MORE LOG CABIN PHOTOS (Randy Flaum)

Truth is, every time I've driven the section of Trinity Road between Route 30 and York New Salem in the last 37 years or so, I've glanced back at the cabin for a quick recall.

The 24-by-28-foot structure celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

I might not have made that connection had it not been for a series of events in recent years.

'The' log cabin: About four years ago, I attended an Eagle Scout Award ceremony, sponsored by the Boy Scouts New Birth of Freedom Council, and was surprised by the number of people -- a half dozen, at least -- who approached me with comments and questions about "the" log cabin project.

"You're one of the guys who built the log cabin, aren't you?" I was asked. And I confirmed that I was.

It never occurred to me that anyone else might have been aware of the log cabin. Most of those who approached me weren't even alive when the cabin was built. But they were curious. How did they know about it? I wondered.

Then two years later, my former Scoutmaster, Don Geiselman, now 85, and his wife, Gloria, showed up at The York Dispatch one day with a package in hand. They had been cleaning out some old boxes in their attic and found a couple stacks of 35mm color slides they'd forgotten about.

And they couldn't bring themselves to throw them away. There were 75 slides Geiselman had taken throughout the long process of building the log cabin all those years ago. A half-dozen adults and about 20 Boy Scouts did most of the work -- every Saturday, rain, sleet, snow or shine, for two years.

They chose me as the keeper of the slides. And I'm grateful they did.

Because they brought back a bunch of memories I would not have had without them. They represent the only photographic evidence of a Boy Scout project unlike any other I'm aware of, and certainly one, for a whole lot of reasons, that would never be replicated today.

Wear and tear: The log cabin continues to serve as the meeting place for Boy Scout Troop 149 to this day, but it is starting to show some signs of wear and tear. Some of its logs are beginning to give in to the ravages of time, and there are some leaky windows and other maintenance issues.

St. Paul Lutheran Church, sponsor of Troop 149, and on whose land the cabin sits, will be forced in the near future to make a decision about the future of the cabin.

Fix it or tear it down and build something new in its place. Those will be the two likely options, both expensive.

So it occurs to me that now, on the 50th birthday of the completion of the log cabin, someone should document how and why it was built, while it's still standing.

Teamwork: Others agreed. Geiselman, former Scouts Tom and Chuck Smyser and Rodney Young, none of whom I'd seen or spoken with for more than 45 years, plus some of the present-day Scouts in Troop 149, contributed their thoughts and memories of that long-ago project.

What effect did that cabin project have on young men's lives beyond their years as Boy Scouts? What do we recall most about it? What did we learn most from it?

Tom Smyser remembers the teamwork involved. Everyone pulling together, adults and Scouts alike, to work on a project that would have made Daniel Boone proud.

Young recalls most clearly the project within the project -- the building of the all-stone fireplace, the only source of heat for the cabin.

Chuck Smyser believes the log cabin project was instrumental in his decision 30 years later to build and live in a log cabin of his own.

As I look back on the project, the one thing I remember is learning to use tools -- draw knives, spokeshaves and axes -- that were essential for peeling bark off the trees once felled, shaping them and preparing them for being painted with preservative to discourage rot and insect invasion.

In all, we had to cut down, peel, preserve and size more than 100 white pine trees, many as long as 50 feet, that would be used in the construction of the cabin.

Back then: The very thought of a bunch of teenagers, even with the guidance of some well-motivated adults, working around chain saws, using draw knives, spreading liquid preservative on logs, loading and unloading the logs from trucks, notching the logs and handling/lifting large stones for the fireplace is probably more than today's parents would allow. And I'm sure the insurance would be prohibitive, as well.

In 1962, we never gave those things a moment's thought. Today, we would. Times have certainly changed.

Yes, the teenagers did much of the hand work and heavy lifting on this project, but let's give credit where it's due: The idea for the log cabin project was Geiselman's.

He approached the church council for permission to use space in the newly constructed church for weekly Scout meetings. And he was quickly rebuffed. The adult church leaders at the time didn't want a bunch of Boy Scouts running around damaging the new building, Geiselman said.

"How about a cabin then?" he asked.

"We don't have the money to build a log cabin," the church council responded.

"We'll figure out a way to pay for it, and we'll do all the work, if you'll give us the land to build it on," Geiselman said.

The approval was given. The trees stood on the property of a church member -- Roman Smyser -- and he donated them to the Boy Scout troop.

Geiselman, an engineer by trade, also designed the cabin.

Would Geiselman do it again today? Probably not, he said. It was more work than anyone had imagined it would be. Almost every Saturday for two years. It didn't take long, he said, for the wives to object to the commitment of time necessary to complete the project.

But it was nose to the grindstone for adult leaders and Scouts alike.

If you've never done it, you have no idea how much work goes into cutting down 100 logs, peeling the bark off of them with hand tools, and building sluices in which the logs were laid to paint and pour liquid preservative over them.

It was backbreaking work for adults and kids alike.

But the end result was something every one of us takes pride in, even 50 years after its completion.

Documentary: Most of the adult leaders and a few of the Scouts have passed away. Nearly all of the Boy Scouts from the old Troop 149 are in or approaching their mid-60s. As far as I've been able to determine, no one has attempted a project of this magnitude in the 50 years since Troop 149 did it.

We've gotten it all down on video, so future generations of York countians and Boy Scouts will know the story. The York Dispatch assistant managing editor for photography, Randy Flaum, and his wife, Deb, handled all of the videotaping and still photography, and he assembled the finished product, a 40-minute documentary.

We're making it available to the Boy Scouts New Birth of Freedom Council, the York County Heritage Trust and the White Rose Community Television station.

And, of course, anyone interested can find the video at YorkDispatch.com.

Yes, there are older buildings standing in York County and all with their own history. But there are no 50-year-old log cabins standing, built by a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears Boy Scouts and a handful of adult leaders the old-fashioned way.

Larry Hicks can be reached at lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.