Friday, April 24, 2009

friday's frontier fact

Welcome to Lael's Kentucky cabin. This is how I pictured her homeplace when I wrote the novel. I like all the historic details shown here. The hand-hewn hutch and pewter dishes. The woven baskets. The huge hearth that you can't really see - you just have to imagine. There would be a bed in the corner with a cornhusk tick and quilt and a little key to tighten the rope springs. Hence the old saying, sleep tight but don't let the bed bugs bite. And then above would be a loft.

But as cozy as this cabin looks, it was in fact quite uncomfortable. Austere in the extreme. Cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Dark. Few people could afford glass windows and they were very difficult to transport, thus oiled paper and wooden shutters sufficed if you had windows at all. Many didn't because of the danger. Indians were good at climbing in openings and so settlers opted for safety over light and fresh air. Loopholes just large enough to ram a rifle barrel through were good enough.

Often furniture had multi-purposes. See the table? It folded due to cabins being cramped. Sixteen by twenty feet was the standard cabin size. Simplicity reigned on the frontier, at least in 1777 Kentucky. Those big houses with the cavernous front porches came much later. Floors were mostly dirt at first, then puncheon logs. Folks had no use for frew-frew-raw, as one frontiersman called extravagances. They were simply concerned with staying alive.

How far we have fallen! Wonder what old Boone would think of central air and flushable toilets and microwaved meals? Personally I think he'd run for the hills as fast as his arthritic legs could carry him:) I hardly blame him.

Happy Friday!


  1. Great photo! That room looks like one of the cabins at Old Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg. I truly love the rustic look - but I also like my running water and electricity!

  2. love the pic of "Lael's" cabin! I can envision you for sure living in that era and loving every minute of it although it would have been a hard living. I remember going to Boonesborough as a kid and should probably go back and take Zach there next time in Ky. Maybe I can plan a trip this summer. It is HOT here today! Should be around 90 all weekend! Our pool opens next week. Wish you were here. Hi to the boys. Talk soon. :)

  3. Zach would really like it! It's one of my favorite places. They have re-enactors there like blacksmiths and weavers and such. Your weather sounds heaven-sent. We are back to clouds today just after putting our deck furniture out and potting flowers! Wish I could blink and be at the pool with you. Zach and Paul would have a big time together:) Talk soon!

  4. Yes, this photo just grabs me for some reason and I couldn't wait to post it:) Glad you like it, too. Speaking of Fort Harrod, I'm thinking of doing a Friday fact on Jim Harrod. He really was another Boone in many ways and I find it so sad (whoops - is this a spoiler?) that he just up and disappeared. I bet you know more than I do about that:) Yes, I am on the same page with you about running water and power! Amazing at all those old-timers did without. Bless you, Bobbi!

  5. my great grandmother was a photographer, which means we have some wonderful family heirloom photos of events that most families don't have from the late 1800's.
    One photo in particular is my favorite. It's a shot of my Great grandpa sitting in a homemade rocking chair, smoking a pipe, with a cat on his lap. The best part is the background. It was taken in the log cabin that they built when they homesteaded here in Oregon. You can see the edge of the bed (just as you describe: husk mattress and quilt), a tin cup hanging on a nail, a handmade stool, and the floor with visible cracks between the boards.

  6. Lisa, That is so neat! Having those photos are priceless - as is being of Oregon pioneer stock:) Sounds like good material for a novel to me! Your great-grandmother must have been a very interesting woman to have had a passion for photography in her day. What a wonderful legacy for you and your kids (not to mention the rest of your family). Wish I had more old photos than I do. This is a good reminder to do a blog post of the ones I do have:) Thank you, Lisa!