Framing - Garth, 1948 Archeological Report
Although there is considerable evidence as to the construction of the floors, most of the walls were worn down to floor level or below, so that information as to the construction of the upper part of the house is meager. More than probably a frame was buried in the adobe walls with posts (studs) at intervals of 4 feet by means of which the roof was tied in with the rest of the house. The header-stretcher method of laying up the brick facilitated the burying of posts in the wall in this manner. One of Whitman's associates, Rev. H. H. Spalding, says that the house was, "timber fastened." (10) Although I have been unable to find the exact meaning for this term, it would seem to imply that there was framework which fastened the roof and flooring together. Burying a frame in the walls was, besides, the most common method of adobe construction in the West, and other buildings at the mission were so constructed. (11) Archeological evidence of such a buried frame occurred in the wall just north of the doorway between room C and the kitchen (E) and again 6 1/2 feet to the south along the same wall, where another door led to the outside. The wall in this area was higher than usual (close to 12 inches). In the first instance, in the center of the wall there were the charred remains of a post with charred joists coming into it from either side. In the second case, the charred joists came from the west to the center of the wall. Possibly such posts were only buried in the walls so that door casings could be attached and would occur only adjacent to doorways. However, it is much more likely that they were buried at intervals throughout the walls whether in door areas or not.
The appearance of the charred joists here gives us an inkling as to the height of the floors themselves. Assuming the joists to be two by sixes, as they were in some cases, this would put the floors at a height of approximately 17 inches above the ground. Thus there would have been ample space for the Osborn family to hide under the floor, as they did during the massacre. There were breather holes in the adobe walls below floor level, about 12 inches by 4 inches in size, according to Mrs. Nancy Osborn Jacobs. (12) Buried in the southeast corner of the east wing of the building was a charred 3-inch-diameter corner post flanked by a similar post 4 feet away in the south wall and a 3-inch diameter post hole 4 feet away in the east wall. Here is our most conclusive evidence of a framework buried in the walls. These posts were apparently charred at about the floor level, i.e., 14 to 18 inches above the base of the walls. In Plate II you will note the adobe-brick lugs coming out from the walls at intervals of 2 1/2 to 3 feet. These lugs, which were usually two bricks high, must have supported a horizontal timber (sleeper) laid next to the wall to support the floor joists which were probably tenoned or notched to fit into it. Whitman used a heterogeneous collection of timbers for floor joists. As mentioned previously, some were sawed or square-hewed 2 by 6 pine timbers. Most, however, were rounded logs of cottonwood (and some alder?) which were hewed to a flat surface on the upper face. (13) These were called puncheons. T. J. Farnham, who visited the mission in 1839 at the time the Mission House was being constructed, wrote as follows:
The sleepers referred to were no doubt the heavy timbers which rested adjacent to the wall on the adobe lugs.
The joists in rooms B, C, and D ran the 18-foot width of the house and were placed every 2 feet. They were supported by three parallel sleepers, one on the east side of the room, a second on the west side, and a third in the center. Adobe bricks spaced from 4 to 6 feet apart supported the central sleeper.
The joists in the pantry, kitchen, room G, and the schoolroom ran the long-way of the building (east-west). In the schoolroom (H) the 2 by 6 joists were spaced 3 feet 4 inches apart with their east end buried in the wall or resting on a sleeper. The three center joists were supported by posts where they abutted the chimney in the west end of the room. (See Figure 4.) The space between joists seems excessive and must have been resorted to because of a lumber shortage, The full one-inch thickness of the plank flooring must have helped prevent the floors from being too springy. A central sleeper ran crosswise of the joists, it in turn being supported by a post resting on the granite footing mentioned previously.
There was no evidence of a floor in rooms I and K, though possibly the room in the southeast end of the building was floored, or partially so, if it is the new room referred to in accounts of the massacre. According to Spalding it was to be a cook room, probably for use in summer to keep from heating the main part of the house. (15) Rooms I and K, one of which was a hen-house and the other a storehouse or wood-house very probably, may well have had only dirt floors.(16)
Did You Know?
On her 29th birthday Narcissa gave birth to a daughter, Alice Clarissa. The Cayuse called her “Cayuse Te-mi” (Cayuse girl) because she was born on Cayuse land. Some historians see her as a potential bridge between the two cultures. Unfortunately Alice Clarissa drowned when she was 2 years old.