August 20, 2017

The Frontier American Log Cabin . . . Was Finnish


You may already know that in 17th-century America, there was New England (Plymouth, etc.), and south of that was New Amsterdam (New York), and south of that were more English colonies. But in between, in parts of what are now Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, was New Sweden, which lasted roughly from 1635–1655, when the Dutch took over.

You may have even heard that the traditional American log cabin came from New Sweden. Further south in Virginia, the English colonists were building  houses with wooden trusses whose walls were filled with with wattle-and-daub and later with brick, "Tudor" style. In New England, they did something similar but with clapboards.

But the settlers of New Sweden, who were largely ethnic Finns, put their axes on their shoulders, looked around at the trees, and started building log houses. At that time, today's Finland was part of the kingdom of Sweden, and the two populations were intermingled.

As the log cabin building style was diffused on the American frontier, a lot the refinements were lost, such as how to build log joints that shed water.

Here, in some kind of "living history" village, you can see Finnish carpenters building a little house in the traditional way. Lots of nice broad-ax work there!

If you want to get deeply into the 17th-century history of the Atlantic seaboard, then I recommend The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America--The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675

Usually, all you get is Jamestown > Pilgrims > Salem Witch Trials > American Revolution, and this book fills in a lot of gaps.

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