Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
History of Bradford County by H. C. Bradsby, 1891
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Chapter VI - The Log Cabin
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Aerial Photo of the Susquehanna River and Ulster Bridge 
by Joyce M. Tice October 7, 1999

History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches

By H. C. Bradsby, 1891

Aerial Photo of Susquehanna River in Bradford County by Joyce M. Tice October 7, 1999
This is the bridge from Ulster (top)  to Sheshequin (bottom)

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THE log cabins of the pioneers were the powerful lever that skirted along the Atlantic shore back pressed the Indians toward the Alleghanies, and then across the mountains and on to the Mississippi river, and across that and then to the Rocky mountains, and eventually across these snow-clad ranges and down the slope and finally to the Pacific ocean. Nearly three hundred years were consumed in these long and often bloody journeying of the two peoples so distinct in color, race and instincts. They were antagonistic races that could not well exist together. The Indian's supreme impulse was that of absolute freedom-liberty in its fullest extent, where there was no law other than that of physical strength and courage, might was right, and from that the. weak had no appeal save that of the stoic's divine right to (loathe. The Indian's death-song was therefore a part of his deep-seated philosophy, and whether cooped up on the tall cliff-Starved Rock-and slowly starved to death, slain in battle, or dying of disease, his last and supreme act was to chant his weird death-song Death then was not his one dreaded, invisible foe. When he could fight and kill no more, then it was his friend-the angel with outstretched wings in his extremity, tenderly carrying him away from his enemy and his pain. His ideal was that animal life typified in the screaming eagle of the crags, or the spring of the stripe tiger, whose soft foot had carried it in reach of its unsuspecting prey.

The rugged and weather-beaten pioneer, he or his ancestors had fled from tyranny and religious persecutions, severely austere toward his own real or imaginary faults, welcoming any inflection that would only purify, as by fire. his soul. and fleeing from the persecutor of the body, lie erected his altars to a God that was simply unappeasable, not only for his own sins, but for the yielding to temptation of the first mother of the human race, and this he unfalteringly believed " brought death into the world and all our woe." This creature of curious contradictions, while over-exacting toward himself, and welcoming any


and all self-inflicted strifes, slept on his arms for anything mortal that dared to intimate an approach on his religious rights or beliefs-yield all to his God, be would yield nothing to anyone or anything else. He would put a padlock on his mouth, that it might not speak evil, and his very thoughts in the stocks, that he might not think evil silence and dreams of the glories of heaven alternating with the groans and outcries of the damned, and eyes closed to all earthly things, he even tried to control the strong impulses of his heart in its love for wife or children in the fear that God would be jealous and might blast forever his soul with a frown. And from the depths of his troubled life he would cry out that he could do nothing to please God-that he was utterly unworthy and totally wicked; that his whole inheritance, through a thousand ancestors, was sin, and it would be but a supreme mercy in his Maker to cast him out forever. He invented his own penance, inflicted his own judgments, clothed himself in sackcloth and ashes, and finally consigned himself as the only mercy he deserved to the endless tortures of hell.

This was the fugitive, the waif cast upon the troubled waters, that came from the Old to the New in the hunt of religious liberty and a home. Unkempt and unwashed, rough and storm-beaten, with long, bushy hair, and in his leather jerkin, this apparition stood before the savages of the valley of the Susquehanna, rifle in hand, one foot thrown before the other, braced, erect, his keen eye directed straight into the wild man's soul; there be had put his heavy foot down, and the quick instinct of the savage told him never to take it up again. The wild man struck like the coiled snake; the crack of the white man's rifle echoed through the old forest trees and stilled the serpent's rattle forever.

The first habitation was an opened-faced brush house if such a thing can be called a house at all. It was between two trees standing close together-a pole across, and leaned against this was brush, bramble and leaves piled on; two wings projected from the ends similarly constructed, and the whole front open, and here was the camp fire. The furniture was a pile of dry leaves on one side of this brush dwelling. This was rather a poor protection, yet there was a time when it has been all some of the earliest pioneers had during their first long winter in the remote wilderness. They possibly had simply wintered" there intending to resume their journey when warm weather came. Sometimes they thus camped, waiting the fall of the high waters in the stream. These advance couriers of civilization were encumbered with no camp equipage; the old heavy rifle, and the hunting knife, and the few leather clothes they wore were all they had. Then, too, they may have reached the one spot in the wilderness the had traveled so far to find. Just there a stream or a spring of sweet water, the giant trees extending their strong protecting arms, and the abundant evidences of game on every band may have been the determining cause, or, as was often the case, living away back in Massachusetts or Connecticut, the young man had met some hunter and trapper, and had made eager inquiries as to where he could find the best place in the new country, and the hunter


