A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sod House Museum

Gothenburg, Nebraska

If there is a sod house to be seen, I'll go out of my way to find it.  
There aren't many left standing these days.

Well I learned this is a replica.  
It was done so in keeping with traditional materials and methods of the time.
What the heck, I enjoyed it anyway.

I learned at an authentic sod house in Oklahoma that plastering and white-washing the interior walls was uncommon for they didn't have the materials necessary to do so.  But if you could, it helped preserve the home, keep the vermin out and made life much more comfortable.

Oh my aching back!

At some point in time you had to wonder how much longer is your house going to stand.  Many cases are recorded where the home collapsed trapping and sometimes killing the occupants.  The reality of these sod houses was that they were only intended as temporary living quarters until a proper stick house could be built.  This is why so few are around to this day.

Inside the red barn museum I found these original photographs of sod house homes and families.
I thought these photos were fascinating.  Notice that all except for possibly the last photo the family went in and put on their best clothes for the photo.

Would you feel comfortable sleeping under that roof?

Looks like the windmill salesman did real good in these parts.

Notice only pa had a pair of shoes.

 The lady running the museum told me the story about the photographer who took these photos.  The photographer thought homesteading and farming was too hard work after two weeks of trying so he went back east bought a camera thinking he could make a living with it by taking people's pictures. He had families pose in front of their homes thinking he could sell the photos to them. Only he hadn't considered the fact that they were so poor they couldn't afford to buy a photo. But thankfully his folly in later years proved to be of great historical value documenting life on the prairie and the people.

Then she told me a book had been published with all these photos in it and they had them for sale. She went in the back room to get one for me and came out telling me there were only two left and that she didn't know if there would be another printing or not.  I had to have one.


  1. Fascinating piece of history especially for people interested in building. Thanks for showing John.

  2. This is very interesting, I love to see the old photo's. People were very creative in those years, just build your house with the materials available around you. Great you had the book as well.

  3. Again, I've learned something very interesting from your journeys. That replicated house and the 1st picture looks like the walls are shuffling off to Buffalo, as they say. Find it interesting the folks took the time to build a fence before building a proper house. That must of have been an incredibly difficult life. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I like those old photos.
    "Sod" now that's a funny word.
    I'll be glad when I get a proper stick house!

  5. They were very primitive. Those pioneers were a hardy bunch. Great images of the old images John. I enjoy history like this.

  6. hello....goodness and no earthquakes there, because here, with both the adobe trembling fell!

  7. well, someone made some money on those photos, finally. i could not sleep well in those structures!

  8. I would love to see a sod house...but cannot imagine living in one.

    Do you ever visit the Library of Congress: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html

    Then click on Immigration and American expansion...it is really fun to poke around there. I can always run across a lot of old photos. Sometimes I spend hours and hours there, then maybe won't be back for ages.

  9. Lots of good reviews of the book on Amazon, and one reviewer mentioned that some of the photos were used on the Ken Burns show "The West." Very interesting to see the plumb real sod houses vs. the sagging pretend one at the museum.

  10. The first I read about sod houses (as I recall) was reading the Laura Ingalls books. There must have been a lot of them at one time when people were first crossing the prairies. Pioneers had such hard lives.

  11. I learned many new things from this post. I am heartened to see that the animals were included in the 'family photos'.

    Very cool!

    Peace :)

  12. I like the old photos. That bed really does look uncomfortable.

  13. Structures like that are called "turf houses" in Ireland, though I've never seen anything like it in England where stone and timber were usually plentiful. I love to see old photos like that though recently I was looking at some old photos of Cambridge Cattle market and saw a man I used to know - I must be getting ancient!


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