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Alsea & Yaquina
Coos, Umpqua, Siuslaw
Yaquina Head 35LNC62
In the cultural resource overview for the Siuslaw National Forest, Steve Beckham, Kathy Toepel and Rick Minor described Tillamook shelter in this way (spelling as in original):
"On August 16, 1788, Robert Haswell visited Tillamook bay with Captain Robert Gray. This Mariner's diary records the first brief description of shelter: 'there hutts were very small made of boards and a matt on the flore' (Haswell 1928:177). William Clark added a few more details in January, 1806, when he wrote that the houses of the Tillamook:
are of the same form of those of the Clatsops with a dore at each end & two fire places i. e. the house is double as long as wide and divided into 2 equal parts with a post in the middle supporting the ridge pole, and in the middle if each of those divisions they make their fires, dores small & houses sunk 5 feet (Thwaites 1905:326).
Boas' informants in 1890 recalled that the Tillamook houses were constructed of large, wide boards which the men manufactured by careful burning and scraping. The walls were constructed between vertical poles and each board rested on loops of vines which bound the poles together. These rectangular structures had two or more fireplaces inside with the bed areas along the walls. Louis Fuller recalled in the 1930's that the houses he had seen had a single ridge pole with a two pitch roof (Boas 1923:3-4; Barnett 1937:161).
For winter food drying the Tillamook erected a brush or grass house, a structure which was built on the surface of the ground. They also erected a grass house with a rectangular shape and gable roof. Boas wrote: 'The grass walls and roof were placed between pairs of poles which were tied together in places. These storehouses, which belonged to the women, had the same plan as the dwelling houses. They were used only in the summer.' Some poor people who could not afford the semi-subterranean plank dwellings lived throughout the year in the grass houses (Boas 1923:4)" (Beckham, Toepel and Minor 1982: 57-58).
In the journals of Rev. Summers, he describes Tillamook houses in 1853:
"Grouped against and amongst the trees, with irregular lanes winding among them, arose native houses for two or three hundred inhabitants. These habitations were built with four stout corner posts and two taller ones central at the two ends, bearing a regular ridge pole. Strong cedar boards laid like clapboards, made close, impervious walls; and the roof was like these walls, except that all the better ones were then overlaid with bark. In one end the characteristic opening served for both door and window and was covered at pleasure with a suspended mat, a board or a fur curtain. Inside, a row of posts, or poles, was set on the ground and bound to the roof some three or four feet from one or more sides of each room, or of the house if it was a small one, and a stout platform laid from the poles to the wall. This platform served as bedstead and, if there was any extra room, as a shelf. It was two or more feet above the ground (which did duty for a floor) and under it boxes, bags and one-knew-not-what-more found a resting place. In the center lay mats, around a square excavated fire-place; and, if the weather was cold enough, here sat the squaws - cooking, basket-weaving, or crooning their minor lullaby to their cradled infants. Meanwhile, the men fixed the feathers on their arrow shafts, carved a bear, or an elk maybe, or a frog, or a canoe-digger or spoon or wooden pipe or a salmon spear. A variety of what might be called plates and dishes hung or sat wherever a convenient place presented itself; bows and arrows ornamented the walls. A stone mortar and pestle, or a basket-mortar with an opening at the bottom, sat idly in the corner, or was in use for pounding something into flour for the bread that should help to make the next meal. Here, seated like tailors on the sleeping platform, men fashioned models of their narrow, swift canoes. There, in a cradle-shaped basin of wood, or of inner ash-bark, a warrior getting feeble with age, parched the seed which they ate, just as nowadays parched corn is eaten" (Cawley 1994: 14).
Alsea & Yaquina
"The Alsea and Yaquina lived in villages which were occupied for most of the year, particularly during the winter. because the village dwellings were intended to be permanent, they were sturdily built. Drucker likened the large subterranean plank houses of the Alsea to those of the Tillamook and Lower Chinook to the north:
A large rectangular pit, four or five feet deep, was lined with cedar planks. Posts at the corners and ends supported the gabled roof of horizontal planks laid overlapping. Apparently little or nothing of the side walls showed above the ground level. The dimensions of the houses varied. Some were large enough for three of four families, each with a separate space and hearth. A space left in the planking of the gable end served as a doorway. The door was simply a suspended mat of grass of reeds. By means of a notched-log ladder one descended to the mat-covered dirt floor. Around the walls, at a height of two or three feet, was the sleeping platform, under which, and on which between the family places, a miscellany of dried foods, gear, and personal belongings was stowed... to our eyes, likely enough, the house would appear littered. The more perishable foodstuffs were placed on suspended racks overhead, in the smoky warmth close to the roof (Drucker 1939:85)
Drucker's informants thought that poor people used tule mats to cover the walls instead of planks. Tule mats were also used as floor coverings, bedding, and seat cushions. No other furniture was used (Drucker 1939:86)" (Beckham, Toepel and Minor 191982:75-78).
Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw
Beckham, Toepel & Minor also described the shelter types for these groups included: 1) permanent dwelling houses; 2) house for a single couple; 3) ceremonial dance house; 4) permanent house of "chief"; 5) shelter or workshed; 6) sweat house; 7) men's communal sweat house; 8) house for hired men; 9) boys bunk house; 10) girls bunk house; and 11) fence or windbreak.
Beckham, Toepel, & Minor 1982:116
"Orvil Ovando Dodge came to Coos Bay in 1859 and later wrote a history of the southern coast as well as feature articles for local newspapers. Dodge described the lodges of the Coos Indians as being twelve to fourteen feet long and dug about four to five feet into the ground. The building was covered with planks and had an entry hole in its gable end (Dodge 1900). The Lower Umpqua lodge at the mouth of the Umpqua River were very similar when, in 1858, they were sketched by an artist for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (Figure 18). This correspondent noted:
The architecture of the winter lodge is very simple. A cellar three to five feet deep is dug and walled a little way above the ground, roofed over in gable form. The fire is made on the floor at any convenient situation and the smoke is allowed to escape from an aperture at the top. The interior arrangement vary according to the means and taste of the occupant. Generally, they consist of mats and skins for beds, and matting of fancy workmanship spread about for neatness or display, with bunks for beds and a few cooking utensils ... (Anonymous 1858:332-3)" (Beckham, Toepel and Minor 1982:110).
Over three field seasons, five housepits were tested or excavated in Tillamook county at 35TI1 by Tom Newman. The housepits were below the general land level and also surrounded by trash middens so that their depth was about 50 centimeters overall. The midden contained many fire pits associated with cooking or drying of foods.
"The structure contained in Pit 12 can be readily reconstructed from the available evidence. The house was rectangular, the floor area measuring 16 by 4.5 meters, utilizing post molds as corner markers. The area of the fill was slightly larger in maximum dimensions, as the posts are generally set just inside the limits of occupation as marked by the edge of the dark fill. Along the northeast wall fourteen posts could be identified as probably being supporting wall members. They were more or less randomly spaced, though tended to cluster near the ends of the house. In the middle of the wall there was a gap of four meters where no supporting posts could be found. With the exception of the two corner posts, the post molds containing wood or unidentifiable organic remains averaged 15 cm (deep). These average 14 cm. in diameter at the top and were somewhat narrower at the bottom. The corner posts were set more deeply, extending 46 and 65 cm. below the fill into clear sand. These were approximately twice the diameter of the intervening wall posts" (Newman 1959:23-24).
"There were nine posts plotted along the southwest wall of House 12. These nine appear similar to those along the opposite wall except that they are considerably deeper, extending below the fill an average of 25 cm. A slump near the south corner of the house obscured several post molds which were confirmed and marked but not plotted in. At least three or four were so lost" (Newman 1959:24).
"No supporting posts could be found at the ends of the structure. The house is quite narrow, and perhaps there was no need for supporting elements here" (Newman 1959:24).
"At least eleven post molds within the house were found. They are apparently not supporting members, and their purpose may only be conjectured. In all probability, these posts could have been utilized to support mat partitions within the house or framing for drying or storage racks. With two exceptions they are pretty well to one side and would not obstruct a central passage the length of the house" (Newman 1959:24).
"The walls were composed of split cedar planks laid horizontally. these planks were recovered in fragments up to 5 meters in length and there is some suggestion that they may have been as long as the house" (Newman 1959:24).
"The roof of the house was apparently of shed or single pitch type. The absence of gable supports at the end force this conclusion. ... The small width of this house is another indication of a shed roof, and it is concluded that such was the case" (Newman 1959:25).
