Log Cabin Experiences

Iowa's first European-American settlers built houses with what they found around them. Isaac Kramer was only 6 years old when his family moved to Linn County in 1839, but he recalled years later that his father, Andrew, searched for land with plenty of water and trees. The Kramers chopped down enough trees to build a small cabin.

Cows Nibbled Walls

Isaac's cabin was dimly lit because the Kramer family used cloth instead of glass in the windows. The family "chinked" the cabin by sticking mud and hay in the cracks between logs, but the cabin was still very cold in the winter— especially when the cow nibbled on the walls!

Studying the Stars

When the weather was good, everyone tried to get outdoors—the house was smoky and damp inside. At night the parents slept downstairs on a lumpy feather bed behind a curtain. The Kramer children would climb a ladder up to their scratchy, straw-filled beds and studied astronomy through cracks in the roof.

Most activities downstairs involved the fireplace. Isaac's mother cooked over the open hearth, but the flickering flames also provided heat and light. Family members and friends gathered around the fire on long winter nights, studying, playing games and telling ghost stories.


  • Bridgett M. Williams, “Homes in History,” The Goldfinch 17, no. 3 (Spring 1996): 14-15.