The Log Cabin on the Kentucky Frontier
It is often assumed that the log cabin was the home of America’s first settlers from Europe, but when the English and Dutch colonists settled in Plymouth, Jamestown and New Amsterdam, they built houses in the styles of their homelands. The structures were mainly of frame construction, using planks, timbers and nails that were brought over on the ships that carried the colonists. The first known log cabins in America were built in the lower Delaware Valley by the Swedes and the Finns in 1638. Log cabins had been in use in the Scandinavian countries since 800 A.D. Immigrants from Germany and Switzerland, who settled in Pennsylvania, also built log cabins.
As the frontier advanced southward and westward, the log cabin was recognized as the perfect structure for the settlers. Logs for the cabins, barns and other buildings could be hewn from trees, leaving the land clear for crops. By using wood pins, a cabin could actually be built without the use of a single nail. In some later buildings, nails were used, but they were expensive and heavy to bring in over the mountains by wagon or on pack animals. An able woodsman could build a simple cabin with just an axe, though the use of saws, adze, augers and other tools made for a neater looking cabin.
As you tour this village, you will see the four cabin styles found on the Kentucky frontier. These styles include the simple one-room, the two-room, the saddlebag and the dogtrot. Also recognized in these cabins are the different types of notches such as the V, the half-lap and the dovetail. The log cabin became the symbol of self-reliance, strength and integrity, and we are proud to help preserve its history.