Typed by E. J. Heinemann.


Building of the Log Cabin - One Hundred Years Ago - Sports and Amusements - Characters of the Settlers - Some Inconveniences to Which the Settlers Were Subjected

In the early history of Ohio county an important and interesting event was the building of the log cabin. A certain day was set apart for the accomplishment of the undertaking, and the settlers for miles around were notified of the time and place at which they were to assemble and assist in its construction, which invitation was always responded to by them with alacrity. Upon arriving at the scene of the cabin's intended location, they chose an experienced individual who was styled the "captain," and who assigned to each his respective duties. Four of the most active and expert men in the use of the axe were chosen as corner men, who were required to clear the site, square it and place a large rock at each corner to build upon, after being properly leveled, then saddle and notch with precision the logs in finished and complete order.

The "captain" would then assign a number of men to select from the trees, near the site as possible, the largest growth, straight grained white oak for clapboards, which they were to fell and to crosscut into proper lengths, then to split the cuts into square bolts and then to rive or split them. Another set of men was required to provide puncheons for floors, doors, windows and chimney-corner jambs, out of such timber as was best suited for that purpose, such as oak, chestnut or ash, which made good floors when spotted on the under side at the ends out of the wind, and rested on sleepers placed at regular distances apart, with the upper straight and well dressed. These, when top-dressed by a competent adzman, made an excellent substitute for plank, which at that early day could not be obtained for the reason that there were no sawmills.

The "captain" would then send out a detail to cull out near the site suitable standing trees and fell them and chop them off at proper lengths for the proposed building, with teamsters to haul them in as they were logged off by dragging them on the ground by a chain with a hook at one end of the log. Other teamsters provided with rough wooden sleds hauled in the clapboards, puncheons and such other materials as would be required in the completion of the structure.

Other preliminaries having been arranged, the "captain" would take his position and make proclamation to the remainder of his forces, directing them immediately to prepare smooth skids, the necessary number of forks with grapevine or hickory withes around the prongs and two or three strong cross sticks inserted through holes bored in the lower ends to give hand holds to push by, and also to provide a sufficient number of hand-spikes of tough, small, round dogwood, hickory or ironwood some four feet long with ends shaved smooth, to be used by the men to bear up the logs while passing them to the corner men or to the foot of the skids, as might be required. Then no one but the "captain" was to give any directions relating to the further progress of the building; as each log was hauled to the spot he with a glance of his eye or an inclination of his head would make the necessary directions, and by his order the log would be conveyed to the corner men upon hand-spikes with sturdy men at the ends walking on both sides of the log bearing it up to its destination; then the second log was brought forward in like manner, each being placed after being spotted flat on the under side so as to rest level on the corner stones as the end logs of the building would be equi-distant apart between the ends, then the ends would be prepared by the corner men with what was familiarly known as the "saddle," which consisted in this: the expert corner man would bevel off at an angle of about 45 degrees each side of the ends of the log, the two bevels meeting at a point on the top center of the log presenting an end view of the upper half of the log. This preparation was to receive the transverse logs notched at each end and so as to nicely fit over the saddles. The two logs thus placed and fitted, the "captain" would select the two nicest logs being straight for the front and rear bottom logs; being sills, these two logs when in the hands of the corner men would be notched deeper than the other logs, so as not to throw the floor too high from the ground. The corner man at each end of the log would cut their notches so exactly at the same angle and at the same time as to exactly fit their respective saddles and thus make a solid fit and out of wind. This dexterity on their part doubtless gave rise to the aphorism, "He cuts his notches close."

The four foundation logs having been notched and saddled and in their places and tested to see if they were square, the next thing was to cut the slots in the sills to receive the sleepers, which, if prepared by being scotched straight on the upper sides, were cut to right lengths and fitted at the ends so as to rest solidly upon the slots, and to put them in their places, though this was frequently done after the building was raised.

All thing being ready for the superstructure, the "captain" with a shrill and emphatic voice selects a log and his forces bear it to the corner men, resting one end of the hand-spikes on the top log already placed, rolling it upon the two saddled logs; it was then fitted and made ready in the proper manner and placed plumb on the wall by a practiced eye aided by the pendulous axe held loosely at tip of the helve between the thumb and forefinger of the experts.

