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The History of Log Cabins | Duluth Pack

The History of Log Cabins 

Aesthetically pleasing, made from renewable resources and energy-efficient, a cozy and functional structure to call home in all seasons, built by pioneers in early America; the history of log cabins.


1750 embarks the earliest usage of the term “log-cabin”, but the truth is that these homes have been built for millennia, having a rich and somewhat unknown history. When America was in its settlement years, the concept of log cabins was brought aboard by Scandinavians, as this style of home was very common in countries of Sweden and Finland. The earliest known log cabins were built somewhere around 5000 years ago in Europe, which explains a lot about this iconic style of home in terms of functionality and ease of building if the required materials are attained.


Historically, log cabin homes were built to provide populations with temporary shelters while finding a permanent location for a home. If you were coming to a new country without a house, at least in those days, you had to build one when you got there. Log cabins gave people an avenue to build a location to call home. There were also log cabins constructed for functional purposes such as a barn or outhouse for farmers and larger homes. The construction of a log cabin is simple and requires minimal material to build, which worked out in the homesteaders' favor as they often immigrated to the Colonies with only the essential items for survival. The historical purpose of the log cabin was to provide an easy to build shelter and satisfy a survival need.


A log cabin is made of logs stacked upon one another, but what were the other key aspects in a traditional log cabin? The most prominent feature of a log cabin or home are the notches built on the corners of the structure to provide tight-fitting for the overlapping logs. Typically, log cabins were built 6-16 feet high, and the most fundamental elements of the first log cabins in America were traditionally to contain one room, a stone fireplace, and maybe a window. Some log cabins featured a loft built above meant for sleeping, but the general structure stayed the same, while others featured furniture like a table and chairs and a floor that was most commonly made of packed dirt or wooden boards. Where it lacked architectural impressiveness, it made up for it in spirit. The ease and quickness of building the log cabin made it a very common and viable option for newcomers in America, as they could put one up in a range from a couple of days to a few weeks depending on the number of people they had to assist in building. A guide to building a pioneer-style log cabin can be found here.


Previously mentioned, Scandinavians had been building log homes for centuries and brought their techniques over to the United States during westward expansion. It is believed that the first log cabins in America were built in New Sweden, Delaware along rivers by Swedish migrants around 1700. People of all descents adopted those ways and log cabins became common amongst settlers in the 13th colonies. Throughout and after this time, log cabins became a symbol of the spirit and hardships that pioneers endured during the Westward Expansion era. These structures would remain common for farmers, rural dwellers, and hunters that continued the tradition of log cabins until the modern era. At least 6 Presidents lived in log cabins at one point or another, including 16th President Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky inside of one room- you guessed it- log cabin. Before that, in 1840, President William Harrison used the log cabin politically as a way to symbolize himself as being a man of the people while campaigning.


The history of the log cabin continued to evolve its legacy through the Great Depression. President FDR initiated the New Deal in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a voluntary work relief program, worked on a variety of different environmental projects including the planting of 3 billion+ trees and constructing different trails and shelters for more than 800 parks. Within the CCC, they also constructed shelters and buildings that included log cabins for visitors to stay on their visit to the state or national parks. The construction of these log cabins helped employ Americans in a time of need as well as ensure the conservation of our great parks.


Today, the log cabin is an iconic style for a cabin or hunting shack, for the most part, purposed for recreation. Many companies offer building kits that allow the construction of a log cabin to be easier than ever. However, log cabins can still be built as a permanent place of residency and have a lot of positive features, if constructed properly they can be used for upwards of 60 years. Because of the mass of the logs, they are extremely energy efficient in the storage of heat and can be very beneficial in climates that have large temperature swings from day to night.


Log cabins are a nod to the origins of our country and heritage. These small homes gave access to a new opportunity for many people in the United States' beginning. A common and easy to build structure that helped carve the legacy of our country and endured through it all.

If you’re in the business for a new cabin, consider the time-tested log cabin and contribute to a wonderful piece of U.S. history.

Check out the American Felling Axe and the Kisa Felling Axe for some inspiration to building your log cabin. Or maybe you just need an axe to split some logs for the fire, whatever the case may be, check out our guide to finding the right axe for your needs.


Happy logging, friends!






September 28, 2020 by Andrea Johnson