Would you have liked to have lived back in the pioneer days? Sure, it would have been neat to have been friends with Abraham Lincoln. But life wasn’t always easy back then.

Pioneers didn’t have all the modern comforts that we have today. Running water was available…if you had a running stream or river nearby! Cooking took place over an open fire. And houses? They were often homemade cabins made with rough logs.

If you’ve ever been to the mountains, you may have stayed in a log cabin. Of course, most log cabins today can be built with all the conveniences of any modern home. In fact, many people prefer them because of their rustic charm and natural beauty.

But back in the day, they could be a chore to build. Have you ever WONDERed how the old pioneers went about building their log cabin homes?

Unlike modern log homes, most pioneer log cabins were simple one-story structures that often consisted of only one room. They were often built as temporary shelters when first arriving in an area.

Most pioneer log cabins were made with basic round logs. Today, modern log homes are built with hand-worked — called hewn — logs that fit together more securely than simple round logs.

Historians believe log cabins may have gotten their start in Northern Europe and Scandinavia. When these peoples began to settle the Americas, they brought their traditions of building log cabins with them.

Early settlers probably made their first log cabins by simply stacking tree trunks one on top of another and overlapping the trunks at the corners. Over time, their building processes got more sophisticated. For example, they eventually created interlocking corners by cutting notches in the ends of the logs.

To make their log cabins warmer and resistant to bad weather, settlers would fill the cracks between logs with mud or moss (called daubing) or sticks and rocks (called chinking). Fortunately, the insulating properties of wood tended to make log cabins cozier than wooden huts covered with animal skins.

Log cabin builders would look for the tallest, straightest trees they could find. These were often pine and spruce trees, which were readily available in large numbers in the forests that covered the unsettled frontier.

As people began to grow in their experience with building log cabins, they developed better tools to help in construction. Over time, a family could build a new log cabin from the ground up in just a few days.

Since most log cabins were not meant as permanent dwellings, not many old log cabins still exist. When English settlers began to come to America, they often built more traditional houses and converted existing log cabins to outbuildings to be used as animal shelters or sheds.

Today, many kids enjoy building their own miniature log cabins with toys called Lincoln Logs. These toys are notched dowel rods that resemble small logs. They’re supposedly named after Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a log cabin in Kentucky and grew up in another log cabin in Indiana.

54 Join the Discussion

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    • What a great couple of guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder, Chloe! Thanks so much for sharing your comment – today’s Wonder was super cool! We enjoyed learning about the process of building a log cabin, especially since people have been doing it for so long! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Crystal! We’re so happy that you enjoyed our log cabin Wonder today! HOORAY! It takes a lot of work, time and people to build a log cabin! Even though log cabins can be built with just a few people, it takes less time with teamwork! :)

  1. We liked watching the log cabin being built.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about cancer. At school, we are raising money for children with cancer. We are doing the pennies for patients program.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends in Ms. Bayko’s Class! Thanks for visiting us on this fantastic Friday- we are so lucky to have great Wonder Friends like you!

      We know you were our first Wonder classroom to comment on this past Wonder, but we hope you’ll check out Wonder #729 again: What is Cancer? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-cancer/ We think you are doing a great thing by helping children with cancer- we are really proud of you and your fundraising program! :)

  2. We were disappointed that we did not get to see the finished product! We want to see the END result! :( Send us the whole video, please! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends from 4th Grade class, we’re glad you’re here today! We would love to see the final product of that awesome log cabin, too, but unfortunately that’s the entire video! 100 great people volunteered their time, skills and energy for one day- and they made some great progress! The video captures a day’s worth of work! Perhaps you can do some more research of your own to find another video that features the entire building process, or you can get involved with a local organization to help! :)

  3. We loved learning about log cabins. We also really enjoyed the picture you posted of a log cabin. The mountains in the picture are beautiful. The season looks like fall because the leaves had fallen are seemed to be lots of different colors. We also had no idea that Lincoln Logs were named after Abraham Lincoln! Have a great weekend, Wonderopolis!

    • Thanks for sharing what you enjoyed about today’s Wonder, Miss Hobson’s Class! We’re so glad to know that our Wonder Friends are here today! We think you have done a SUPER job of using context clues to infer information about the Wonder video! Have a SUPER day and a WONDERful weekend! We’ll see you soon! :)

    • We’re so happy you’re here today, Wonder Friend Scott! Thanks for visiting us and learning a new thing or two! Have a WONDERful day! :)

  4. Thoughts: We really wanted to see what the log cabin looked like when it was done. We noticed that the video used time lapse to move the process along. We also think it would be miserable to build a house in the rain.

    Connections: We made a connection to “Where is Scandanavia? and The Easter Island Head and “Do You have a Photographic Memory?”

    Predictions: Did you get your flu shot this year? Do you know how to prevent a heart attack? How does the flu spread? What is cancer? Why do people use pink to represent cancer? How do people get cancer? What does cancer mainly target in our bodies? What’s a cavity? How many different kinds of cancer are there? How do you get leukemia? How do you get diabetes?

    • Good afternoon, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Hess’ Class! We are so happy you’re WONDERing with us today! We bet the finished log cabin is awesome– we can’t believe all that happened in only ONE day!

      We really enjoyed that you separated your comment into three sections: thoughts, connections and predictions! HOORAY for you!

      We look forward to WONDERing with you again tomorrow! We hope the rest of your day is SUPER, just like you! :)

    • Great guesses, Wonder Friends in Mrs. B’s Class! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be- we hope you’ll be back to visit us soon! :)

  5. This is our first visit to Wonderopolis. We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about the flu, cavities, gum disease,or junk food.

    • Welcome to Wonderopolis, Wonder Friends from Maple Glen 3rd Grade! We are thrilled that you’re here today!

