The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania

By Solon J. Buck; Elizabeth Hawthorn Buck et al. | Go to book overview
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XIV. Domestic Life

THE everyday life of the people of western Pennsylvania in their homes derived its characteristics of course from their cultural heritage and from their environment. Both of these elements, however, were variables. The cultural heritage of an individual or family depended not only upon the status of western civilization in general, which was constantly changing, but also upon the specific background of that individual or family; and the local environment was not only changing rapidly but varied from section to section at any given time in accordance with physical conditions and with the age and density of settlement. The outstanding types of cultural heritage that emerge from the welter of individual variations are the Virginian, the Scotch and Scotch-Irish Presbyterian, and the German; the major environmental types are the backwoodsman, the pioneer farmer, and the townsman. By the close of the period under consideration, the backwoodsman had vanished from southwestern Pennsylvania, except in some of the mountainous sections, though he was still an important element in the northern counties of the region. In the older counties, population growth and increased wealth had afforded to most of the people opportunities for more graceful living than was possible in the primitive "cabin in the clearing" of the pioneers.

Whatever the social or racial status of the first pioneers in any district, their early dwellings were very much alike. Many, after having chosen their land, put up as temporary living quarters the type of shelter used by hunters in the wilderness and called a "half-faced camp." This was a three-sided structure of light poles with brush interwoven to keep out the wind and rain. The open face of the camp was higher than the rear so that the roof sloped from front to back. Just outside of the shelter were kindled fires for cooking and, when necessary, for heating--the warmth of the fires radiated into the open

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