In 2006 the Historical Committee undertook a project in which it was decided to record the ‘pioneer log barns’ that are still standing within the Township of Douro-Dummer. There was recognition at the time that we were losing these buildings to time and demolition one by one. It was time for us to do an extensive survey and photograph those that remained. As an extension to that mandate it was decided to include log homes in the survey.

From what can be generally known, the majority of log barns were built prior to Confederation, 1867, as the trees that were felled in clearing the land were also used for the purposes of building the barns and in most cases the homes of the first settlers. It was noted, however, that many of the log homes that are still standing have experienced extensive renovations. Often we found the original exterior log constructions in whole or in part were covered over with new exterior siding materials.

The three members at the time, Arnold Sage, Murray Batten and Doug Sims, volunteered to carry out the survey by photographing the buildings and, where possible, to identify the original builder. In 2006 the survey areas were divided as follows; Arnold – Douro Ward, Murray – west Dummer Ward and Doug – east Dummer Ward.

The survey took some time because of two reasons; there were many more buildings to record than was originally expected, over 100 in total. Secondly, sometime after the survey began it was realized that with so many buildings located within the township it would be important to place the log buildings on a township map. This resulted in retracing some of the survey completed to that date to record the ‘911’ numbers and note the actual locations on the township map.

The states of repair of the log barns in particular vary from being abandoned and therefore falling down, to being in current use and cared for with new chinking and roofing materials. The older log barns were not necessarily large by today’s standards, as the pioneer farmers at the time had limited help log cabinin their construction and also had limited needs (i.e. a couple horses and a few dairy cows). Most of the log barns in use today are used for storage of equipment, hay or as a garage for parking tractors, etc. Some barns are larger and may have been built at a later time. It was important to have the head log over the main doorway as one length, as this provided a stronger structure.

Because the log barns have had their roofs replaced with newer materials, it is difficult to fully appreciate the effort our forefathers went to constructing the log barns. Any sawing and squaring of the logs would have been done by hand. Powered sawmills came along later, making frame barns practical, thereby replacing the log barn method of construction. So roofing wall and materials were prepared by hand and applied using common methods with hammer and nails. Exterior walls were pinned with wooden dowels in the corners for reinforcement against winds.

Most foundations it seems, were laid using local field stone. Mortar from locally made limestone was used to seal the gaps in the logs installed as walls and to strengthen the foundations. The quality of the construction varied as well, depending on the time taken to build the log barn, the expertise and the number of hands available at the time of construction.

Extra time and effort was taken to construct the log homes. The foundations were laid with more care and the logs used in the exterior walls were square, providing a better seal. In early Ontario it was possible to order and install small glass windows, so provision for these were made in the construction of the homes. Some log homes, probably later built, incorporated a partial second floor or loft to provide additional bedrooms as their families grew.

As of this summer the Historical Committee reports that the site surveys are complete. We believe that all the roads in Douro and Dummer Wards have been traveled and all the log barns and homes from the early to mid-1800’s are located and photographed. Although there is always the possibility that there are more pioneer log buildings that haven’t been identified; for example, hidden behind a tree line. The committee members doing the survey have been very dedicated and have been as diligent as possible in photographing and placing the log buildings correctly.

The goal of the Historical Committee now is to make a permanent record of the log buildings along with a few other unique buildings into an album to be archived or even later publish a book that could be made available for sale to the general public. The public’s feedback would be welcomed to help give us direction in making this important information available.