Did you ever wonder how the pioneers built their homes and how you’d like to do the same thing as they did? Well, here is how they did it. First of all you must find a large piece of property and it must be close to a heavily timbered area. How about near the Victory Memorial Drive, with all those rows of trees available?
When the settlers came, their first problem was to provide shelter for their families. The first white men who came to Minnesota to establish homes located their claims “on the fringe of a forest” where logs could be easily obtained for the erection of log cabins–the universal type of frontier dwelling. In cases where several families came at the same time, one cabin would be built in which the women and children could live until each man could stake out his claim and build a cabin of his own.
After the settler had cut his logs and dragged them (probably with an ox team) to the site selected for his dwelling, he sent invitations to his neighbors for a “house raising.” Some of those neighbors might live at a considerable distance, but the invitations were rarely declined.
When all were assembled four men were chosen to “carry up the comers.” Each of these men were provided with a sharp ax. As the logs were lifted up, a notch was cut in the underside, to fit like a “saddle” upon the upper side of the log below. The man having the “butt” end of the log was required to cut his notch a little deeper than the man having the “top end,” so that the walls might be kept on a level. This was aided by alternating the butt and top ends of the logs in each side and end of the cabin. No openings were left for doors or windows–this being done last.
One end would have an opening for a fireplace, outside of which would be built a chimney of stone, and inside in front of the fireplace was a hearth of flat stones. The roof was invariably of clap boards or “shakes,” split from straight-grained timber with a tool called a frow. If the floor was anything but “mother earth” it was puncheons; that is, slabs of timber split as near the same thickness as possible, the upper surface being smoothed off by an adz, after the floor was laid.
Nails were a luxury and many cabins were completed without a single article of iron used in their construction. A door of thin puncheons would be fastened to the cross battens with wooden pins, provided with wooden hinges and a wooden latch. To lift the latch from the outside, a thong of deerskin was passed through a small hole in one of the puncheons. At night the thong was passed inside and the door was locked. This custom gave rise to the expression, “The latchstring is always out,” which was the equivalent to an invitation to come at any time. The clapboards of the roof were held in place by poles running the full length of the cabin and fastened to the end logs with the wooden pins. Lastly, the cracks between the logs were “chinked” with pieces of timber and plastered with clay or a mortar of lime and sand.
So now dear readers, do you feel ready to build yourselves a new home? First, as I mentioned before, you must find a place where there is a lot of timber. If you are still not sure about your building skills, I would suggest you go to the nearest toy or hobby store and buy a can of Lincoln Logs and practice a little!