had mapped out to his mind the Ion g road to that particular spot. How he would pursue a certain course, guided by the sun and the North Star, or the moss on the trees, and just where be would cross certain rivers and streams, and follow these to such a point, then deflect to the right or left and strike a certain prairie, and after a while he would pass a mound or a lone tree, and then in the blue distance a point of timber, and from that another point, and then for days and days upon the prairie sea, and again reaching the timber another stream, and follow up that to where a creek or arm emptied into it, thence up that stream, and a small prairie, and a ('rove, and then on and on to the timber and streams again, and here a spring would be reached-a natural camping place and perhaps the end of the long journey, and to-day his grandchildren born on the old farm where be first stopped and put up his brush house may not know or be able to find the spring that was his objective point when he so bravely started from his old pioneer father's home in the east. The brush covering protected him somewhat from the inclement elements, the fire in front served a double purpose--it warmed and dried him when wet or cold, and kept away the fierce wild animals that otherwise would have attacked and devoured him. If during the night it burned low, the screams of the panther or the howls of the close-coming wolves would admonish him to throw a few sticks on the fire, or sometimes amuse himself by firing at the eyes of the beast that was so near him that its gleaming eyeballs make an excellent target.

The first months of this man's life were passed in the most primitive manner. He procured food by his rifle, supplemented with the natural fruits and berries of the woods, learning to eat many of the roots he could dig. He neighbored much with the Indians, and often got of them some of their coarse materials for making bread. The one

chief deprivation, both to him and the Indians, was the want of salt. This no doubt was the one luxury of which he would often dream that he had left behind him when he ventured out from civilization. Early in the spring he was hunting in the woods for the wild onions that are among the first to push their green stems above the soil, and in the wild sheep-sorrel he found the delicious acid that his system so much needed, then the May-apples, and then the berries, the paw paws, the nuts and wild grapes, the buds, the bark of certain trees, and at a certain time in spring the top root of the young hickory, were all in their turn within his reach, and were utilized.

This was the first little wave, the immediate forerunner of the round log cabin. He had soon learned many of the Indian ways, and their expedients in emergencies. He was a demonstration of the fact that a civilized man will learn to be a wild man in less than a fifteenth of the time it will take to teach a savage to become civilized, or to like any of the ways and habits of civilized life. Had he forgotten to think of this lonely, silent life? He would visit his distant neighbors in their wigwams, approaching as quietly as they, enter with a grunt, seat himself, light his pipe, and all would sit and smoke in silence. An occasional grunt or a nod of the head, but never a smile;


and this had come to be his idea of enjoyment in social life too. He learned to go to the deer licks, as had the Indians, for other purposes as well as those of finding the deer there and shooting them. He had learned to find certain clays that the savages ate. He soon knew as much of wild woods life as did the natives.

One day, late in the spring, while hunting, he met an Indian, who startled him with the news that a pale-faced neighbor had come and actually had settled as near as fifteen miles up the creek. This was the most astounding news he had ever heard. Only fifteen miles-why, this is setting right in my door-yard, and not so much as even saying, by your leave! Can it be possible? I can't stand too much crowding. He quits the chase, and returns straight to his cabin, cooks and eats his supper, and sits on his log and smokes and thinks, yes, actually thinks, till his head fairly swims over the day's news. He goes to bed and sleeps and dreams, and millions of people are pouring into his cabin, and behind them still comes the eternal stream of humanity, laughing, crying, shouting, struggling, and the great wave is upon him, and he is being smothered, when, with a mighty effort, he wakes, and the owls are booting from the treetops, and the wolves are howling beyond his cabin their mighty lullabies. And be is so thankful it is but a dream, but he again thinks over the news, and finally determines on the morning he will go and visit his near neighbor and make his acquaintance, and turns over on his dry leaves and is once more sound asleep.

