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Hopewell Dwellings

The Longhouse

The longhouse was a multi-family dwelling, from thirty to more than one hundred feet in length, about twenty-five feet wide, and twelve to fifteen feet high. The Iroquois used a rounded or Quonset-type roof, while the Delawares and Shawnees used a pitched or peaked roof. Poles and saplings bound together with tough bark strings formed the frame work. This was covered with large sheets of elm or birch bark, overlapping and tied in place to make a weatherproof covering.

Inside, each family had a section with a raised platform where they lived and slept. These platforms extended along the length of the longhouse on both sides. A foot or two above the ground, platforms were framed with poles and flooded with slabs of bark. A passageway down the center contained fireplaces or pits for cooking and heating. There was a smoke hole in the roof over each fire pit.

Doorways at each end of the longhouse were usually covered with a large animal skin or hide. By the middle 1700s, the Delawares and Shawnees were using smaller dwellings. In 1751, Christopher Gist visited the Lower Shawnee town at the mouth of the Scioto River. He recorded that there were one-hundred-forty houses in the town, and that the bark-covered council house was ninety feet long. The log, pole and bark houses Another type of Woodland Indian dwelling resembled a frontier log cabin and was oblong or square in shape with a pitched or A-shaped roof.

James Smith, a captive among the Ohio Wyandots and Iroquois from 1755 to 1759, described such a cabin built for a winter hunting camps to house eight hunters and thirteen women and children. He commented, "And not withstanding the winters are hard here, our lodging was much better than what I had expected." The structure was rectangular with side walls of small logs four feet or more in height and fifteen feet long. Logs were not notched but were laid between pairs of posts driven into the ground at each end. These were tied together at the top with bark strips. End walls about twelve feet long were made of split logs set upright in the ground. The ridge pole was supported by stout, forked posts at either end. From the side walls to the ridge pole, small poles were laid and tied in place to serve as rafters. The roof frame was covered with slabs of lynn bark, overlapped and tied in place. Cracks between the logs were stuffed with moss. Bear skins were hung over the doorways in each end to serve as doors. Living quarters were on the sides; a series of small fires was laid in the middle down the length of the cabin. An opening in the roof served as a chimney.

The Tepee

The tepee was generally used as a temporary shelter in a hunting camp. This cone-shaped tent covered with mats or bark had a framework of long poles set up right in a circle, leaning together at the top. Mats were made of cattails or "flags" stitched together in sections about five by fifteen feet. These light weight mats were easy to transport when rolled up.


The wigwam was a circular, or oval, dome-shaped structure, housing one or two families. The butt-ends of the pole or sapling frame were imbedded in the earth; the tapered ends were bent down and tied in place with bark strips. Over this frame was fastened a covering of bark or mats, sometimes a combination of both. Mats were made of cattails or common marsh "flags" as they were called. In the center of the domed roof was a smoke hole; a section of bark on a long pole resting against the side of the wigwam could be adjusted to keep the wind from blowing the campfire smoke back inside. Indian Villages

Indian villages might consist of as many as several hundred dwellings or cabins, or as few as a half dozen. The villages were generally located near a stream or large spring. Good land for gardens and cornfields, and a plentiful supply of firewood also was important in determining the location of a village. In prehistoric times and even after the Europeans arrived in North America, some Indian tribes fortified their villages with palisades or walls as a protection against enemy attack. By the mid-1700s this practice had been discontinued in Ohio.

In September 1772, the Reverend David McClure visited New Comerstown, then a village of about sixty houses, some made of logs and some of bark. It was located on the Tuscarawas River in Ohio, a few miles east of Coshocton. Reverend McClure saw a number of well constructed hewed log houses with stone chimneys and cellar holes. He was told by the Indians that these were built for them during the French and Indian War by their English captives.

Some village sites had been in use off and on for many years, perhaps for centuries, by both prehistoric peoples and the later historic Indians. The valley lands along the Scioto, Mad, Auglaize, Sandusky and Maumee rivers and their tributaries were among the favorite village locations during the 18th century.