Search   
 
 
 
Swedish Cabin - View from the outside of the Swedish Log Cabin, Darby Creek, Drexel Hill Pennsylvania
View from the outside of the Swedish Log Cabin, Darby Creek, Drexel Hill Pennsylvania
The Swedish colony
on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania is undoubtedly an important element of the founding of Pennsylvania. Although the number of the colonists thus settled there was small, and the territory of which they took possession but limited, and the political connection with Sweden soon severed, yet the influence of that movement is still felt in America. The descendants of the original Swedish colonists continued to cultivate the lands of which their ancestors took possession more than three centuries since. The first colony of 1638 gives direction and character to the new and increasing numbers of Swedish colonists who emigrated and settled colonial America.

Swedish Cabin - The Swedish Log Cabin was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980
The Swedish Log Cabin was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980
The Swedes who emigrated to America belonged partly to a trading company provided with a charter, who for their services, according to their condition or agreement, were to receive pay and monthly wages, a part of them also went at their own impulse to try their fortune. For these it was free to settle and live in the country as long as they pleased, or to leave it, and they were therefore, by way of distinction from the others, called freemen.

Johan Printz was the most influential governor of New Sweden from 1643 to 1653 when New Sweden rose to its greatest heights. He extended settlements northward from Fort Christina along both sides of the Delaware River and improved the colony's military and commercial prospects by building Fort Elfsborg, near present-day Salem on the New Jersey side of the river. He was a very large man, over 400 pounds, which earned him the nickname "Big Belly" with the native Lenni Lenape tribe.

Swedish Cabin - The corner fireplace in the Swedish Log Cabin
The corner fireplace in the Swedish Log Cabin
The capital was then situated a mile back from the South or (Delaware) River, and he began looking for a new location. Tinicum which is now Essington was his choice for the new capital. Tinicum was the place that Printz built Fort New Gothenburg, the first seat of a European government in what was to become Penn’s Woods. Unfortunately, Governor Printz ruled autocratically and many settlers were unhappy with the Governer's autocratic rule. A petition by the settlers was issued which led to the return of the Governor to Sweden.

The Darby Creek originally known as Nyeck's Kihl flowed into the South River right below Tinicum Island. Early Swedes were looking for a new place to build settled on a spot next to the Great Hill and rising rapids. This area had an abundance of oak and chestnut trees with large flat stones for the buildings.

Swedish Cabin - The corner fireplace in the East Room of the Swedish Log Cabin.
The corner fireplace in the East Room of the Swedish Log Cabin.
On this spot still stands the only remaining colonial log cabin of Swedish architecture built sometime after 1638 and before 1655 and is most likely the oldest log cabin in North America. There is no written record of the actual construction. The Swedes were famous for their log cabin architecture. When William Penn and the English arrived in the new colony, they found numerous log structures- barns, churches, forts, mills, trading posts, and stables. Colonial settlers took the log cabin architecture and copied it all across America, although each European settler picked up his own ethnic and regional distinctions of construction in the chinking, roofing. the shaping and notching of logs, and position of chimney.

Swedish Cabin - Upper area below the pitch of the roof
Upper area below the pitch of the roof
The simple dwelling was quickly erected with round logs with bark intact using the notching method because nails weren't necessary for construction. In the early days of the colony, glass had to be imported from Europe. The Swedes and the Finns covered cabin windows with sliding boards fit between the courses of logs. Unlike the English tradition of building fireplaces, inside a corner fireplace of stone was built in the Scandinavian tradition. It was custom to use split logs and build a A low-pitched roof. We are accustomed to laying a floor of pine boards. Instead the Swedish floors were made of hard packed clay. The chinking used was either mud or clay mixed with straw, grass, or animal hair.

The East side addition was added shortly after the initial construction of the cabin, most likely ten to fifteen years later. The pitch of the roof was changed to provide more sleeping space on the second floor and a winding staircase was added for easier access. Windows were eventually put on the gable ends for light.

Swedish Cabin - Looking between rooms of the Swedish Log Cabin
Looking between rooms of the Swedish Log Cabin
The Swedish Log Cabin was occupied for almost 300 years, originally by the Swedes and Finns, then by the English once the Swedes settled elsewhere in the country. Most likely the colonial inhabitants worked in the mills along the Darby Creek. During this time the Cabin was anglicized. Mill workers inhabited the Cabin until the early part of the twentieth century.

An Historic American Building Survey was performed in 1937 when the Cabin became the property of Upper Darby township. Because of its secluded location, the cabin became either neglected or vandalized. Local citizens understood its historical significance and wanted to see it restored. They eventually started to clean the cabin and replace broken boards. The Darby Creek Valley Association (DVCA) established a Historic Sites Committee and through their efforts, the Cabin was finally placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Swedish Cabin - Long time caretaker, Walter Evans, the tour guide for my trip to the Swedish Log Cabin
Long time caretaker, Walter Evans, the tour guide for my trip to the Swedish Log Cabin
A study was undertaken on how to restore the Cabin after a State was received. It was determined that an interested group should oversee the restoration The Friends of the Swedish Cabin (FSC) was incorporated August 13, 1986. The cabin was restored and rededicated and open to the public April 1988. The roof was replaced with German style side lapped oak shingles and were again replaced with cedar shingles when it was discovered the oak shingles were not water tight. Accurate to the period but not original, V-board gutters were added front and back to minimize water damage.

Take a nice walk this spring and visit the true Swedish gem along the Darby Creek, the Swedish Log Cabin.

Source: Research, photos & text by Bryan Wright

Related Links:

SwedishCabin.org

Comments (0)Don't be shy, tell us what you think!   
Colonial Sense is an advocate for global consumer privacy rights, protection and security.
All material on this website © copyright 2009-19 by Colonial Sense, except where otherwise indicated.
ref:T1-S1-P107-C-M