When the routine was continued and the building became too high to reach the hand-spikes upon the wall, then the skids resting on the ground at the butt ends would be reared up to the corners on the front side, and one end of the structure nearest to the collection of the timber which had been hauled in. the logs are then selected one by one and carried to the foot of the several skids, placed on them and rolled up as far as the men could conveniently reach; and being stanchioned and held the necessary numbered forks were placed under each end of the log inside of the skids with lower ends held firmly down to the ground were by order of the "captain" manned at the cross handles at each end of the log and at a given word were slid up the skids by the uniform motive power thus applied to the top, where by the leverage of hand-spikes in the hands of the corner men it would be thrown on top of the already saddled logs and by them rolled to the back wall; the next log in like manner would be shoved up and received by the corner men for the wall upon which the skids rested; these being fitted the two logs intersect as transverse would in like manner be placed on the ends of the last two logs, all being done with exact uniformity and celerity and neatly fitted to their respective places in the wall. If the cabin is intended to be more than one story, at the proper height from the top of the sleepers from the lower floor slots would be prepared for the joists, and if they were on the ground would be fitted in like manner with the sleepers.

Then the building in the routine already described having been carried up to the square, thereupon the two ends of the structure would be raised, the eaves bearers projecting about 20 inches beyond the walls, and notched down and saddled back far enough to receive the timbers hereafter described; when the two ends in front of the building were notched at the upper tips in the shape of a letter V to rest the upper ends of the skids, then the batting pole for the back side of the cabin would be shoved up to the front corner men and rolled to the back eave, and be notched down upon the saddles projecting some fifteen inches beyond the outside plumb of the wall; then the first rib would be sent up to the corner men and rolled back to its proper distance inside of the said batting pole and be notched down so as to give the pitch of the roof from the center of the batting pole to the top surface of the said rib; then the front rib and batting pole would in like manner be sent up and placed in the same order as those in the rear; then the first two gable logs would be placed in notches cut in the ribs, and chamfered at the ends to suit the pitch of the roof, the other ribs and gable logs being placed so as to preserve the intended pitch of the roof; the upper and central one being called the ridge pole is notched down in such a position that a straight-edge would from the center of the batting poles upward touch the upper surfaces of all the ribs and ridge pole respectively at the indicated angles. Then the cabin is ready for the clapboards, which are laid down upon the ribs with lower ends resting against the batting poles, with small spaces between, which are top covered in like manner, so as to break joints, and the eave courses being so laid down, knees out of the hearts of clapboard bolts of proper lengths are prepared at each end resting endwise against the batting poles to hold up the weight poles which are placed upon the two eave courses of clapboards as nearly over the ribs as possible, and in like manner another course of clapboards is on each side laid down abutting the weight poles and being kneed as described. Another weight pole is put in its place to hold down the boards, and so on until the entire cabin is roofed and weighed down as per programme.

The forces detailed to furnish material in the early part of the day would, long before the cabin was raised and covered, have finished their several allotments of labor, and have reported themselves ready for further service; they would again be subdivided, and their respective duties under the direction of the "captain" be assigned to them. Some would be employed in cutting out the openings, such as doors, windows and fireplaces and jambing them up with materials prepared for that purpose, others in laying the floor as already described, others in building the chimney, back and side jambs for the outside fireplace, others in laying the floor as already described, others in building the chimney, back and side jambs for the outside fireplace, others in preparing "cat and clay" with which to top out the chimney and to put in stone back wall and fireplace jambs, others in making doors out of long clapboards prepared for such purposes and hanging them on wooden hinges and fixing wooden latches, others in scratching down slightly with a broad-axe the inside walls, and others in chinking and daubing the cabin and filling up the hearth even with the floor, and flagging it with broad, flat stones, if such material was handy, and putting cross stick in the windows upon which greased paper would be pasted as a substitute for glass. Upon its completion a general house warming, so called, would be participated in, in the shape of a country dance, together with other innocent amusements, which would last often during the night as a prelude to its occupancy by the family.


