During a trip to Nebraska, I stopped at the North Platte Valley Museum, near Scott’s Bluff. The majority of travelers on the Oregon Trail knew Scotts Bluff well as it was a familiar fortress-like landmark not far beyond Chimney Rock.
Among the museum’s displays was a sod house, or soddie, which had been moved onto the museum’s property from a nearby farm.
I found the soddie fascinating, in part because some of my ancestors probably lived in one. My intention, upon going home, was to learn more about the process of building a dirt house, but I forgot about it until my aunt sent me a newspaper article called “Home, Sweet Sod Home”.
The article detailed how and why pioneer families built these homes. They “why” was easy to understand—there’s not a lot of building materials in the middle of a prairie.
The “how” of building a soddie started with an acre of sod for a one-room house. After mowing the grass, it was cut into pieces of sod or “bricks” with a special horse-drawn plow. Two layers of bricks were laid lengthwise with a third layer crosswise. The crosswise pattern made the house stable. Windows were often covered with paper greased with animal fat, and a blanket was hung in the doorway.
Do you know what kind of home your ancestors lived in, and why? Wouldn’t that be an interesting research project for your family history?