Be it ever so humble, there no place like mud.

Back in the mid-nineteenth century, people decided the east coast of America really sucked. They fled in droves. There were a lot of reasons for this, but one of the primary reasons was money. Or, lack of money, to be more precise.

All the wealth in the east was controlled by the robber barons who made their money after the civil war, mostly at the expense of everyone else.

One of the first major surges west started shortly after the war. For a lot of the poorer of the south, they came home to nothing. They hadn't had much to start with, but the union troops, mainly led by Sherman, destroyed everything they came across.

And, if they had to start over, a lot of men decided to start over somewhere in the west. Prospects for making money were better out there. Land was cheap, there were jobs, and the west offered a fresh start.


The men of the south weren't the only ones who went west, though. Many northerners went west as well. While they didn't come home to destruction, they did come home to factories where they had to work 10 hours a day, six days a week for barely enough money to get by. Or they faced work in the mines, where they lived in houses owned by the mining companies, and shopped in stores owned by the mining companies. And they weren't paid in US currency. They were paid in coins minted by the mining companies. That made it very hard to save for the future.

So, people went west. And, they took with them whatever they could. Sometimes the men went ahead of the families to get a start, and later send for them, and sometimes they all went together.

Their destinations were varied as well. Some went to Texas, Arizona, Nevada or California. others decided to go to Kansas, the Dakota Territories, Nebraska, or the pacific northwest. A lot of it depended on what you were skilled at, and what you wanted to do.


One destination in particular appealed to farmers. This was the Nebraska Territories. The land was, literally, dirt cheap. Most of the time, all you had to do was stake out your property lines and build a house, and homesteading rules applied. In essence, if you built a house and worked the land, it was yours. (I'm ignoring the Native American issue here, as this post isn't about that.)

But when these men got to Nebraska, they discovered a gigantic problem almost right away. And that was, to become a homesteader, you need a home. A tent won't cut it. It has to be permanent.

I don't know how many of you have ever been to the plains of Nebraska, but, there aren't any trees. Or, not enough to build a house, at least. And stone was in short supply as well. The land was perfect for farming and grazing livestock, but resources to build were almost nonexistent.


So these settlers did what man has done since the dawning of time. They made do with what they had.

They found that if they cut into the soil where certain types of grass grew, the densely packed roots kept the dirt intact. If they cut this sod into section of 1' x 2' x 6", they had the perfect building blocks.

At the start, these sod houses were nothing more than piles of sod with a crude door, no windows and a roof that leaked. But as more and more people moved to Nebraska, more and more building supplies came with them.


Finally, there was enough lumber being shipped in that a house could be built. Except, the lumber was very expensive. Prohibitively so.

So they used lumber only for certain aspects of their houses. They would frame the doors and windows, add lumber to serve as rafters for a proper roof. They may add paneling to the insides, and sometimes the outsides.

When they were finished, these sod houses were actually very efficient. With walls so thick and dense, they stayed cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They were solid. And, as you can see from the picture I added to the beginning of the post, they could even be multi storied. (yep, that's a sod house. It was built in the 1880's, and it was still standing in the 1960's)


The problems with sod houses were that they were damp. And they were susceptible to damage from a rain storm. But with diligent maintenance, they would last for a long time.

The US isn't the only place where people have lived in sod houses. Almost every country has had sod dwellings of some sort throughout history. But the ones in Nebraska were some of the most elaborate ever made. As towns grew around the original settlers, some of them even had indoor plumbing. Running water and flush toilets in a dirt house.

So, no matter how hard you think life gets, just remember how hard settlers had it. And this post only described their housing. Remember, they didn't have wood, so they had to make fires from other things. Like dried buffalo shit. Not kidding. Buffalo chips were the main source of fuel for fires for a long time in the prairies. And burning buffalo shit smells exactly like you think it would smell.


But, as for me, I'm ending this post here so I can run to the hardware store and buy some paint because I'm going to paint my bathroom before I demolish my kitchen. And I'm not using any dirt. At all. Ever.