Cabin Raising

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From: Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan. 1876. Pioneer collections. Lansing: The Society.

p. 297-198 Many of the first log houses were roofed with hay or grass. Then came the period of oak shakes for roofs; then oak shingles; and finally the present whitewood and pine shingle roofs. The logs were first laid up by notching in, leaving the rough ends sticking out at the corners, and when raised to the required height, they were laid in by degrees until they came to a peak at the top. This was called " cobbing up," because it was of the style of a child's cob house. Shakes were put down in layers over these logs for a roof, and were held in their places by long poles laid across each layer and fastened by a peg or a withe at each end. This was the primitive style of log house architecture. Then followed the log with square corners, and rafters for laying down the roof. The floors were at first small-sized oak logs split in two, the flat side being hewed smooth, the pieces were laid round side down, and if necessary pinned at each end with oak pins. These floors were used until saw-mills were erected and lumber could be procured. A stick chimney was laid up with a mixture of clay and sand for mortar, at one end of the house. This answered until brick could be obtained. The old brick fire-place was in use until the stove superseded it

The log house stood with the side to the road; a door on wooden hinges and with a wooden latch, was in the center, with a window of two six-lighted, seven-by-nine sashes, close by it, and a window of the same size in the opposite side of the house. Not a nail or particle of iron was in use in any part of the building, nor any sawed lumber. The glass was held in the sash by small wooden pegs.

The logs had been cut eighteen by twenty-two feet for a common sized house and hauled to the spot; a neighbor may have assisted in the hauling. Potta- wattomies, the settler's country cousins, may be said to have been the main help in raising the first log houses in this part of the State. I know of an instance where but two white men were present at the raising, the rest being Indians. They lifted cheerfully and lustily in rolling up the logs. They also assisted much at raising in after years. Only let them know that — "Che- mo-ko-man raise wigwam, like Indian come help him," and you could count on their aid. In our settlement we depended on Goguac and Climax prairies and the intermediate region for aid at raisings. The hands being all on the ground and everything ready, the settler superintended his own raising, or requested some one else to do it. In either case the one who commanded the men was called the " boss." He was implicitly obeyed in all things. He gave the word and the work begun. The two side logs were laid securely in their places, and the two end logs were fitted to theirs. Four good ax-men — men who " knew how to carry up the corners" — were then selected and one placed at each of the four corners of the building to be erected. Their duty was to block off the tenons and fit their end of the log for its place. The logs were rolled up on two long skids by the united strength of the party, who pushed with hands and shoulders as long as they could, and when the log got too high for them to reach, they took stout poles with a crotch in one end, that were called " mooleys" and putting the crotches against the log they pushed it with many a " heave-o-heave " to its place on the building. Thus log after log was rolled up, and all the corners carried up true and secure, until the top log was in its place, the plates put on, the rafters erected, and the house was raised. Then some adventurous settler climbed to the top of the building taking a bottle of whisky from his pocket, took a good "swig," swung the bottle around his head three times, threw it to the ground and named the building. Three cheers were given by the party and the raising was over.


From Sampson, F. A., and F. C. Shoemaker. 1906. Missouri historical review. Columbia, Mo: State Historical Society of Missouri. Google Books

p. 285 et seq

There were probably not as many round log as hewed log houses in our section up to the war, for as a rule the pioneers of thrift and who were ambitious of improving their surroundings, were able in a few years to replace their round log with hewed log houses, using the former for stables and cribs, or as an addition to the new house. While there was little distinction of social status in the community, yet the family living in the hewed log house was generally regarded as holding a higher social status than the family living in the round log house, for usually the home and surroundings of a man were looked upon as an index to his character and energy.

A house raising, whether it was a round log or a hewed log house, was a notable event in which the neighbors, both men and women for several miles around were invited to participate, the men to assist in putting up the logs and notching and fitting them into position, and the women to assist the hostess in preparing and serving the dinner, or sometimes to engage in quilting a quilt. There was always due preparation for the event, the owner having cut and hewed and hauled the logs to the place where the house was to be put up, and the wife, the hostess, having pieced the quilt and placed it in the frame ready for quilting when the guests There was nearly always some rivalry between the men in regard to their skill in fitting the logs into position on the corners, the notches on the saddles, and between the women displaying their skill in quilting or in dressing the table. There was usually one or two in each of the parties of men and women who had some reputation as to skill and efficiency in his or her line of work, the man for the skill with which he fitted his corners with neatness, and the woman for the skill and neatness with which she did her work in quilting. A good dinner was prepared by the women and a long table improvised so that all the men could sit down at the same time to satisfy their hunger, and after some brother on request returned thanks to the Giver of all good things, one of the guests was asked to do the carving of the turkey, chicken or venison. On such occasions the table was bountifully supplied with fried chicken and stewed chicken and dumplings, fresh beef, venison and wild turkey, and cakes and pies and fruits of the season, some of the menu of which some of the guests frequently generously contributed, particularly venison and wild turkey which the host would not likely have on hand and which could be accepted to grace the occasion. It was always known which of the guests had contributed special parts of the menu, as the women the jellies and preserves, and the men the venison and wild turkey, and each came in for compliments during the dinner as to the delicious quality of the part he or she had sent.

There was never any envy among the guests, for if some of those present had not sent anything, it was recognized that they were not in position to do so, and no excuse or apology was needed to explain why they had not done so. In those times a neighbor was glad to show his good will on such occasions, and it was spontaneous, for all recognized that mutual dependence in many things made life sweeter in the struggles that lay before them. When the notches were fitted smoothly on to the saddles, the ends of the logs sawed off so as to show no projections and giving the corners an even appearance, a hewed log house with shingle roof of proper slope, was not only a comfortable house for a family to live in, but made a pleasant impression on the artistic eye. We who were born and lived in log houses, know that they have been the dwelling places of the pioneers of civilization, who, through many struggles and hardships and dangers, have carried the torch of liberty and light through desert and wilderness from the shores of the Atlantic, westward across the Continent to the Golden Shores of the Pacific. As years passed and the family increased and the head of it became more prosperous, an addition was built on to the log house and a barn was constructed, consisting of a stable for horses and cows, crib for corn and hay loft, all under one roof.

The addition to the dwelling sometimes consisted of a hewed log house built on to an old round log house, the latter being used for a kitchen and dining room, and sometimes the addition was of hewed logs, making the dwelling a double hewed log house. In those times both the round log and hewed log houses, usually had only one window with four panes in it, say ten by twelve inches in the sash on the side near the door, so that the houses were poorly lighted. Before water power mills were much in use, most houses had puncheon floors, which were made of a given length of tree split open and the inner sides of the halves hewn straight and the under sides chopped and hewn off to make each puncheon of the required thickness. This kind of floor was not satisfactory to families ambitious of having the best to be had and were replaced in a few years by sawed plank floors, for there was good water power on nearly every stream and saw mills put up and sawed enough lumber to meet the demands of the people. arrived.