In the settlement of a new country there are innumerable inconveniences and disadvantages with which the settlers have to contend. The trials and discomforts through which our forefathers were compelled to pass one hundred years ago can scarcely be appreciated by the people of the present day. There were the fewest number of what might be styled open roads which could be traveled; the individual when passing from one point to another followed the Indian trail or the track marked out by the adventurous pioneer; hence means of communication were extremely limited. Except in thickly settled portions of the country, there were but few mails, and even in such portions they were uncertain and irregular. There were no manufactories and no skilled labor. The trying scenes and the perils of a long and lingering Indian war through which they had passed had left the inhabitants in an exhausted condition. Money was scarce and difficult to be obtained. Continental money was worthless. The continental soldier at the expiration of his service had been paid off in script, hundreds of dollars of which would scarcely suffice to secure for him a respectable meal. By force of circumstances they were compelled to be satisfied with the rudest and most primitive implements of husbandry and household furniture, the product of their rough ingenuity and skill. Their food was the product of the field and the forest. Their tea was made of the golden rod and the roots of the sassafras, their coffee of parched corn or barley. Wild honey and home-made molasses they had in great quantities. Imported sugar was a luxury in which none but the most thrifty could indulge, and this only occasionally, as when the minister visited them in the course of his rounds, for they depended upon the sap of the maple trees for their ordinary supply. In the early spring it was customary to tap the maple trees for their supply of molasses and sugar. The sap was gathered into wooden troughs, which had been hollowed out by hand, and was emptied into large iron kettles which hung on a pole resting on forked sticks over a blazing fire which was attended by day and night by members of the family. When boiled down it was made into sugar. Sometimes one of these cakes would weigh 25 pounds, and with economy in its use would last a family an entire year. This was used by them to sweeten their tea and coffee.

The thrifty housewife manufactured from the flax raised the clothes for the family, and the whiz of the busy spinning wheel could be heard by day and night. The boys and girls wore homespun, and were as proud of their new suits as the veriest coxcomb or flirt of today is of their fashionable cut or Parisian styles.

The boys and girls, as a general rule, had not the advantages of a liberal education, as schools were few and widely scattered, and in them only reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic were taught, and these frequently by incompetent persons.

The families usually were large, it being no unusual thing for them to be composed of 12 or 15 children. If one of the number was unusually bright, he would in some instances be selected for a profession,--that is to say, for a preacher, lawyer or physician,--and all the members of the family would contribute by their efforts to paying his tuition and for his support, and not infrequently stinting themselves that he might succeed.

The principal mode of conveyance was the pack-horse, which carried from the east to the west such necessary articles as were not obtainable on this side of the mountains, such as nails, salt and calico goods. The original method of lighting the homes of the first settlers was by the pine knots of the fat pitch pines.

While they labored under many disadvantages, and such as in the present would be regarded as impositions of the most inexcusable character, yet they also enjoyed many advantages to which we of today, with our improved comforts and conveniences, are, comparatively speaking, strangers. Their constant outdoor life made them sturdy, strong and healthy, and therefore they were exempt from many of the ills and diseases that afflict the society of the present day. Competition was not so keen, and the rush and push of everyday present life was unknown to them, consequently they led calm and contented lives and husbanded their energies. The accumulation of riches was not the absorbing passion of their lives, as it is with a large majority today, and their cry was not wherewithal shall we be fed and clothed, as they produced all that was necessary for these demands among themselves. Their fare, too, was simple and frugal as well as wholesome and invigorating.

The children entertained a greater reverence for their parents and a higher regard for parental authority. They enjoyed natural sports and amusements, in the pursuit of which they seldom sacrificed health. Early hours for rest and sleep were the habits of their lives as well as early rising.


