Our Past –
Tailings Country Store opened in 1991 in a restored 1840s Greek-revival clapboard building that through the years had been home to the town saloon, a bathhouse, and doctors’ offices. Shullsburg had once been a booming mining town, but with the closing of the last mine in the 1980s, the town lost much of its economic base. Like many of the structures in Shullsburg at that time, the building that was to become Tailings had deteriorated and was boarded shut. Dana Duppler of the Wisconsin Lead Region Historic Trust restored the building and suggested that Donna Shepherd, a native of the area, open a shop in the building. Shepherd took the plunge with the forethought that in order for her business to succeed, she would need to help revitalize the entire town. Shepherd worked tirelessly convincing other retailers to open shops in Shullsburg, planning events that would draw traffic to the town, and forging partnerships with local historians and other organizations to promote a new Shullsburg.
In 2003, Shepherd designed and constructed a second Greek-revival-style building to connect with the original structure, more than doubling the square footage of the store. The second building was created with the same historical details, such as wide plank flooring and beaded rafters, as the original building.
“Our charm lies in how the past is re-created here, blending old with new,” says Shepherd. “Customers love the creaking floors, squeaky doors, the one-of-a-kind primitives, the seasonally decorated porch, the cozy warmth of the fireplace, and the quaint setting of our small town.”
Our Future –
In 2007 Donna purchased Mary O’Learys cabin and moved it to the family property on Silverthorn Rd north of Shullsburg. It first opened in September 2008.
Mary O’Leary’s log cabin was built near West Bend Wisconsin sometime around 1850. New settlers, eager to start their life in the frontier needed shelter quick. Most were skilled in working with logs and timbers. A simple log cabin was usually the first structure built on the new homestead.
Logs were felled, then hand hewn. This was the process of flattening two surfaces of the log. The flat surfaces were set facing the inside and outside of the building. In this manner, fewer logs were needed to get the desired wall height. In between the logs, its purpose was to keep out animals and the weather. Initially, any available substance worked. Some material used was dirt, clay, sawdust, wood shaving, rocks and sod. More durable cabins had chinking consisting of crude mortar – sand mixed with lime paste or clay.
As time passed, and life became less hard, the outside of the log cabins were often covered over with wood clapboards. This was done to keep the building more weather tight, and to make the family look more well-to-do. As the family became more well off, the cabin was either added on to with additional rooms or the cabin was replaced with a new stick-built house. Often the old cabin was then used for other purposes, such as feed and grain storage, livestock shelter, farm hand housing and machine sheds. If the roofs were kept in good repair, the log cabin could last indefinitely.
Although the original purpose of this cabin will never be known for sure, it was probably built for the family’s first residence in the new State of Wisconsin. As with most log cabins, it probably saw all possible uses. It has now found new life in the woods off Silverthorn Road.