Country Life in the 1830s

log-house-1045230_960_720Most country homes in the 1830s were log cabins covered with clapboards. The cabins contained two rooms, a garret (loft) used as a sleeping area, and a wide fireplace at one end. Mud and sticks formed the outside chimney.


Families spent most of their time around the family hearth in front of a blazing fire that warmed the cabin. Families read books, drank cider, talked, and told stories around the comforting warmth of this fire. They also entertained company there in the light of a lard lamp.


Log barns and stables were not large. Owners marked the ears of their livestock that ran outdoors year-round. Cows and hogs roamed the woods in the summer. Cows wore bells to help find them easily at milking time.


Women baked and cooked at the fireplace. There were no cooking stoves. An iron pot hung on a crane over the fire to boil dinners. Mush, a thick porridge, was a common meal cooked this way. Children often filled tin cups with mush for an evening meal.


Fire was very important in these homes. They didn’t use coal for heating in those days nor did they use lucifer matches for lighting. When the fire died out, someone walked to the nearest neighbor to “borrow fire” or used steel and flint to start a new one.


-Sandra Merville Hart







“The History of Matches,” Inventors 2015/06/10


“Clapboard,” 2015/06/10


“Lard Lamps,” Old Time Lamp Shop, 2015/06/10


Welker, Martin. 1830’s Farm Life in Central Ohio, Clapper’s Print, 2005.



5 thoughts on “Country Life in the 1830s

  1. I’m curious about the statement “farmers marked the ears of their livestock.” When I first read it, I imagined ears were cut or “notched,” but perhaps you meant something was inked onto the inner ear as an identifier? The rest of the article is quite clear…and I shuddered a bit to imagine routine dinners of mush. Give me a plate with vegetables and more to interest my palate. Stews or soups are fine on occasion, but porridge is strictly for breakfast to me. (And, yes, I’m fine with having “breakfast for dinner” with omelets, eggs or breads.)

    I’ll be interested to watch your site as it grows. Thanks!


    • Hi Cynthia, like you I was under the impression that farmers notched the ears. I will recheck the source to see if the author clarifies it, but it will take a few days to get the book. I’ll reply as soon as I know. And I agree with you about the mush – I’d be so bored by the third straight supper of it! The book was written by a man who wanted folks to know how country folks lived when he grew up in the 1830s. What a gift he gave us! So glad to read your comments. I’m having a lot of fun learning. Hope you will, too!


      • Hi Cynthia, I checked the source again. Cows and hogs were released into the woods during summer “with ear marks of the owner.” There was no other explanation. Hope that helps! Thanks, Sandy


  2. I used to think it would be fun live in the 1800s until I watched a television show where contestants had to live like they did back then. The first night of the show, where thy showed mice running around in the cabin, cured me of that bit of romanticism. Looking forward to reading more.


    • That’s funny, Catherine! Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m cured yet. I still love the time period. My imagination soars back in time – I guess that explains why I write historicals! 🙂


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