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“Folk Architecture in Little Dixie: A Regional Culture in Missouri,” by Howard Wight Marshall, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1981. This 146-page hardback records the architecture of a region in north-central Missouri. The focus is the houses built between 1820 and 1930. The region was settled mostly from Kentucky by people who brought Southern culture with them. That included crops like tobacco and hemp, Southern style buildings, and slaves.

The definition of Little Dixie varies. Marshall includes Boone, Howard, Randolph, Audrain, Monroe, Callaway, Pike and Ralls Counties. He excludes the Boonslick country included by some but now includes the Salt River settlements. Randolph and Monroe Counties are considered the core of Little Dixie.

Settlers in Little Dixie were protestant, primarily Methodist, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian and Episcopalian. They arrived in Missouri first and were followed by Germans mostly after 1840. The Germans settled further South near the Missouri River. Slavery produced tensions with the Germans who were anti-slavery and fought for the Union. Little Dixie was strongly Confederate. After the war, they were required to sign the Ironclad Loyalty Oath, or they lost the right to vote, hold office, or teach school. During Reconstruction outsiders were in charge. After Reconstruction, Little Dixie voted strongly Democrat with the South. Loss of slave labor created economic difficulty. Immigrant Germans often bought their land adding to tensions.

Marshall interviewed descendants of wartime families and recorded family stories. Union soldiers were known as “thieving Yankees.” They often took whatever food they found leaving families to struggle through the winter.

For more detail on Little Dixie see: “Agriculture and Slavery in Missouri’s Little Dixie,” by R. Douglas Hurt, University of Missouri Press, 1992.

The reader is introduced to the language of architecture. Public buildings are designed to meet academic standards; buildings chosen by individuals are vernacular architecture. Some say folk architecture is a subset consisting of buildings designed by the untrained. Marshall classifies folk houses by type using rules developed by Henry Glassie. The basic unit is a sixteen by sixteen foot “hall” called a pen. A single pen house might be a typical log cabin. Combinations define other types. A two story single pen house is known as a stack house. Pens can also be extended side by side to create a two-pen house, which with a central hall becomes a dogtrot. A two story two-pen house is the basic I-house. The house may by modified by additions, but the pen system provides a classification.

Marshall investigated close to 100 old houses throughout Little Dixie. Many photos are included. He provides a nine-page description of the I-house. Marshall calls it the “Farmer’s Mansion.” It is the Southern style house sought by a middle class planter. It is a signature of his success. (DW Meinig introduces the I-house and the dogtrot as symbols of Southern influence in his Shaping of America, Vol 2, p 274 but provides little explanation and no references.) In Little Dixie, settlers were so eager to build an I-house that many lived in tents until the I-house could be completed.

The name I-house was coined by Fred Kniffen to describe the homes he found in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. The classical I-house is a two story center hall building with its main entrance on the long side and chimneys on each end. It often has an addition at back that may include a dining room and a kitchen. These nineteenth century houses lack indoor plumbing and central heating. The classical I-house has fireplaces in each room. In Missouri I-houses were built from about 1820 to 1890, but the basic design is British and dates from the fourteenth century. The style was brought to the US by the Scotch-Irish.

The book includes a chapter on the barns and smokehouses of Little Dixie. The transverse crib barn was most common. Marshall calls barns with basements or ramps (and presumably thrashing floors) “Pennsylvania Barns” or “German Barns.” He found none surviving in Little Dixie but notes that Charles Van Ravenswaay published a related study, “The Art and Architecture of German Settlements in Missouri: A Survey of a Vanishing Culture” in 1977.

A final chapter describes methods of construction. Many were built of logs. Logs were flattened on two sides and connected by notching at the corners. The V-notch was most common, but a half-dovetail was sometimes used. Square notching was less common. The walls were often plastered on the inside and covered with weatherboard on the outside. For plaster, lime was made by burning limestone in a fire. Balloon construction was also used. The tools needed to construct a log building are described. The author dismisses as folklore the idea that a settler could build a cabin with only an ax.

This is an excellent description of folk buildings in Little Dixie. It includes the most detailed description of the I-house I have found so far. Maps. Photos. References. Index.

A more recent example of the authors work is found here:
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