      We hope you learned something new about building a log cabin, and we are so happy you shared your awesome guesses with us today! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis, we sure hope to see you soon! :)

  6. Our class is wondering how long it took to cut and build their temporary homes back in the old days? We also wonder how many trees they had to cut down to make them?

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends in Ms. Sizemore’s class! We’re so glad you have come up with some Wonders of your own about log cabins! We certainly think it would take awhile to build those cabins without the tools we use today, but the cabins were much simpler back then. Keep up the SUPER WONDERing! We hope to see you soon! :)

    • Hey there, Landon! We’re so happy this Wonder was right up your alley! You don’t need to time travel back to the pioneer days, perhaps you can be an engineer or a contractor! You can build awesome things today! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

    • We’re glad this Wonder made you smile, Samiel! Perhaps you and your family can take a vacation and stay in a log cabin! How fun! :)

  7. I loved the Wonder of the Day it taught me how to build a log cabin and since I know how now I am going to get some help trying to make a log cabin.

    • We’re so glad today’s Wonder inspired you, Inshirah! We hope you and your friends can build a cool model cabin, or house! You can use Lego blocks, Lincoln Logs, or even household items! :)

    • That’s a great place to start, Nikolas! Thanks for sharing your comment– we hope you’ll build a miniature log cabin soon! :)

    • That’s awesome news, Wonder Friend! We do lots of research to make sure our Wonders are ready for our Wonder Friends to view! We go to the library, use the Internet, and even talk to experts! Thanks for sharing your comment with us! Keep up the WONDERing! :)

  8. I think people work very hard making a log cabin or a log house. I bet people move fast because someone put this video together to make this video quicker and quicker, too! By the way, I’m in Mrs.Hess’s class! Yeah!

    I think tomorrow’s WONDER would be about… What is cancer? How people spread the pink eye? Why people have a cold? What is a flu? Is pink eye means there pink on someone’s eye? Can people die with cancer?

    Thank you, Wonderopolis! :) :) $$$

    • We think you’re right, Kathy, it takes a lot of time and effort to build a log cabin! We liked the time lapse video, so we can see all that those people accomplished in just one day!

      Thanks for sharing your guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! We hope your day is super, just like you! :)

  9. Wow, the pioneers would’ve been cold in the winter, eh?

    I think the next wonder of the day is about diabetes, because if you get too much sweet/sugar, your blood pressure might rise, having a higher chance of getting diabetes.
    I love guessing the next wonder of the day. :3

    • We think you’re right, Sara, it would have been cold in the winter as a pioneer. It’s a good thing they were surrounded by trees, so they could create campfires to keep them warm.

      Thanks for sharing your awesome guesses with us, we think you’re on the right track! :)

    • Thanks so much, Wonder Friend Lils! We’re so happy you enjoyed our log cabin Wonder; perhaps you can do some research of your own about how to build a log cabin. You can even try out different ideas using Lincoln Logs or Lego Blocks! Good luck! :)

    • WOW, we are very impressed by your awesome cabin building skills, Wonder Friend Guner! We think it’s so cool that you shared your comment about building a cabin on your own! NICE WORK! :)

    • Well thank you so much, Wonder Friend Asher! We would like to see the final product of the cabin, too! We are impressed to learn that all that work was done in just ONE day! It took a huge team and a lot of effort to get that far! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Michaiah! We are glad this Wonder made you smile! The team completed a lot of work in one day– we are impressed with what they have accomplished! Perhaps you can help build a house in the future with a volunteer group!? :)

    • Thank you for sharing your comment, Wonder Friend Mikayla! We are glad you enjoyed our building Wonder! What was your favorite part? Did you learn something new? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How do you build a log cabin?
  • What types of trees are used to build log cabins?
  • Can you make a log cabin at home?

Wonder Gallery

Log CabinVimeo Video

Try It Out

What do you think? Would you like to live in a log cabin? Ask a friend or family member to help you explore one or more of the following fun activities.

  • What do you think it would’ve been to live life in the pioneer days in a log cabin? Can you imagine living without running water? What about without electricity? If you’re disciplined enough, you can get a little taste of what it might have been like right in your own home. How? It’s simple! Are you thirsty for a cool drink of water? In the pioneer days, you would’ve probably had to walk a little ways for water. So go outside and walk around the block before getting your drink of water. In need of a bath? Take a couple laps around the block and then realize you’d also have to start a fire to warm that water unless you wanted a cold bath! When it’s time to do your homework, break out the candles. That’s right! Turn off the lights and try to read or do your homework by candlelight. Just a few little examples like this will give you a bit of a taste of what life might have been like in the pioneer days!
  • When it comes to engineering techniques, the old-fashioned log cabin might have been eclipsed by modern buildings but many of its features remain today. Can you look around your neighborhood and find any examples of the techniques, like chinking and daubing, used in log cabins? Check the playground for wooden equipment. Look for modern wooden houses. What about modern brick homes with interlocking bricks? If you look hard enough, you’ll probably find several examples of the techniques developed with the first log cabins. Make a list of the examples you find and share them with your family.
  • Ready to build your own log cabin at home? Hold on just a second, though. Put away the axe and the saw. There’s no need to cut down any trees! You can make your own unique log cabin craft using all sorts of different materials. Check out the projects below and choose one to engineer on your own. Make sure you have all the supplies you need before you get started.

When you’re finished, be sure to upload a picture of your log cabin creation to Facebook. We can’t wait to see what you make!

Still Wondering

Check out ArtsEdge’s Carrot Cabin activity to make a log cabin out of carrot sticks!

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

If you like creepy-crawlies, then you’re sure to love tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day!

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.