Cabin Construction

A pit saw like the one the Wilsons would have used to construct their cabins.

A pit saw like the one the Wilsons would have used to construct their cabins.

Each family built a two-room cabin, with a fireplace in one room and a cook stove in the other. The logs were cut out of a nearby canyon and hauled to the flat valley they called South Park. A pit saw was used to plane lumber, since it would be nearly a decade before a local sawmill was constructed in 1892. In order to cut the logs into shape, a frame was constructed to hold the log horizontal, with a catwalk on either side for a man. Below the frame, a shallow pit was dug and a second man stood here. Between them they held the saw, moving it up and down along the length of the log. With so many children around, the work went quickly. When the walls of the cabin were completed, log rafters were placed to support the roof and several smaller logs and sticks were lain between them, creating a flat surface. A thick layer of dirt was flattened over the stick ceiling, known as a “sod roof.” These sod roofs provided excellent insulation from summer sun and winter winds, but they were very messy. It was difficult to keep the rain out, and the dirt would fall through the sticks to create a film over everything below.

The sawmill in Wilson

The sawmill in Wilson, built after the area was settled.

As they could afford it, women often stretched out lengths of white linen sheets across the ceilings to prevent the ever-cascading dirt from becoming a nuisance. This also helped to lighten the interior of the dark cabins quite a bit. In these early years, the homesteaders had to be resourceful for their everyday needs, because supplies and modern convinces were a dangerous two-week trek over the Teton Pass to Idaho.

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