The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989 Page: 198
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
American Log Buildings is the product of a longtime scholarly interest
in log structures on the part of Terry G. Jordan, a cultural geographer
who is the Walter Prescott Webb Professor in the Department of Geog-
raphy at the University of Texas at Austin. The author of Texas Log
Buildings (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978), Jordan directed the
Texas Log Cabin Survey at North Texas State University and has served
as a consultant to a number of Texas museums and the Texas Historical
Commission on questions of log construction. In addition, he is a cul-
tural geographer of international repute.
This book is part of the stream of landscape study that flows from
the work of Fred B. Kniffen of Louisiana State University, one of the
giants of American cultural geography, who saw the houses built by
ordinary people as the single most important artifact left by a culture.
Kniffen argued that by meticulous field observations one could map
the distribution of house types across the United States and that the
distribution patterns provided a key to understanding the diffusion of
various folk cultures across the continent. In Texas Log Buildings Jordan
applied this concept to Texas, showing that house-type patterns re-
vealed regions settled by lower southerners, upper southerners, Ger-
mans, and Alsatians.
Another idea advanced by Kniffen was the special significance of ini-
tial occupancy; that is, he argued that the first permanent settlements
in the backcountry of the eastern United States left a significant im-
print even where a new ethnic stock replaced the original settlers. This
idea was later elaborated by cultural geographer Wilbur Zelinsky as the
doctrine of "first effective settlement" (p. 5). It is closely related to an-
other Zelinsky concept, that of cultural preadaption, which suggests
that some immigrant groups possessed traits before migration that
gave them a."competitive advantage in occupying a new environment"
(p. 6) and could have made them the first effective settlers.
The culture of colonial settlement can also be viewed in the light of
two other analytical concepts from the disciplines of geography and an-
thropology: cultural simplification, which holds that Europeans who
established themselves overseas drastically simplified the forms of Eu-
ropean society; and cultural syncretism, which emphasizes the develop-
ment of New World cultural forms from a blending of traits from
several Old World cultures, sometimes with the addition of elements
selected from indigenous peoples.
In American Log Buildings Jordan has taken on the immensely impor-
tant task of testing these four concepts against the evidence provided
by material culture. His goal, he says, is to evaluate these concepts
through "a study of diffusion of log architecture from Europe to colo-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989, periodical, 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/m1/225/: accessed February 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.