Swedish settlers built the very first log cabins when they came to Delaware in 1638. Other colonists followed their example. When great numbers of settlers began to move westward after the Revolution, they found thick forests in Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Northwest Territory, and the log cabin became the typical home of the backwoodsman.
The spacious log "cabins" we build today are likely to include skylights, whirlpool tubs, and other luxuries that our predecessors did not have.
Our country was built by early settlers, these were the hardworking, "sun up to sun down" people. The pioneer log cabin is the very epitome of this lifestyle. Tracking the history of log cabins is like walking the paths of immigrating pioneers to young countries like America. Countries such as Sweden and Finland brought the skills and knowledge of log cabin building with them as they made the trek across the ocean.
Once settled, log cabin communities quickly sprung from the land. In a path from east to west, the log cabin appeared across the country as the skills were handed from generation to generation.
Why would settlers choose to build a home from logs? Native ancestors were content to live in caves, tepees and mud houses. Though primitive, early pioneers were civilized and desired a true home. With the major materials being trees and mud, log cabins offered quick shelter at little to no cost. With little income, early settlers were thrifty by necessity. If a family became fortunate enough to build a larger home, the log structure served as shelter for animals or was simply abandoned.
The log cabin became a symbol of frontier life...
The typical log cabin was a small, one-room hut with one door and perhaps one or more small windows. Log cabins literally spring from the land using trees, stone and mud. Sometimes a stone foundation was laid prior to building, most of the time they were built with dirt floors. Trees were cut with an ax and logs hewn to size and shape. Notches of varying styles were cut to fit the logs together at the corners.
The spaces between the logs were packed with natural materials such as twigs and mud and were stuffed into gaps between logs in a process called daubing to keep out the wind and cold. Because there were no nails the logs were fastened with notched ends, or with wooden pegs. The roof was made of overlapping rows of short boards. The floor was hard-packed clay. The window openings were covered with oiled paper to let in a little light. The room was heated by an open fireplace that also served as the cookstove.
Often a stone fireplace is built and windows and doors are cut. Some families even added board siding later as well as internal plaster. The result was and still is today, a sturdy, thick structure.
The history of log cabins is not only an architectural building block, but attests to the character of those original pioneers. Surprisingly, the structure wasn't as crude as pictures may have depicted.
The log cabin home truly is the original do-it-yourself project built in America. The Homestead Act of 1862 contributed to the spread of log cabins in the United States. This law offered 160 acres of land to settlers at a very low cost to encourage development of the westward lands. The Act gave "homesteaders" rights to open land, but required that they cultivate it and build homes at least ten by twelve feet in size, with at least one glass window.
The Original Log Cabin: was a box like dwelling made of small logs.
The log cabin really gained nationwide fame during the political campaign of 1840. Small log cabins were used in parades to show that William Henry Harrison had the support of the frontier people. Probably the world's most famous log cabin is the one in which Abraham Lincoln was born. Log cabins are a symbol of the American Dream. They've come to represent hard work and patriotism in America. Architectural styles will continue to change but the fascination of the log cabin remains. Modern log cabins, though comfortable and built more for looks than function, are a testament to their lasting popularity.
Does this sound too rustic?
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