The coeur des bois (woods runners) who went to the
Aboriginal communities to trade, lived with the people in these
communities when they were not travelling. The Aboriginal tribes (Ojibwa
and Algonquian) around the Great Lakes lived in wigwams, while the
Iroquoian lived in long houses. When the woods runners were travelling,
they might have slept under their canoes or used European tents.
French trading posts were built using techniques brought from France
and adapted to the colder climate of Quebec.
In northern France they framed buildings with grooved uprights filled
with planks, a technique known today in Europe as "plankwall framing".
In Quebec, they replaced the planks with whole, squared and tenonned
timbers for the fill. This technique solved the problem of wood
shrinkage because the vertical uprights would keep the roof from moving
while the horizontal timbered fill shrank. This method of pièce sur
pièce construction was called poteaux et pièce coulissante or "posts and
This technique was used for large trading post buildings and can be
seen at Old Fort William and certain buildings at Mackinac as well as
the Big House at Fort Edmonton. It was in such general use that it
became known by a variety of terms. "Across the county it was variously
called ‘Red River,’ ‘Manitoba,’ ‘Rocky Mountain,’ ’Hudson’s Bay’ or
simply ‘Canadian’ frame construction.
Smaller buildings at the post such as engageés homes, and the
building in secondary fur trade posts were built using a log cabin
finer construction of this type the timbers would be squared, the
ends would not stick out at the corners, and the overlapping joins
would be dovetailed. The French in Lower Canada called log
construction in general pièces de bois sur pièces de bois or wood
pieces on wood pieces construction. This was later shortened to
pièce sur pièce, or piece on piece construction. They called
the finer style of construction using dovetailed corners à queue
This type of log cabin was much
sturdier than the Scandinavian style and did not rot at the corners.
These homes were generally chinked with mud and grass or with oakum if
it were available, and then plastered and whitewashed on the inside. This form of home
will be referred to as the ‘dove-tailed’ cabin.