He pays the visit the next day , and his sudden and strange appearance is nearly as great a surprise to the newcomers as was the news to him the day before. He finds the man busy chopping, and for the last mile had been guided by the ring of the ax, and seated on the log, they tell each other the latest news from the settlements and from the wigwam villages. The new neighbor tells him that he and wife had come on foot from Vermont, and had arrived some weeks a 'go, and did not know that they had a white neighbor within a hundred miles. He described how he had carried the rifle, the ax and the few little things, they had brought, and his wife carried the hoe, the only farming implement they had, and hung on the hoe over her shoulder was the small bundle of her earthly possessions; that they bad heard of the rich country in the Susquehanna valley, and had got married and started for the good country, where they could make their home and their farm, and in time hoped to have a plenty; they bad planted the two or three potatoes, the half dozen pumpkin seeds and the few hills of corn, and the first year they hoped to raise some seed. The gun, the ax, an auger and the hoe were their marriage dower with which to start life. They had brought a few trinkets, and on their way had exchanged these for some skins and furs, that were so necessary. The man and wife bad put up the round-log (or pole) cabin., and covered it with bark. It bad simply a door for entrance, and a stick-and-mud chimney-no floor, except such as nature had made, but here and there was laid a dried skin, and in one corner the man had made a onelegged bedstead, and crossed this with raw-hide whangs to support the bedding of skins. It is made by making the one leg, and then in


the corner of the room you bore a hole in each wall; one of these holes receives the side rail from the post, and the other receives the end rail from the same post. The two walls of the building form the other side and end of the bed, and there you have it-fit for a king! if the mind is content. Upon these primitive beds of our fathers has come as sweet repose as ever found its way within palace walls, and on the great mahogany teester bedsteads draped in silks and satins and the costliest laces.

The small  " clearing and girdling " was planted by the wife mostly, while the men felled trees, chopped logs and gathered and burned old fallen timber. The wife worked with the heavy hoe, and the man 'With the ax and gun. 'The few seeds they planted grew at a remarkable rate, and now they had in store a little bread, a few vegetables and abundance of meat. His gun and traps had brought them meat and fur and feathers, and honey they had found in abundance in the forests. Before the year bad expired they made a raft, and loaded it with their stores, and went to the trading post, and exchanged honey, furs and pelts for such manufactured articles as they needed, and ammunition and salt. They had enough to buy a pony of the Indians, and by the second year were farming in great content.

But a few years have passed, and the land begins to be dotted with log cabins. That is, every few miles on the way could be seen in the, distance the blue curling smoke lazily ascending from these outside, low, mud-and-stick chimneys. This, now, is the glorious log-cabin day ,and age. Let us examine one, and if we can, secure the shadow ere the substance has gone forever. As you approach you are impressed with the squat and heavy, solid appearance of the building. The roof is of split clapboards, weighted with heavy poles. There is not so much iron as a nail in all the building. The batten door is made of the same kind of boards, and swings on wooden hinges, and has a wooden latch, to which is attached a leather string that passes up and through a small hole to the outside. To Dull this string is to raise the latch and permit the door to open. To lock the door it is only necessary to pull the string inside, and then no one on the outside can open it. Hence, there is much friendly significance when one says to the other, " my latch string always hangs out for you." You will notice as you approach that to your right and near the end of the cabin, but some feet in front of a line with the front of the house, is a very small cabin, a kind of baby to the main building. This is the meat house. The lord of the manor is evidently a little proud of this larder, and hence it sets a little in front of the line of the dwelling. It bespeaks for him a good provider, 11 and juicy hams and red gravy, galore. Farther off there you see the stables covered with straw, and the stacks of grain and bay, and over there in a long rack made of rails crossed over a pole about two feet high, filled with straw, and about the premises are cows and calves, and horses with long hair and bushy manes and tails, and razor-back hogs, the largest parts apparently the head, from their long snouts. On every hand there are evidences of plenty and content. Pull the latch and walk in where a hearty and cheery welcome will greet you, even the long-haired