"The entrance was probably at one end, perhaps one at each end. the evidence for this is only inferential although the apparent lack of planking at the ends would make entry easier there than through a planked wall" (Newman 1959: 25).
The houses had carefully tended sand lined fire pits at each end along the center line of the house. These built in shallow basins filled with clean sand and were probably renewed regularly. He also noted twelve smaller fire pits scattered against the southwest wall and presumed to have been family fires under drying racks.
"The structure contained in Pit 13 is a rectangular house in an excavated pit at least 0.7 meters deep. The house was 12 by 5 meters"... "this house, like House 12 had a shed roof and horizontal planks. End as well as wall planks were found in House 13" (Newman 1959:27).
He reported over twenty basin shaped fire pits in the fill of house 13. These were generally circular and from 25 to 130 cm in diameter and 10 to 25 cm deep. There was a "U" shaped set of planks in the southeast end of the house containing a fire pit complex with the opening facing the center of the house.
Three C14 dates were taken: 150±150, 280±150 and 550±150.
Strain Site, 35CU47
35CU47, the Strain site in Curry county, was reported by Newman. House 1 was excavated by Jean Strain, who kept some notes. The house was about 4 by 4 meters and in a pit of unknown depth. The long axis of the house was NE-SW. It had a clay floor in the SW section that contained a basin shaped fir pit and the NE floor was elevated slightly with packed sand. There were corner posts and mid-point double posts suggesting a ridgepole and gable roof. The siding was vertical cedar planking.
House 2 was eleven meters west and was oriented on the N-S axis and was 4.9 by 4 meters. The floor was packed clay. It had corner posts and a set of wall posts forming a 1.3 meter area on the north end.
"First a pit the approximate size of the house was excavated to a depth of approximately 0.5 meters. The sandy subsoil was leveled and a framing consisting of a rectangle of planks laid on end outlined the floor. Into this form clay from an unknown source was poured and allowed to harden. Prior to the pouring of the clay, the vertical posts, five of which were circular and approximately 15 cm. in diameter, and one square post 10 cm. in length and width were placed in the subsoil inside the edging to a depth of approximately 0.25 meters. At some time either before occupancy or shortly after initial occupancy a platform of planks was laid in the north end from the wall posts northward to form as platform about 10 cm. above the previous floor level. This plank base was covered over with clay, forming an elevated platform in the north end of the house" (Newman 1959: 39-40).
"The superstructure of the house was formed with split cedar planks placed vertically outside the floor form and adjacent to it. These planks were up to 4 cm. in thickness, 30 cm. in width and of unknown length, but some must have been at least two meters in length. The two medial posts must have supported a ridge pole which formed the apex of a two-pitch roof, the longer of which extended to the south. The location of the door is unknown, but was probably in the north end, as a fire pit effectively blocked access along the south end" (Newman 1959:40).
"House 3 was found to resemble in major features the two previously discussed. It was approximately rectangular, though not as regular as Houses 1 and 2. This house was oriented east-west in greater dimensions, the longer walls measuring 6.8 and 7.3 meters, respectively. The width at each end was 4.1 meters. There were four apparently circular corner posts approximately 0.12 meters in diameter plus the two ridge pole supports which were located 3.0 and 3.2 meters from the ease (SIC) end, respectively. The elevated portion of the fill lay to the east of these wall posts, and was approximately 0.2 meters above the general floor level. Except for clay flooring in the southwest corner, the house floor consisted of packed sand ... there were two fire pits in this house, located medially 1.5 meters from the east end and 0.9 meters from the west end. Both were circular in outline, 0.75 meters in diameter, were basin shaped and contained charcoal and orange-fired sand" (Newman 1959:41).
Lone Ranch Creek Shell Midden
Joel Berreman reported on the Lone Ranch Creek Shell Midden, excavated in the 1940's Five house floors were discovered and four tested. The houses were conspicuous by their packed clay floors and charred plank remnants. The floors were two to four inches thick and well beaten down into the shell midden. Clean sand was then sprinkled over the clay. The houses were dug down into the midden about two feet with the exception of house No. 4, which was deeper. House No. 3 was about 15 by 10 feet in size. All of the structures showed evidence that they had burned because of the number of charred planks:
"Their position and the charred stubs still in standing indicated that the walls had been of vertical planks set inside a horizontal base board, which was in turn held in place by pegs driven into the ground on its outer side. In No.3, which was best preserved, these pegs were at approximately two foot intervals. At the corners the base board was held in place by two larger posts" (Berreman 1944:22).
