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Life In The Backwoods
by [?]

Amidst all this tomahawking and scalping, this shooting and stabbing, this shedding of blood and of tears, this heartbreak of captivity, this torture, this peril by day and by night, the flower of home was springing up wherever the ax let the sun into the woods. It would be a great pity if the stories of cruelty and suffering which seem, while we read them, to form the whole history of the Ohio country, should be left without the relief of facts quite as true as these sad tales. Life was hard in those days, but it was sweet too, and it was often gay and glad. In times of constant danger, and even while the merciless savages were beleaguering the lonely clusters of cabins, there was frolicking among the young people in the forts, and the old people looked on at their joys in sympathy as well as wonder. The savages themselves had their harmless pleasures, and their wild life was so free that those who once knew it did not willingly forsake it. They were not bad-hearted so much as wrong-headed, and they were mostly what they were, because they knew no better. More than once we read how the lurking hunter heard them joking and laughing when off their guard in the wood; and in their towns, on the Miamis or the Muskingum or the Sandusky, they had their own games, and feasts, and merrymakings. Much that was beautiful and kindly and noble was possible to them, but they belonged to the past, and the white men belonged to the future; and the war between the two races had to be. Our race had outgrown the order which theirs clung to helplessly as well as willfully, and it was fated that we must found our homes upon their graves.

These homes were at first of the rude and simple sort, which a thousand narratives and legends have made familiar, and which every Ohio boy and girl has heard of. It would not be easy to say where or when the first log cabin was built, but it is safe to say that it was somewhere in the English colonies of North America, and it is certain that it became the type of the settler’s house throughout the whole middle west. It may be called the American house, the Western house, the Ohio house. Hardly any other house was built for a hundred years by the men who were clearing the land for the stately mansions of our day. As long as the primeval forests stood, the log cabin remained the woodsman’s home; and not fifty years ago, I saw log cabins newly built in one of the richest and most prosperous regions of Ohio. They were, to be sure, log cabins of a finer pattern than the first settler reared. They were of logs handsomely shaped with the broadax; the joints between the logs were plastered with mortar; the chimney at the end was of stone; the roof was shingled, the windows were of glass, and the door was solid and well hung. They were such cabins as the Christian Indians dwelt in at Gnadenhutten, and such as were the homes of the well-to-do settlers in all the older parts of the West. But throughout that region there were many log cabins, mostly sunk to the uses of stables and corn cribs, of the kind that the borderers built in the times of the Indian War, from 1750 to 1800. They were framed of the round logs, untouched by the ax except for the notches at the ends where they were fitted into one another; the chimney was of small sticks stuck together with mud, and was as frail as a barn swallow’s nest; the walls were stuffed with moss, plastered with clay; the floor was of rough boards called puncheons, riven from the block with a heavy knife; the roof was of clapboards split from logs and laid loosely on the rafters, and held in place with logs fastened athwart them.