Log Cabins in Colonial Times in New Hampshire
The log cabin is an important part of American mythology and factual history. According to the Living History Center at Providence Plantation Foundation, early log cabins and other log structures were built using round logs stacked in horizontal tiers. The gaps between the logs were filled in with a mixture of clay and other materials. Early settlers of New Hampshire created log cabins because they could be built quickly and maintained easily.
James H. Fassett, author of the 1899 book "Colonial Life in New Hampshire," explains that it was difficult for a young man with little or no money to purchase a home in a settled community. Young men often journeyed out into the woods in groups of three or four to stake out unclaimed territory. When they arrived in an area that looked like it might be suitable for homesteading, the young men hastily built a rough communal cabin as a temporary shelter and then began the long process of chopping down and burning trees to clear out space for farmland. When the area was cleared and ready for farming, each young man built a cabin and returned to the settlement for his wife, who would come to live with him in their new frontier home.
Fassett describes early log cabins as simple rectangular structures hewn from rough logs. Openings were cut in the sides for windows and doors. The roofs were made of birch-bark saplings that offered minimal protection from winter winds, and the floors were made of dirt. Fassett explains that small garrets were created by laying poles level with the eaves, and this served as a bedroom for the children. Many winter mornings the children would awake to find their bed coverings blanketed under a layer of snow. Fortunately, the enormous stone fireplace and chimney provided warmth for the family. The fireplace was the focus of family life. Women cooked meals over the fireplace coals, and the family gathered around its blaze in the evenings for light and warmth.
Relationships between the New Hampshire colonists and Native Americans were friendly for many years. The two societies traded goods and materials, and for a time all was well. However, according to Fassett, the friendly relationship turned sour as the early colonists pushed westward. Aided with ammunition provided by the opposing French in nearby Canada, Native Americans attacked with increasing frequency. The settlers surrounded their cabins with tall log fences that were driven close together and pounded into the earth, sharpening the tops into dangerous points to make invasion difficult. Communities built log block houses, two-story cabins that would hold several families at once, for protection. The lower area of the cabin provided living space, while the upper floor was used for shooting at the attacking party.