Johnny Sack The Builder
From his cabin overlooking Big Springs, the headwaters of the Henrys Fork of the Snake River, Johnny welcomed visitors from throughout the world who stopped by to look at his charming cabin and nearby water-wheel. Much like today, visitors were welcomed in and shown about the unique structure.
Born in 1884, Johnny came to the United States with his parents and four brothers and sisters from Germany when he was six years old. The family settled in South Bend, Indiana, and Johnny eventually made his way west to the newly established community of Ashton, Idaho.
Along with his brother Andy, Johnny arrived in Island Park by passenger train during a blizzard in June, 1909. The brothers’ ambitious goal was to raise cattle on Henrys Lake Flat. After years of working for various ranchers and serving time in the military, Johnny began making his living building furniture and cabins.
Standing just four foot, eleven inches tall, Johnny leased his cabin site, one of more than 30 cabin sites surrounding Big Springs, for $4.15 per year. Using craftsmanship that reflected his early training with the Studebaker Wagon Corporation, Johnny created beds, chests, tables and chairs from hundreds of pieces of pine paneled with bark inlay. Even his lamp stands, magazine racks and ceiling fixtures were cleverly wrought from odd-shaped limbs, knots and pine cones.
As Big Springs’ lone winter resident, Johnny would rely on cross country skis and snow shoes to travel many miles each week to pick up his mail and visit with friends at Mack’s Inn or Pond’s Lodge. Claiming “a woman would just put rugs on my varnished floors and draperies over my picture windows,” Johnny never married.
After his death in 1957 the cabin became the property of Johnny’s two sisters. They later sold the cabin to Elberta and Rudy Kipp, who made it possible for the building to be opened as an interpretive center in 1980.