Doddridge, in his notes, in speaking of the games and diversions engaged in at the beginning of the last century, says: "One important pastime of our boys was that of imitating the noise of every bird and beast in the woods. This faculty was not merely a pastime, but a very necessary part of education on account of its utility in certain circumstances. The imitations of the gobbling and other sounds of wild turkeys often brought those keen-eyed and ever watchful tenants of the forest within the reach of the rifle. The bleating of the fawn brought the dam to her death in the same way. The hunter often collected a company of mopish owls to the trees about his camp and amused himself with their hoarse screaming; his howl would raise and obtain responses from a pack of wolves, so as to inform him of their neighborhood, as well as guard him against their depredations. This imitative faculty was some times requisite as a measure of precaution in war. The Indians, when scattered about in a neighborhood, often collected together by imitating turkeys by day and wolves or owls by night. In similar situations our people did the same. I have often witnessed the consternation of a whole neighborhood in consequence of a few screeches of owls. An early and correct use of this imitative faculty was considered as an indication that its possessor would become in due time a good hunter and a valiant warrior."

Throwing the tomahawk was another boyish sport in which many acquired considerable skill. The tomahawk, with its handle of a certain length, will make a given number of turns in a given distance, say, in five steps it will strike with the edge, the handle downward; at the distance of seven and a half it will strike with the edge, the handle upward, and soon a little experience enabled the boy to measure the distance with his eye when walking through the woods, and strike a tree with his tomahawk in any way he chose.

The athletic sports of running, jumping and wrestling were the pastimes of boys in common with the men. A well-grown boy at the age of twelve or thirteen years was furnished with a small rifle and shot pouch. He then became a fort soldier and had his port-hole assigned him. Hunting squirrels, turkeys and raccoons soon made him expert in the use of his gun.

Dancing was the principal amusement of the young people of both sexes, which were of the simplest forms. Three and four handed reels and jigs, as contra dances, cotillions and minuets were unknown.

Shooting at marks was a common diversion among the men when their stock of ammunition would allow it; this was far from being always the case. The present mode of shooting off-hand was not then in practice. This mode was not considered as any trial of the value of a gun; nor indeed as much of a trial of the skill of a marksman. Their shooting was from a rest, and at as great a distance as the length and weight of the barrel of the gun would throw a ball on a horizontal level. Such was their regard to accuracy, in these sportive trials of their rifles, and of their own skill in the use of them, that they often put moss or some other soft substance on the log or stump from which they shot, for fear of having the bullet thrown from the mark by the spring of the barrel. When the rifle was held to the side of a tree for rest it was pressed against it as lightly as possible for the same reason. Rifles of former times were different from those of modern date; few of them carried more than 45 bullets to the pound. Bullets of a less size were not thought sufficiently heavy for hunting or war.

Dramatic narrations concerning Jack and the Giant furnished young people with another source of amusement during their leisure hours. Many of these tales were lengthy and embraced a considerable range of incident; Jack was always the hero of the story, who after encountering many difficulties, and performing many great achievements, would come off the conqueror of the Giant. Many of these stories were tales of knight errantry, in which some captive damsel was released from captivity and restored to her lover. These dramatic narrations concerning Jack and the Giant bore stong resemblance to the poems of Ossian; the story of the cyclops and Uylsses in the Odyssey of Homer, and the tale of the Giand and Great Heart in Pilgrim's Progress. They were so arranged as to the different incidents of the narration that they were easily committed to memory. They certainly have been handed down from generation to generation from time immemorial. Civilization has indeed banished the use of those ancient tales of romantic heroism and substituted in their place the novel and romance.

Singing was another but not very common amusement among the settlers. Their tunes, generally speaking, were not melodious, but rude and lacking in cultion. The feats of Robin Hood furnished a number of their songs and the remainder were in general of a tragical character and were in the common parlance of the day denominated "love songs about murder." As to games of chance, such as cards, dice and backgammon, these were never indulged in, being unknown. In these early days the occasion of a wedding was an event productive of great hilarity and mirth, at which the settlers from miles around would be found present. Among other indulgences entered into at such times would be introduced the feat of "running for the bottle." It was usual for the bride and groom to ride to the residence of the official who was selected to tie the knot. During their absence on this important errand the father or guardian obtained a bottle of the best liquor that could be secured, around the neck of which he tied a white ribbon. Upon returning after the ceremony of marriage had been performed, and when the mated couple were within a mile or more of the bride's residence, some three or four and sometimes more young men prepared to run for the bottle. Making an event start, at the word given, they would urge their horses to their highest speed, regardless of mud, rocks, stumps or other obstructions. As great eagerness and desire to win would be manifested as ever characterized an effort on the turf.

