|LONGHOUSES, TEPEES AND WIGWAMS
The longhouse was a multi-family dwelling, from 30 to more than 100 feet in length, about
25 feet wide, and 12-15 feet high. The Iroquois used a rounded or Quonset-type roof, while
the Delawares and Shawnees used a pitched or peaked roof. Poles and saplings bound
together with tough bark strings formed the frame work. This was covered with large sheets
of elm or birch bark, overlapping and tied in place to make a weatherproof covering.
Inside, each family had a section with a raised platform where they lived and
slept. These platforms extended along the length of the longhouse on both sides. A foot or
two above the ground, platforms were framed with poles and flooded with slabs of bark. A
passageway down the center contained fireplaces or pits for cooking and heating. There was
a smoke hole in the roof over each fire pit. Doorways at each end of the longhouse were
usually covered with a large animal skin or hide. By the middle 1700s, the Delawares and
Shawnees were using smaller dwellings.
Log, pole and bark houses
Another type of Woodland Indian dwelling resembled a frontier log cabin and was oblong or
square in shape with a pitched or A-shaped roof. James Smith, a captive among the
Ohio Wyandots and Iroquois from 1755 to 1759, described such a cabin built for a winter
hunting camps to house eight hunters and thirteen women and children. He commented,
"And not withstanding the winters are hard here, our lodging was much better than
what I had expected."
The structure was rectangular with side walls of
small logs four feet or more in height and fifteen feet long. Logs were not notched but
were laid between pairs of posts driven into the ground at each end. These were tied
together at the top with bark strips. End walls about twelve feet long were made of split
logs set upright in the ground. The ridge pole was supported by stout, forked posts at
either end. From the side walls to the ridge pole, small poles were laid and tied in place
to serve as rafters. The roof frame was covered with slabs of lynn bark, overlapped and
tied in place. Cracks between the logs were stuffed with moss. Bear skins were hung over
the doorways in each end to serve as doors. Living quarters were on the sides; a series of
small fires was laid in the middle down the length of the cabin. An opening in the roof
served as a chimney.
The tepee was generally used as a temporary shelter in a hunting camp. This cone-shaped
tent covered with mats or bark had a framework of long poles set up right in a circle,
leaning together at the top. Mats were made of cattails or "flags" stitched
together in sections about five by fifteen feet. These light weight mats were easy to
transport when rolled up.
The wigwam was a circular, or oval, dome-shaped structure, housing one or two families.
The butt-ends of the pole or sapling frame were imbedded in the earth; the tapered ends
were bent down and tied in place with bark strips. Over this frame was fastened a covering
of bark or mats, sometimes a combination of both. Mats were made of cattails or common
marsh "flags" as they were called. In the center of the domed roof was a smoke
hole; a section of bark on a long pole resting against the side of the wigwam could be
adjusted to keep the wind from blowing the campfire smoke back inside.
Indian villages might consist of as many as several hundred dwellings or cabins, or as few
as a half dozen. The villages were generally located near a stream or large spring. Good
land for gardens and cornfields, and a plentiful supply of firewood also was important in
determining the location of a village. In prehistoric times and even after the Europeans
arrived in North America, some Indian tribes fortified their villages with palisades or
walls as a protection against enemy attack. By the mid-1700s this practice had been
discontinued in Ohio. In September 1772, the Reverend David McClure visited New
Comerstown, then a village of about 60 houses, some made of logs and some of bark. It was
located on the Tuscarawas River in Ohio, a few miles east of Coshocton. Reverend McClure
saw a number of well constructed hewed log houses with stone chimneys and cellar holes. He
was told by the Indians that these were built for them during the French and Indian War by
their English captives. Some village sites had been in use off and on for many years,
perhaps for centuries, by both prehistoric peoples and the later historic Indians. The
valley lands along the Scioto, Mad, Auglaize, Sandusky and Maumee rivers and their
tributaries were among the favorite village locations during the 18th century.
Some of the text on this page is from: project..ohiokids.org/ohc/history
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