Monday, February 20, 2012

Log Cabins and Log Houses

Nicolas Gibbs's Log House

This being Presidents' Day I got to thinking about the much discussed Log Cabin birth. This humble birthplace was a campaign cliche which identified a candidate as an average American. This birthplace became a source of pride. My grandfather Charles Lynn Forgey was said to have been born in a Log House in Jackson County, Indiana in 1898. He could have used this to garner votes if he ever ran for office.
Log structures were the most familiar ones for my early ancestors in American. In the Midwest and South logs were the most popular building material.  The pioneer settlers of the midwest and Southern States, such as Tennessee, found plenty of trees which could be used for building. It surprised me that the Scots-Irish had no tradition of building with logs. However, they quickly adopted this type of construction which was so well suited to the area. Early churches, school houses. and courthouses were often log structures. The initial log cabins of the pioneers were generally just temporary. Once they got established they would build a log house which was built to be permanent and larger than a log cabin. A log house was also given a more finished look with planed logs, which may have been finished with siding.
The Nicolas Gibbs homestead and log house was built in 1793 in Knox County, Tennessee; near where my Forgey ancestors lived (see picture above). The Gibbs family was a wealthy prominent family. An archaeological dig took place at the site of their homestead. The two plate fragments to the right were unearthed during this dig. They are examples of  Pearl Ware which was an early technique for making ceramics more affordable. A bluing was added to the glaze giving this pottery a white luster which looked like the more expensive porcelain. These examples probably date to the early 19th century.  When the house was renovated newspapers from 1850 were found covering the logs inside the house. It was common to cover the walls with newspaper and then put wallpaper over that.
Crawford Log House Built 1792
Nancy Forgey's family lived near the Gibb's family in Knox County, TN. Her husband Samuel Crawford built a two story log house on their Grassy Valley property, which stood and was used by the family into the twentieth century.

The name Abraham Lincoln and the Log Cabin are synonymous. My Mason and Owens family lived in Coles County, Illinois which was where Abraham Lincoln helped build a Log Cabin  for his father and stepmother, and he practiced Law in that area. He worked as a lawyer for the Illinois Central Railroad where my ancestor Peter Mason also worked. My family living in the area did pass down stories regarding seeing Mr. Lincoln in the area.
All of my early American ancestors got their start in these rustic humble homes. Sadly few examples of these houses still stand, and hopefully these will be preserved for future generations.
Lincoln Log Cabin

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