Saturday, August 27, 2011

If The Walls Could Talk

Life in a log cabin in very early days was not easy . Winter was the hardest . Wind finding the holes made for cold nights sometimes , especially if the chinking failed.
That wind stimulated progress towards improving the cabin keep it as cozy in February as it was in December.

There is an on-going project at my brother's house with the original part of the home my parents purchased in 1969. It was built in the style of log houses of earlier times. Large white pines from the area immediately around were felled , squared and notched by hand before assembling a two story (story and a half) home for a new family in the wilds of Ontario circa 1850.

The logs over the 160 years had disappeared under the accumulated layers that tried to keep out the winter winds . When my brother decided to start from scratch and to insulate properly, we discovered that these walls did in fact talk of the times and history of every family who lived in it .

The first step in the process was to bring the walls back to the bare logs to fix the chinking. Down came the wallpaper Mum had put up in the 1980's which revealed the sparkly stucco paint I had put on parts in the 60's. Then off came the pressed-paper wallboard of the post second war period with its three layers of different coloured paint and wallpaper.
 One hundred years to go .
Under that was  tongue and groove cedar ( pre 1929 crash) with the three layers of paint on them to make the depression ( 1930's) brighter .

Mum's wallpaper
 At this point , the details of life for the family/generations who lived here cleared with each layer.

Mum's first wallpaper to cover canary
yellow paint

Three wallpapers preceded the cedar boards that finally gave the walls a smooth look that all the occupants from early decades had tried to achieve with no success . These papers had the backing as part of the wallpaper.

These three layers had a layer of brown backing paper applied to the walls prior to the new wallpaper.

When they were removed , the next layer showed that it was 1896 . Newspapers from Toronto , Montreal and and Cleveland ,Ohio were flour pasted up to support wallpaper that came in rolls of thin , fragile weight . News of The Boer War , pre World War I Europe and Sir Wilfred Laurier literally plastered the walls .

Abbott's Soda box

Pages from Women's periodicals

...and more layers of wallpaper...

 ...pages of children's exercise books written in quill and ink...

...and a piece of paper with the pencil work done by Marie Louise as she struggled to write her name...

...and Mrs. Lucy Morel had three items shipped out of Toronto by Eaton's Company...perhaps it was wallpaper !?

...and bits of cardboard boxes from Quaker oats ( no man on the box yet ) were nailed into place  using hand made nails ...over depressions and mouseholes to slow down the wind.

The pages of Woman's Home Companion , Volume 34 , March issue
Serial story. advertisement in a local paper for Quesnel & (Sons) in Mattawa

...burlap sacks silk screened with "Manitoba Winter Wheat" seed shipped up River from Pembroke... the new seed being tried out in the Selkirk Settlement...

...Over top of the first wallpaper that was applied directly to the logs , I found flimsy pages from Leviticus of the King James Version Bible pasted along the chinking lines doubt with the hope that God would keep the winter winds at bay . No other paper was used. How cold that first family must have felt to sacrifice the only book they had !

When the very first wallpaper was finally dampened and scraped off the logs , two pencilled records were scribed onto the fresh adze marks that showed white against smoke blackened wood . The one five feet from the floor showed a measurement of length and width , about the size of the window space . Renovations ! The other , about two feet off the floor , was the alphabet printed by a very small hand.

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