"House No. 3 was fully excavated and best preserved... Three levels were found. The highest was the ante-room (here called floor one), separated from the rest of the house by a wall of vertical plank about like the outer wall. This ante-room varied from 1.8 to 3.4 feet in width and its floor level was about six inches above that of floor No. 2. Floor No. 2 was separated from the lower level (floor No. 3) by only a horizontal plank set on edge in the clay floor. It was about 6 inches higher than floor No. 3 (the lowest level). A pit, somewhat rectangular in shape, was found in the center of the south side of floor No. 3. It was 2 feet deep, 2.2 feet wide, and 4 feet long, lined with clay and embedded rocks... Although relatively free of charcoal, ash and other evidence of fire, it appears to be a fire pit. It was deepest toward the center of the house and sloped up to the south wall, where there were stones and clay covered by a wide plank running out through the base of the wall. This suggests a smoke hole or flue. Beside the pit three flat stones were embedded in the clay floor like flag stones" (Berreman 1944:22-23).
"House No. 4 also had a floor of clay, smoothly packed down and covered with clean sand. But it lacked any plank divider between the floor levels. Rather, the floor sloped from a depth of 7 feet below datum point at the sides of the house to 8 feet at the center. At two sides of the lowest point and partially embedded in the clay floor were two large smooth boulders, about 1 foot high. No fire pit was found, but it appears that fire may have been built in the center at the lowest floor level" Berreman 1944:23).
"It is impossible to say positively whether this house (No. 4) represents a very early period of habitation or whether it was a subterranean sweat house excavated more deeply at a later date. Drucker reports that sweat houses of the Tolowa to the south were wholly subterranean and notes no significant differences for the Chetco" (Berreman 1944:23).
Draper and Hartmann (1979:31) report on a housepit floor they bisected with a testing operation in 35CS11. The house was buried in midden deposits and had a straight, sharply defined west wall and nearly level floor. A single most mold was bisected at the juncture of the wall and floor. It was 15 cm wide and 40 cm below the floor. The house had been excavated about a meter deep. No bench was visible, but there was a small rim about 25 cm below the house pit in the west wall profile.
Draper & Hartman 1979:32
Ede Site 35CO34
Rick Minor found a bisected house floor at the Ede site (35CO34) in 1984 while investigating the impacts of erosion and stabilization of a dike near Scappose. Two floors were visible in the cutbank profile. The lower floor had been terminated at the edges by the upper floor. The later house was a saucer-shaped, possibly circular, house floor about 50-60 cm deep at its greatest depth. Minor notes that both shallow saucer-shaped and steep sided rectangular houses have been reported in the Portland basin. The site was Late Archaic in date (Minor 1985).
Palmose 35CLT47 and Par-Tee 35CLT20
From 1967 to 1977, Phebus and Drucker excavated sites in the Seaside area. Their work was largely unreported other than small popular public pamphlets. The Palmrose site (35CLT47) included the excavation of "a clearly defined rectangular, semi-subterranean house over twenty feet (6 meters) in width and possibly forty feet (12 meters) in length. Charcoal recovered from an elongated hearth in the center of the floor has been dated to 615 B.C. ± 70 (SI-3233). This rectangular house feature may be the earliest of its kind and is definitely analogous with the Chinookan type rectangular, split-plank house recorded in the Historic period for the Lower Columbia and the northern Oregon coast... The Palmrose house was excavated two feet (61 cm) into the cobble-gravel site base with a well-defined 'bench' on the North side, a graded ramp on the west end (probably the entrance) and a centrally-situated fire hearth that appears to continue through most of the length of the house" (Phebus & Drucker 1979: no page number).
At the Par-Tee site (35CLT20), the houses they dug are described in a minimal way: "No evidence of the Palmrose type split-plank, rectangular, semi-subterranean dwelling has been found at the Par-tee site. To the contrary, surviving structural features, although admittedly rare, are basically circular and of as semi-subterranean form excavated into the cobble and boulder terraces the site straddles" (Phebus & Drucker 1979: no page number).
