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Untold Stories: A cabin in the park

Henry Madison 1860s-era structure found during demolition of larger home in the 1970s

Michael Barnes

If you explore certain Central Texas parks long enough, you'll run across a log cabin. No, you haven't stumbled onto a lost pioneer settlement. Almost none of these rustic relics from the 19th century sits on an original site. Rather, civic-minded folks have moved them to public places where all could glimpse a slice of frontier life.

In the middle of Rosewood Park in East Austin, the small, rough-hewn Henry Madison Cabin rests in the shadow of the Bertram-Huppertz House, a large limestone home built above Boggy Creek in the 1870s. The cabin's the real thing. But its journey to the park was an irregular one.

The park's land belonged to prominent businessman Rudolph Bertram, namesake for the town of Bertram. His daughter Emmie married Charles Huppertz, a grocer who also served as Travis County Auditor until his death in 1921.

In 1929, the City of Austin purchased the Bertram-Huppertz land to establish a park for African Americans, whom city leaders hoped to segregate in East Austin. During the 1930s, a bandstand, sports field and swimming pool were added to Rosewood Park.

In 1944, construction was started nearby on Doris Miller Auditorium, named for Doris "Dorie" Miller, the first African American awarded the Navy Cross, given for his heroism during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

But the log cabin didn't show up until the 1970s.

"It was discovered within the walls of a wooden frame house at 807 E. 11th Street during demolition," writes Kim McKnight in an Austin Parks and Recreation report. "It dates to 1864 at the latest."

Henry Green Madison (1843-1912) was a farmer and policeman who homesteaded the cabin with his wife, Louise, and their eight children. He also built the frame house that enclosed the cabin in 1886.

The property's owner during the late 1960s, Mrs. Greenwood Wooten, donated the cabin to the city. She cooperated with the Rosewood Recreation Association and Delta Sigma Theta service sorority taking the cabin apart and putting back it together in the park in 1973, where you can find it today.

Austin untold stories Our city brims with untold — or rarely told — stories. Some of those took place in Central Texas parks. This weekly series examines the history found in the outdoor places where we play.

Rosewood Park