The definition of Cabin is: “a small house or
cottage, usually of simple design and construction”
The first dwellings of these colonists were just that as
they had little time to put together a complex home and only
the local materials available to them. A couple of good axemen
could put up an eight by eight by eight log cabin/shelter
in just two days so the appeal of this type of building to
a family homesteading was very great.
The ‘Log House’ was quite a bit different in relation to
the log cabin. It denotes a building that was made of large
well-hewn logs, corners properly fashioned and chinked with
insulation of some sort plus plastered with clay. Windows
were made of glass and it had a proper chimney and usually
had more than one door, hardly a cabin.
Log cabins were in many case temporary shelters until a better
structure could be built. Sometimes it was converted to a
barn or shed. Their use was by necessity very utilitarian.
Each part of a log cabin has gone through many changes through
out the 200 years they have been around in North America.
Floors started off dirt and were swept daily. A wooden floor
would have required straight grain easily split wood such
as pine. These slabs would have been split off by a wedge
and then further dressed with a broad axe. Much later sawmills
produced the first dimensioned lumber and its’ use for flooring
would have been eagerly sought after.
Roofs started as layers of boughs and then progressed to
‘scooped roofs’. This was were the front of the log cabin
was higher than the back and logs were hollowed out and laid
down like roof tiles from front to back. Later non-tapered
cedar shakes were used. Modern tapered shakes, interlocking
shingles and roofing paper were a relatively recent addition.
In many of the original log cabins the fireplace was the
only source for cooking and heating plus most were poorly
designed and thus vast amounts of heat escaped out the chimney
making the gathering of firewood a constant challenge. Most
of these chimneys were made of small logs and clay. Brick
and stone chimneys were mainly in log houses. When cast iron
stoves were mass produced and available this radically changed
heating a log cabin. Tending the all night fire became less
important and now bigger homes could be built, as heat distribution
was easier. Many bigger log homes had two iron stoves as the
requirement for a complicated chimney had disappeared.
The demise of the log cabin had more to do with styles than
mass production of building material etc. Their popularity
declined in the depression and war years as they were looked
upon as lower class, tied to poverty or inadequate.
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of Log Cabin History