Minor, Toeple & Greenspan 1987:35
Yaquina Head 35LNC62
The excavations at the Yaquina Head site (35LNC62), revealed a house pit in an erosional profile cleaned up by the research team. "... it was decided that it was desirable to obtain a profile of the strata exposed in the cliff face. This was accomplished by outfitting one of the archaeologists with climbing gear and lowering him over the side of the cliff. While scraping down the cliff face with a trowel to improve the definition of the strata, two cultural features were exposed.... The second cultural feature exposed in the cliff face was the outline of a semisubterranean housepit" (Minor, Toepel & Greenspan 1987: 34-35).
Minor, Toeple & Greenspan 1987:35
In her thesis, Rambo (1978) refers to an historic house excavated by Ross between 1972 and 1974: "Around 1850 a four by four meter (12 by 12 feet) semi-subterranean house was constructed into the midden. Artifacts associated with the remnants of the structure suggest a Euro-American man, possibly a trapper or trader, and a native American woman were the residents. Fire apparently destroyed the small plank dwelling, evidenced by numerous charred wood wall fragments (Ross: personal communication)" (Rambo 1987:4-5). Brauner (personal communication) talked to Dick Ross, who indicated that this information was not correct.
Prouty recorded 35CU178 (Mislatnah Creek Village) during the Upper Chetco planning project. The site contained 30 depressions in clusters. There were no large trees nearby, so tree-throws were removed as an explanation for the pits. The depressions were within a scatter of artifacts and stone cairns, that may be burials. Three features were measured on the site form: 6.4 m x 40 cm; 6.6 m x 35 cm; 17.8 m with no depth recorded. The rest of the depressions averaged 3 meters and 40 cm in depth (Prouty 1990).
AINW surveyed the Brockway Oaks development area in 1966 and recorded possible housepit sites. Site 95/287-1 was described as "three roughly circular, well-defined ground-surface depressions" with artifacts. The three depressions were in a triangular form on the edge of a terrace and averaged 5 meters by 35 cm in depth (Wilt, Ozbun & Fagan 1996: 8-13). Site 95/287-2 had a "few shallow and poorly defined depressions on the crest of the hill" (Wilt, Ozbun & Fagan 1996: 16). Site 35DO77 had two depressions. House 1 was 5 by 4 meters and house 2 was 3 by 2 meters (Wilt, Ozbun & Fagan 1996: 21).
Heflin (1966) described a house at the Pistol River Site as 11.5 feet wide and 24 feet long. He found charred timbers base boards and the stubs of the vertical walls. Some were inch-thick bark slabs. It has a stone lined fireplace 29 inches in diameter that was lined with clean gravel and sand. He recovered a charred basket hat, a brass uniform button, a stone maul, an iron key and an arrowhead chipped from amber glass. A cache of copper fragments was found in an anteroom along with nails, rolled iron, copper bars and an iron knife. Other houses were about 12.5 by 15 feet and were excavated to a depth of 2-4 feet:
Dwellings were rectangular pit houses judged to have been about 8 feet high, with vertical planking on the walls and with probably gabled roofs of bark, cedar planks, or grass thatch. Living quarters were in an excavated area or pit which ranged in depth from one to 5 feet, sometimes extending to the outer walls, but often separated from the rest by a surrounding ledge of dirt and a vestibule in front. Floors were of hard-packed clay, gravel, or beach sand. A stone encircled fireplace was near the center of the rear of the pit." (Heflin 1966: 164).<.p>
Bandon Sandspit 35CS5
Tveskov (2000) reconstructed Harry Donkers field notes on the excavations at 35CS5, the Bandon Sandspit Site. The stratigraphy was confusing, and it is unclear how many houses were partially excavated. The site had been impacted by looters and railroad construction. The sandy matrix would slump when they tried to do profiles. They found a series of overlapping house floors at different levels. One house did show up fairly well (house 5). They located fire pits, a cache of cedar bark, a deposit of elderberry or salmonberry seeds and several wood planks. Tveskov notes that Cressman wrote that one house pit had a central supporting post at each end and perhaps in the center.
"The best preserved architectural remains were found in Area 2, where the corner of a burned, square or rectangular plank house was excavated.... Housepit 5 was initially identified by an 8 cm wide corner post. Two horizontal planks 2-4 cm thick and 10-12 cm wide met at a right angle at the outside of this post, and these formed a footing for the house wall which was composed of tightly placed, vertical beams that began 30 cm below the footing planks" (Tveskov 2000: 50).
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