Moore's Settlement Historical Preservation Society: Tom & Sarah Joe Alden Brown Historical Cabin

An exciting piece of Trenton's past has been uncovered in the discovery of Levi Moore's cabin, Trenton's first settler.

Throughout life, we have consistently been told that we should never base our thoughts or decisions on rumors or hearsay.

Well, thank goodness, we did not follow that maxim when making the determination to find out if indeed there was some truth to the hearsay that at least part of a cabin remained as the skeleton of a house located on W. 4th Terrace in Trenton, MO. The location of this house proved to be a part of the first settlement in Trenton, known as Moore's Settlement, created by Levi Moore, who is recognized as the first settler in Trenton.

Thomas V. and Sarah Joe Alden Brown purchased a house in 1957 at the corner of W. 4th Terrace and Tindall Ave. to begin their life in Trenton as he became a popular and revered teacher of history and journalism in Trenton High School and Trenton Junior College (now North Central Missouri College). Several years later they purchased a single-storied, modest house on an adjacent lot east of their home. At this purchase, they acquired the abstract of this property that shows that it was originally obtained by William Thrailkill, extended family member of Levi Moore, from the federal government. With that knowledge, the historian in Mr. Brown began to research the background of the house. In doing so, he discovered through rumors and hearsay, that there might be a portion of “a log cabin” as the internal structure of the house.

The Tom and Sarah Joe Alden Brown Historical Cabin

As years moved along, Mr. Brown could never quite convince himself to actually see if those rumors were true, instead converting the modest house into what would become his retirement office where he continued his music and writing interests until his death in December 2018. Following his death, Sarah Joe was able to stay in their home for several months until her declining health led to her move into assisted living in 2019. Decisions needed to be made as to these properties’ future. The decision about the house/cabin was hastened by the discovery that squatters had been taking up residence in the abandoned cabin/house, prompting the timing to discover if indeed there was any truth to the rumors about the cabin.

A crew of Amish workers were brought to the site to dismantle the house first by removing all of the exterior additions to the house that had been added through the years and then finally to remove one board at a time to discover the extent of any cabin that might exist. This process was begun in November 2021 and completed within a few weeks to the amazing outcome of discovering an almost intact cabin!

Walls are disassembled to discover the remains of the cabin.

Since that time, many efforts have been made to determine the best method and means of saving this unknown gem of history for Trenton.

Some of the major steps that have been done include:

Working with the Trenton Historic District Committee to attempt to be included in that district so that we could seek help from the Missouri Historical Society, only to have the entire district rejected by the Trenton City Council, resulting in not qualifying for state financial assistance or direction in the development of this historic structure;

Establishing a 501c3 corporation known as Moore’s Settlement Historic Preservation Society for the purpose of governing the development of this project and to qualify for tax-deductible donations status for all financial contributions made to this project. With that, two committees were formed: an Advisory Board consisting of Ron Dugan, James Goedert, Diane Lowry, Kathy Veatch, John Woodland, and Phyllis Jackson; Board of Directors consisting of Sena Arnold, Kelli Moore-Griffith, Mitch Holder, Ronda Lickteig, Charles Powell, Amy Spencer and Phyllis Jackson.

During the summer of 2023, the committees were fortunate to obtain a college intern to assist with research, documentation, and promotion of the Cabin project. Hannah Stark, a graduate of Trenton High School, is pursuing a degree at Westminster College in Fulton in Historical Museums/Buildings. We were able to work through an agreement with her academic advisors to build this internship to benefit both her completion of college credit and our need of her knowledge in steps to pursue in advancing the forward movement of the project.

These committees have done much research to determine the best course of action to follow. A land survey was done after much discussion about the possibility of building a more permanent, protective structure around the building while necessary funds were being obtained. The survey revealed that W. 4th Terrace has a 60’ right of way so that there would not be available space in front of the cabin to build that structure. Much assistance, advice, and recommendations were offered by Wes Barone, the city of Trenton code enforcement officer, who seems to have taken a deep interest in this cabin project.

At Barone’s suggestion and through his efforts, the committee is in touch with a reality tv program, Barnwood Builders, who do extensive restorations, preservations, and rebuilding of historic buildings such as barns, schools, and cabins. Barnwood Builders has agreed to look at this project and participate with us on some level as we move forward to discover our options and processes. Barone has agreed to serve as our liaison with Barnwood Builders as we await their suggestions.

Until a determination can be made as to the next steps, a metal roof has been installed on the cabin roof to help protect it from the weather and to help stabilize the entire structure until more permanent work can be done.

Temporary metal roof is installed to protect the cabin from the elements.

While cleaning up around the cabin property in an attempt to remove a large concrete slab, a stone-lined well was discovered behind the cabin. For safety reasons, the concrete slab was reinstalled over the opening, but this additional surprise calls for future development to correspond with the development of the cabin.

Stone-lined well on the property.

And through it all, fundraising is the main focus of the MSHPS committees as we pursue options for moving forward. We have deep gratitude for the individuals who have already contributed financially to this significant attempt at preserving the history of Trenton, Missouri. Additionally, the words of interest and encouragement from so many people help spur these committees onward to fulfill the hope of the future correctly reflecting the wonder of the past. Donations of interest, time, talents, and money are welcome through the MSHPS website at mooressettlement.org and the Facebook page at Moore’s Settlement Historical Preservation Society—Tom and Sarah Joe Alden Brown Historic Cabin. Both sites have donate buttons through PayPal and all sites have QRCodes for Venmo donations as well.

What does the future hold for this glorious find in the heart of Trenton’s historical district? The possibilities are endless—-educational components through public school cohorts; an added dimension to the growth of tourism in Grundy County; a possible long-term archaeological dig in the rich geographic area of the Native American and original settlement of Trenton along the original river bed of the Thompson Fork of the Grand River; perhaps more early residences hidden in the town. This we know for sure—-these are no longer hearsay or rumors. We can bank on a solid and confirmed historic reality that lays the groundwork for the hopes of future development. What an exciting journey this has become!

Learn more about Moore's Settlement Historical Preservation Society and the Tom & Sarah Joe Brown Cabin on the MSHPS Facebook page.

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