Richard of Jamestown - James Otis

Building a House of Logs

While the others were hunting here and there for the gold which it had been said could be picked up in Virginia as one gathers acorns in the old world, Captain Smith set about making a house of logs such as would protect him from the storms of winter as well as from the summer sun.

This he did by laying four logs on the ground in the form of a square, and so cutting notches in the ends of each that when it was placed on the top of another, and at right angles with it, the hewn portions would interlock, one with the other, holding all firmly in place. On top of these, other huge tree trunks were laid with the same notching of the ends.

It was a vast amount of labor, thus to roll up the heavy logs in the form of a square until a pen or box had been made as high as a man's head, and then over that was built a roof of logs fastened together with wooden pins, or pegs, for iron nails were all too scarce and costly to be used for such purpose.

When the house had been built thus far, the roof was formed of no more than four or five logs on which a thatching of grass was to be laid later, and the ends, in what might be called the "peak of the roof," were open to the weather. Then it was that roughly hewn planks, or logs split into three or four strips, called puncheons, were pegged with wooden nails on the sides, or ends, where doors or windows were to be made.

[Illustration] from Richard of Jamestown by James Otis

Then the space inside this framework was sawed out, and behold you had a doorway, or the opening for a window, to be filled in afterward as time and material with which to work might permit.

After this had been done, the ends under the roof were covered with yet more logs, sawn to the proper length and pegged together, until, save for the crevices between the timbers, the whole gave protection against the weather.

Then came the work of thatching the roof, which was done by the branches of trees, dried grass, or bark. My master put on first a layer of branches from which the leaves had been stripped, and over that we laid coarse grass to the depth of six or eight inches, binding the same down with small saplings running from one side to the other, to the number of ten on each slope of the roof. To me was given the task of closing up the crevices between the logs with mud and grass mixed, and this I did the better because Nathaniel Peacock worked with me, doing his full share of the labor.


Front Matter

Who I am
Left Alone in the World
An Idle Boy
Captain Smith Comes to London
Meeting Captain Smith
Captain Smith Speaks to Me
Plans of the London Company
The Vessels of the Fleet
How I Earned my Passage
When the Fleet Set Sail
The Voyage Delayed
Nathaniel's Story
We Make Sail Again
The First Island
Captain Smith Accused
Captain Smith a Prisoner
I Attend My Master
Several Islands Visited
A Variety of Wild Game
The Tempest
The New Country Sighted
The Leader Not Known
Arrival at Chesapeake Bay
An Attack by the Savages
Reading the Company's Orders
Captain Smith on the Council
Smith Remains Aboard
Exploring the Country
People Land from the Ships
Captain Smith Proven Innocent
We Who were Left Behind
Baking Bread without Ovens
Unequal Division of Labor
Building a Home of Logs
Keeping House
Lack of Cleanliness
Cave Homes
The Golden Fever
Ducks and Oysters
Roasting Oysters
Leaning to Cook
The Sweet Potato Root
A Touch of Homesickness
Master Hunt's Preaching
Neglecting the Future
Surprised by Savages
Strengthening the Fort
Sickness and Death
Smith Gains Authority
Disagreeable Discipline
Signs of Rebellion
Second Proclamation
Building a Fortified Village
Trapping Turkeys
A Crude Kind of Chimney
Cooking a Turkey
Candles or Rushlights
The Visit of Pocahontas
Captain Kendall's Plot
Death of Captain Kendall
Captain Smith's Expedition
An Exciting Adventure
Taken Before Powhatan
Pocahontas Begs for Smith
Captain Smith's Return
A New Church
Captain Newport's Return
A Worthless Cargo
Condition of the Colony
Captain Newport's Return
Gazing at the Women
Hunt Brings Great News
Captain Newport's Instructions
The Story of Roanoke
The Crowning of Powhatan
Preparing for the Future
Stealing Company Goods
What the Thieving Led To
Fear of Famine
The Unhealthful Location
Gathering Oysters
Sturgeon for Food
Turpentine and Tar
Making Clapboards
Providing for Children
Dreams of the Future
A Plague of Rats
Treachery During Smith's Absence
Captain Smith's Speech
The New Laws
The Accident
Captain Smith's Departure
The "Starving Time"
Our Courage Gives Out
Abandoning Jamestown
Lord De la Warr's Arrival
The Young Planters