curs will "bay you a deep-mouthed welcome," that will be stopped only by the authoritative voice of the master. The wild blazing fire, extending nearly across the whole end of the house, adds to the bright and the iron lard-lamp, with a rag for a wick, the recent great improvement on the scraped turnip that did duty as a lamp, you hardly notice as it burns away stuck in a crack in one of the logs. The good wife and the strong and red-cheeked girls are preparing the evening meal. The spare ribs banging in front of the fire are turned frequently, and their odors at once whet your already keen appetite. The bread is in the oven, and on this is a lid with the edges curled up to hold the heaps of coal that are on the top, while there are still more under the oven. An iron pot is hanging by the crane, and is boiling furiously. While these preparations are going on, take an inventory of the room. You are in one of the two split-bottom chairs. The old chest can bold or be seats for three or four of the family; then there are two or three three-legged stools. Then there is a bench made of a split log with. leas to it , that is, seats all along one side of the table, but is moved around at pleasure. Over there is "granny" with her "specs," the brass rim. nearly worn out, and all looking as old as she does except the new yarn string that holds them in place. That is her corner, on her low stool where for years and years she has knit and knit and knit, never stepping, even when she told of when she. was a little girl, and often lived in the fort when [be Indians would go marauding over the land. At the other end of the 14x20 room are two beds standing end to end, with barely room for a person to squeeze between them. On these are such fat high feather beds, and over these such gay-figured red and light-figured woolen coverlets. These were woven away back in the old settlements. Such gorgeous figures, sometimes eagles with outstretched wings, or horses and dogs or buffaloes, and even in a square in one corner were elaborate attempts at letters, but which as you never could see exactly right side up you could never read. A gay calico " vallance " hung around the logs of the bedstead, and you know that these hide under each big bed a trundle-bed. You see this was the original folding bed, and from this at one time universal part o the furniture of the cabin came that barbarous expression from some old sour bachelor about 11 trundle-bed trash."

Opposite the door, which stood open nearly the year round except at night, is the window, the half of two of the logs cut away, making a hole a little over a foot wide and two feet long, and the light comes through greased paper that covered the opening. The floor was of puncheon-split logs; the face dressed down nicely with an axe, and the edges tolerably straight, but cracks frequent. On the walls hung strings of sage, onion tops and a beautiful wreath of red pepper. Some loose boards were laid on the cross-beams, and the stairway was cleats fastened to the wall. This was the girls' boudoir, and from the rafters hung dresses and female clothing, and in one corner close to the roof were the shoes that were only worn on Sundays when going to meeting. The ingenuity and taste of the girls had see secured a barrel, and over this was spread a pictorial Brother Jonathan, that had in


Some way come to the family long ago. This was their dressing-case, and on the barrel were combs. ribbons and trinkets, and 4 x 5 framed mirror bung gracefully above the dressing case against the wall. but, leaving the privacy of the girls' private room we go below again, and soon we discover that we had overlooked some of the most interesting things in the living room. In the wooden racks over the door were the two guns of the family, and hanging from either end of these racks the pouch made of spotted fawn skins, and the large powder horns with the flat end, wooden peas in the small end that the hunter always pulled out with his teeth when be would pour out the powder in loading. The women were as proud of their household utensils as the men of their new buckskin hunting shirts or their guns, and chief among these was the cedar 11 pigon This was a bright red, medium-sized bucket, with one of the staves long and formed into a handle. The broom, stood handy just outside. This was made of a young hickory split up into small strips and turned over gracefully ,and tied in a wisp. For many years after we had the modern brooms these were still to be seen in every house, and were the scrub brooms.

But supper is now ready and steaming hot, the dishes are sending out great volumes of appetizing odors, and you and the men and boys a e all seated around the bountiful board. The women and children wait for the second table. How can you wait in patience while the good man invokes heaven's blessing upon what he is pleased to call the Lord's attention to this 'If rugal fare." He likes that phrase, and his boys often think that to get to say it is sometimes the chief impulse to the ceremony. When the good man addresses his Maker, he changes his language materially from every-day use, somewhat as he does his clothes when he goes to church. For instance he emphasizes distinctly all the ed's, saying bless-ed, instead of, as commonly, "blest.’

The blessing over: " Now, help yourself." is all the ceremony, and all that you feel you need, The broiled venison steaks, the well browned spare ribs, the 11 craklin'" corn bread, the luscious honey piled in layers, a-ad the cold sweet milk, and the hot roasted sweet potatoes, with appetites all around the board to match, this feast is fit for the gods. You eventually quit eating for two good reasons: Your storing capacity is about exhausted, and then you notice such a hungry, eager expression in the faces of the children who are standing around and furtively watching the food on the table, and no doubt wondering if you will ever get through. Each one, when he finishes his meal, without ceremony gets up, and as no change of dishes is thought of, the particular youngster who is to cat after that particular person is quickly in the place, and proceeds to stay his appetite. This arrangement is one of the children's, and no doubt often saves serious scrambling for places. The supper over, the pipes are filled, and the women have so quietly whisked things away and cleared the table-bow they did -it and where they put them you can not for your life tell; yet they are gone, and the day's working and eating are over, and in a few minutes the trundle-beds will be pulled out, and the children at the bead and at the foot will fill them, something after the fashion of a sardine box; let us bid these good people good-bye.


