Sunday, March 9, 2014

Log Cabin Village

New Sweethearts header

Log Cabin Village

I’ve been looking through a book I picked up for a dollar or two at a library book sale several years back. Titled Fort Worth’s Log Cabin Village, A History and Guide, it tells how the important historical attraction came into existence and catalogues the preserved structures from pioneer days in North Texas. Written by Terry G. Jordan, with assistance from others, the book was published by the Texas State Historical Association in 1980.

For a western author, this book is almost as valuable as the village itself. Maybe more, because it’s filled with photographs of the village and details of log cabin and log house construction. There’s a distinct difference between the two, by the way.

A log cabin or “pole shack” was a primitive log dwelling quickly put up by pioneers and often intended as temporary shelter. Small, without windows and with bare-earth floors, cabins were built of crudely notched logs, with bark left on, that projected at the corners of the structure. Chimneys were of “stick-and-dirt” construction. Walls rose just to the top of the door opening; the roof was laid with clapboards held down by heavy poles.

Pioneers often got together for log rollings and house raisings. The book quotes W. R. Strong, who came to North Texas in 1846. Mentioning several neighbors who helped him, Mr. Strong said, “My house was a log cabin fourteen feet square. . . . I put the logs up round when I built my house in the spring then in the fall I took a chopping ax and hewed the logs down smooth, then I cut chinkin, out of little poles mostly, and chinked the cracks and plastered them over with mud. I hewed out puncheons [split logs with one face smoothed] for the floor.”

Most log cabins served for only a few years before they were replaced by more permanent structures. A log house, by comparison, was built of squared timbers, carefully notched at the corners and sawn off flush, tightly chinked and with wooden floors. (Mr. Strong apparently worked hard to turn his cabin into a house.)

A log house might have one or two windows and a chimney built of stone or brick. It was generally larger than a cabin both in height and living space. According to my treasured library discard, log houses were usually built by carpenters who traveled from place to place, offering their skills for a price. Most were white, but some were black slaves hired out by their masters. Itinerant chimney masons followed the carpenters from site to site.

Fort Worth’s Log Cabin Village actually displays log houses rather than the humble log cabins, but it’s worth noting that the two types of dwelling both stem from earlier cultures that flowed westward, hand in hand, as the frontier expanded. In future posts, I hope to go into more detail about the building of log homes and furnishings.

If you’re interested in purchasing this valuable research book, it’s available on Amazon, both new and used. 

Cover with champagne

Now, it’s my pleasure to tell you Dearest Irish (Texas Devlins, Book III) has been nominated for a Rone Award in the American Historical category by InD’Tale Magazine. This comes on top of a nomination for a 2014 Reader’s Choice Award by BigAl’s Books and Pals. Voting for the Rone Award is open.

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