In expectation of the arrival of the competitors, the father or guardian of the bride stood with the bottle ready in his hand, prepared to deliver it to the successful individual. On receiving it, the victor forthwith returned to meet the bride and groom. Upon their meeting it was first presented to the bride, who must at least put the bottle to her lips and taste it, and pass it to the groom, after which it was handed around to the assembled company, every one of whom was required to partake of it.


The hospitality of the people was proverbial; no one ever appealed to them in vain for help or food in an emergency, whether neighbor or stranger, and nothing would give greater offense than an offer to pay for the same. Their latch string was always on the outside, and the stranger and the wayfarer alike always received a generous and hearty welcome from the family. In their friendships they were firm, constant and true.

But there was another trait of character which it was unsafe to arouse,--we mean their animosity, which was frequently carried to extremes, and which sometimes inaugurated personal combats and encounters. They were very sensitive as to a point of honor on which they universally prided themselves as possessing. If one called another a liar he was considered as having given a challenge, which the person receiving must resent or be looked upon as a coward, and hence the insult was, in general, promptly met with a blow from the party receiving it. But if on account of an existing disability of any kind on the part of the injured one he was unable to retaliate or defend himself, he was privileged to secure a friend to accept the challenge for him. The same thing followed when a party was charged with cowardice or a dishonorable action. A conflict was the result and the person making the charge or giving the insult had to fight the person injured or his champion, no matter who might be willing to espouse his cause or to take up the cudgel in his behalf. The prevalence of this disposition led the people of this early day to be cautious in attacking the reputation of others, and encouraged a chivalrous feeling of self respect as well as consideration for the feelings of others.

It was not unusual for pitched battles to occur when preparation would be made before-hand by the appointment of the time, place and second. The mode of single combats in those days was dangerous and in some respects disastrous. In the fierce contest fist, feet and teeth were engaged. A practice much in vogue in these encounters was that of gouging, by which it was no uncommon thing to have an eye wrenched from its socket.


Among the privations and inconveniences to which the settlers were subjected was the occasional failure of crops and the scarcity of wholesome food. In the year 1777 the wheat was sick and impossible to be used. This year of the three sevens was called the sick year. In the year 1790 a severe famine stared them in the face. An early frost in the preceding fall had cut down the corn before it was fairly dried and ready for gathering. Not-withstanding, a portion of it in its crude state was gathered and put away, and was used for making pone and bread, which when eaten invariably reacted upon the stomach, producing intense sickness and vomiting. Even the domestic animals were seriously affected from eating of it. Consequently good and wholesome corn at once went up in price to $1.50 and $2.00 per bushel, and even at this price it was difficult to be obtained. The scarcity was very pronounced.

The woods to a great extent in the vicinity of the settlements had been depleted of the larger game by the Indians, who had slaughtered or driven it away. But in the midst of the scarcity prevailing there was prominence given to that conspicuous trait of character attaching to the people, who willingly shared what they possessed with those less fortunate than themselves. Such of them as were the fortunate possessor of a cow shared its milk with their unfortunate neighbors, especially in those instances where the family had young children. There was also a scarcity of sugar and molasses, not because there was not an abundance of maple trees, but because there was a deficiency of vessels in which to boil the sap. Had it not have been that the rivers and creeks afforded a reasonable supply of fish, very poor families must have suffered from starvation. The greentops of nettles and the tender blades of herbs as soon as they appeared were gathered, of which they made a dish of palatable soup which was indulged in by many to satisfy the cravings of their appetites. Potato tops in many instances were utilized in the same way. A scarcity of salt also prevailed, and in small quantities it sold at 50 cents a quart. With patient perseverance, they struggled through this dire period, until early vegetables began to appear, and finally the ripened corn, mixed with a small quantity of wheat, furnished then with the luxury of bread. This year marked an episode in the lives of the settlers and was known and always referred to as the "starvtion year."