The Improved Log Cabin.-Nothing more distinctly marked the advance of the settlement of the country than the change in the architecture of the log cabin. I have tried to describe the open-faced brush and the round log cabins that were so distinctly the first era. In a few years if you go back to see your friend, as you are very apt to do, as you will remember that supper a longtime, you will find a two-story hewed-log house, the cracks between the logs " chinked and pointed with clean white lime mortar, and it may be the walls inside and out are heavily whitewashed. It may be covered with shingles even, and glass windows with 6 x 8 glass put in with putty. -Hard oak planks, mayhap with the whip-saw, are on the floors above and below. An outside rock chimney towers above either end of the building. A shed-roofed kitchen, which is also the dining-room, is along the whole length of the main building. A leaning ladder of easy ascent takes you 11 up stairs " which is one big room, while the lower part of the main building is divided by a partition. The upper floor is the sleeping-room of the boys and the 11 bands," while the room partitioned off is the girl's room, and which they consider the 11 parlor " as well as the bedroom. The old folks have their very tall feather bed in the main or living room, but under it is the trundle bed, as there is probably another under every bed in the house, and although the number of beds has greatly increased, if there is company to stay all night, this will necessitate pallets" on the floor. There is still the great wide fireplace and the cheerful open fire, and if it is winter, every evening just before dark a new back-log is rolled in with handspikes and into its place, and a " fore-stick " quite as large as one man can handle is placed on the short heavy dog-irons. But a second and smaller back-log is on top of the main one, and then the great yawning fireplace is soon full of the bright, blazing tire. k hanging crane is here as well as in the kitchen fire-place. In the same yard is still the old round-log cabin where the family lived before the new house was built. This is now the loom-house. It is also lumbered Lip with barrels and boxes and piles of truck and hoes, tools, and probably there is still a bed in it. The people are now wearing home-made clothing, and here the girls deftly weave those bright linseys with their bright red, white and black stripes.

On the outer walls of the loom-house were now stretched the coon and possum skins, and the roof was used to dry apples and peaches in the fall of the year; and in this lumber house, tied in sacks and hang- from the cross beams were the garden seeds, the bunches of sage, boneset, onion tops, and the dried pumpkin on poles, on which were placed the rings as thickly as possible, The barrel of kraut stood with its heavy weights on it in one corner of the kitchen, and by the side of the fireplace was the huge dye-pot, and on this a wooden cover, and this was often worn smooth, being a hand y seat by the fire. Even stories were told, that seated on this there had been much sparking done before the older girls were all married off. When a young man visited a girl or for that matter a widower or bachelor paid any marked attention, it was universally called " sparkin.'

This hewed-log house was sometimes neatly weatherboarded,


painted and had a neat brick chimney, and you could not very readily tell it from a frame house. Here children were born, grew to maturity, married and commenced life nearly in their one-room. log cabin, which more rapidly gave way to the nice frame or even the great brick mansion, with the ornaments and luxuries of modern life. Where now may be seen buildings of granite, marble and iron that gleam in the morning sun in blinding Splendor that have cost hundreds of thousands, nay, even millions of dollars, once probably stood the round-log cabin that had been built from the standing trees about the spot by the husband, aided only by the young wife, with no other tools than the ax and the auger. These honest, patient, simple-minded folk never bothered their heads to anticipate the regal edifices of which their humble cabin was the beginning. Their earnest and widest aspiration was merely, 11 be it never so humble there is no place like home." Around these wide but humble hearths they saw their children grow up to strong men and women, honest, unsophisticated, rough and blunt in manner, but ignorant of the knowledge of the vices that so often lurk beneath the polish and splendors of older societies and superfluous wealth. Their wants few and simple, within the easy reach of every one, their ambition brought them no heart burnings no twinges of conscience, and none of that pitiable despair, where what we may call that higher sphere in the circles so often brings-where there are no medicines to minister to a mind diseased.

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