The Area's Earliest Settlers Lived in Many Sod Houses

Solarski, Jane. "The Area's Earliest Settlers Lived in Many Sod Houses." Courant, 26 June 1984, sec. 5F.

The earliest settlers in Bottineau County hardly had the comforts of home - by today's standards, anyway. Most will tell of sod houses, shanties and dugouts.

Olga Dunderland, 87, of the Good Samaritan Center, was born in Homen Township near Long Lake. She remembers her first home was a dugout. "They dug a hole square into the side of the hill and put a roof on with birch logs. Then they laid sod on top of that. Support beams were used on the inside. I remember we had four beds in there," she said.

Dunderland doesn't remember how her mother cooked in there but "later they built a shanty from lumber off to the side where she would cook."

Olaf Froseth, who came to the Bottineau area with his parents in 1898 when he was nine years old, said he lived in a sod house for his first five years here.

"You would cut the sod from the ground in squares then pile it up, leaving spaces for doors and windows. The roof was made of hay with poles on top, then sod. Some also used tar paper," he said.

Even though these early homes lacked the obvious comforts, there were some benefits. "It was warm in the winter and cool in summer," Froseth said. "And, it did keep all the sound out, you couldn't even hear if there was a storm outside."

It was also easier building a home back then, and cheaper. "There was a general rule that everyone helped the new homesteaders build a house," Froseth said. "there was no charge, either - new people didn't usually have any money, anyway."

Early homesteaders and their sod house.

Reprinted with permission of the Courant.

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