The Cherokee "Hot House"

Throughout the 18th and early 19th century, many Cherokees lived in small log homes. It was typical for each family group to have its own hot house. The following description from an 1835 manuscript prepared by J.P. Evans explains what the hot house was. After the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation to Indian Territory in 1839, families had to rebuild. Some brought the tradition of the hot house with them to I.T. In time as other methods of heating homes became more sophisticated and other ways of purification and cooking became more popular the practice of keeping a hot house fell out of popularity.

"Their dwellings generally consist of small log huts, too insignificant to need a description. But their ‘hot houses’ are more remarkable, though more trifling in appearance. They are small, low huts constructed of small logs, mud and clapboards.

In forming the roof, generally, a layer of thick puncheons is first laid on, then a thick coat of mud and lastly, clapboards to prevent the mud being washed off by the rain. A small opening is made in the end, capable of admitting a man; to this a shutter is made. Thus all visible avenues through which air can find admittance are carefully closed.

Burning coals and embers are kept in the centre, or such fuel as produces little or no smoke kept burning. Were there not hundreds of living witnesses before his eyes, a white man accustomed to pure aire, could scarcely believe that a salamander could exist twenty four hours in such a situation. But during the winter months many old men spend the greater part of their time in a '‘hot house'’ and employ themselves in roasting potatoes and parching corn.

Many young people, destitute of bed clothing, find a good substitute at night in the heated air of a ‘hot house.’"