In planning our venture to the Great Plains, seeing a sod house was one of the most important things for me to accomplish. I had to wait until towards the end of our journey when we reached Oklahoma before I could see my sod house.
It stood within this building, rescued and preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1964. Marshall McCully homestead the land in 1893 and first lived in a one room "dugout" hollowed out of a ravine bank. In 1894 he built his sod house.
I came to learn that most sod houses were torn down or merely dissolved, be absorbed back into the landscape over time. Only about 10 of the many thousands of sod houses that once dotted the Great Plains remain today. Most likely why McCully's sod house lived is that he continued to use it for storage and for his chickens long after he built his frame home.
Inside the building/museum stands McCully's sod house. Only the grass roof is not original.
The Oklahoma Historical Society restored the interior to how it once was when the McCullys lived in it.
His was one of the better constructed and maintained sod houses. There was an interior dividing wall with wallpaper.
He found an alkali clay deposit a few miles west and used the mud to plaster the inside outer walls. This was an uncommon improvement among soddys. It kept out insects, snakes and the elements and no doubt was another factor in the house's long life.
In time Marshall offered his wife Sadie either a tin roof or a wood floor for the home. She chose the floor probably as it was muddy when wet and dusty the rest of the time.
Sadie gave birth to a daughter and died 5 years later in 1902. It is believed she died from tuberculosis. In 1907 Marshall married Pearle Bowen, a girl from the city. Imagine the adjustment she had to make living in a sod house on the Oklahoma plains.
In 1909 McCully built his two story frame house west of the soddy, probably under increasing pressure from his new city-bred wife. Pearle gave birth to a daughter also.
Marshall was asked why he didn't tear down the sod house. "That'll cost me too much!" he'd reply. His meaning was he'd have to build a replacement for it.
Sod houses were cool in the summer and easy to heat in the winter. They were highly susceptible to the elements but cheap rebuilding material was always close at hand.
Ceiling covers were needed to keep debris from raining down upon the occupants, not to mention the insects and the rain itself. One daughter who later visited the museum recalled with horror upon seeing the ceiling cover, her vision as a child lying in bed seeing snakes slither across the coverings.
Here is Marshall McCully
Some interesting facts
A typical root cellar constructed in the museum but not the original used by McCully.
Now if only Home Depot prices were like this.
This was one of my highlights on our Great Plains Tour. I had the place all to myself and when I first walked in the soddy I thought "This is so cool. I could live like this." That is of course before I learned about all the insects, snakes, dust, rain, constant maintenance and cave-ins.
I'll stick to my Little House on the Highway.