The 1830s was called the Michigan Decade. In 1830, 27,000 people lived in Michigan; by 1840 more than 212,000 people lived here. Most early pioneers arrived in Detroit by boat from Buffalo, New York. But getting to the state‚Äôs biggest city was easy, especially when compared to getting to the land they planned to settle. The roads were muddy, rocky trails. There were no bridges, which made crossing even the smallest creek a problem. Fallen trees, getting lost, and wild animals also caused problems.
Once a family got to their land they made a shanty to live in until their log cabin could be built. The father and sons cut 50 to 60 trees and stacked them into a rectangular structure. The gaps in the logs were filled with small strips of wood and mud, called chinking. The roof was made of shingles that were sliced from logs. Smaller logs held down the shingles because nails were unavailable. A doorway and a window were cut. A door was made from split logs, and since glass was unavailable, greased paper covered the window.
A fireplace was also added. Since there were no matches and neighbors might live miles away, the fire was always kept burning. There were no walls dividing the cabin, so blankets set off a bedroom. Children usually slept in the loft.
When the cabin was finished the land had to be cleared. Oxen pulled a plow to break up the land for planting. Once the grain was harvested, it was hauled to a gristmill, which was usually miles from the cabin.
Wild animals were nuisances, but the worst pest was the mosquito. Since Michigan was very wet, there were lots of mosquitoes. Many pioneers suffered from the ague, which was caused by mosquito bites. The ague was rarely fatal, but it left people with a high fever and chills.
Fortunately, the pioneer period did not last long. By the 1850s roads and cities were conquering the wilderness, and houses were replacing log cabins.
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