Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter XVIII. Buildings

Until the settler could erect his rude shanty, which usually took about two weeks, the spreading forest trees formed the only protection for his family from wind and weather. Coming, as they generally did, in the early summer, this was not severely felt unless a period of rain made their condition deplorable.

The settler’s first task was, of course, the erection of a log shanty, and all in the community turned out to help the newcomer build his house. These gatherings for co-operative labor were called “bees” in Upper Canada. The same institution was known by the name of “frolics” in New Brunswick.

A number of straight, round basswood trees were cut down and logs cut off the required length, seldom more than fifteen or twenty feet. These being roughly notched at the corners were piled one on top of another until the required height of the walls was obtained. The Government had provided saws, as has been mentioned, and with these an opening was cut for a door and a window.

The wall on one side was generally built four or five feet higher than on the other, and the roof put on in one continuous slant. Others managed to make a kind of gable roof. Strips of bark (generally black oak or swamp oak), overlapping one another, formed the sheeting of the roof. As nails were an extreme scarcity, for they cost 18d. a pound, and being made by hand, so few were in a pound that the price was at least a shilling a dozen, this bark, which formed the roof, was fastened to the rafters by green withes.

The interspaces of the logs which formed the walls were filled up with small straight branches, chinked with clay, which soon hardened so as to be air and water tight.

The fireplace was made of flat stones, laid one upon another, with clay for mortar, the roughness of the material necessitating its occupation of an exceedingly disproportionate space in the one-roomed house.

The chimney was composed of strips of hard wood fitted together and plastered with mud. These were not always safe, for Captain Ryerse’s house was burned to the ground in 1804, having caught fire from the chimney.

The floor of the cabin was made of split timber, rudely levelled by the axe, or by an adze if there was one in the community.

As has been mentioned, the government allowed a whip saw to every fourth family, and with this lumber for a door was sawn out and a few boards wherewith to make a rough table and benches.

The bedstead was formed by inserting long straight poles into the walls across the end of the house while the walls were in process of construction. Between these poles the long strips of green bark would be woven back and forward—a very comfortable “spring mattress.”

The earlier settlers also followed the fashion of changing or trading work or labor. One who possessed any skill as a carpenter was in constant demand, and the others would do, in exchange for his services, the rough work in clearing his land. The “village carpenter” would make and fit in the little sash with its four panes of glass, in the opening left for a window. He would, perhaps, also construct a rude cabinet or cupboard for them, or a chest of drawers.

These articles with, it may be, some treasured heirloom brought from their native home, such as a tall clock, or a carved chair with curved feet, or an old mahogany escritoire, would constitute the furniture of the early settler’s home.

Yet they were happy, for they were on British soil, which to them meant more than palatial homes and broad, cleared lands; more than fine clothes and fine furniture; more than flocks of sheep and herds of cattle; more than all the luxuries which the thought of rebellion and the countenancing of it made as gall and wormwood to their loyal hearts.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.