Anybody have any info on soddies or sod houses east of the Mississippi? Maybe a cabin with a lower dug out floor. Thinking about defense and maintaining heat in winter and coolness in summer. Thanks ahead of time
From what I've read about log cabin construction, especially with the tools of the time period, they tried to elevate the wood, or at least lay it on stone, to prevent rot, and insect damage. Not just termites, but carpenter ants, etc. Cellars are normally stone or brick, IF they needed to be reinforced to prevent the sides from caving in. A well chinked cabin is very well insulated from the cold, and with shade trees over the roof is pretty cool in summer.
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My understanding of sod houses is that they were constructed in areas where trees were non existant(Great Plains,etc).It seems as if Log or wood, houses were very much preferred...
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My understanding too. I have always read that because of the lack of trees, and the miles and miles of prairie and tough buffalo grass, the sod house lent itself to those who came to homestead, trade or lay up for a winter. While there are many areas of natural balds in the Appalachian Range and Allegheny mountains, and while many of these balds are almost pasture quality with thick natural grasses, I don't think they would have supported the soddy as a preferred kind of home construction. Although, there are lots of writings about the use of sod blocks to finish a roof, both for insulating qualities and to keep down the chance of fire from 'external sources' (how about that for PC?) hehe
Before Columbus, the natives in the vicinity of the Etowah Indian Mounds near present day Cartersville in northern Georgia made their houses of wattle and daub (sticks and mud). They had to constantly re-plaster more mud after a rain storm because the houses just melted away.
It was either the Pilgrims or Jamestown Colony (or both) that also put up wattle and daub homes at first. They soon switched to log cabins and later to wood frame and clapboard siding when they saw how fast the mud houses eroded away in the storms.
The long houses of many eastern native tribes were wood framed and covered with tree bark or tightly woven mats made from reeds.
Here in southern Appalachia I know of quite a few old cabin sites tucked away in the backwoods of the mountain folds. Nothing but the stone chimneys remain. The cabins were wood.
I have been told that the natural "balds" on some of these southern mountain peaks were burned off now and then by the indians to improve hunting. Later the white settlers used the balds for summer pastures, but few cabins were built up there. They are cold, windy, inhospitable places in the winter.
I have climbed up to some of our local balds. The view looking out over mile after mile of blue ridges is fantastic!
Adobe in the dry southwest can last for hundreds of years. Casa Grande Ruins near Coolidge, Arizona is just one example.
But "sod houses"? I only know of them from the dry plains.
Modern times - some sod houses are made but the sod is enclosed in some waterproof material. Even hay bales have been used but then covered with some waterproof material. Great insulation!
Oh yeah. There is a local character here who lives in a cave. He has it rigged with electricity.
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MY WIFE'S GREAT GRANPARENTS BUILT AND LIVED IN A SODDY. THAT WAS AT THE TIME OF THE LAND RUN IN OKLAHOMA. IT WAS NEAR GOTOBO, OKLA. ( WESTERN OKLA). THE DESCENDANTS JUST RECENTLY REBUILT IT USING OLD PHOTOS TO WORK BY.
PRETTY NEAT AND COOL INSIDE
To build with sod you need.....uh.....sod. To the best of my knowledge, east of the big MO is only mud or rock. Log cabins with rock or black locust foundations seem to have been the norm.
There's a reconstructed "one room" sod house up on the Ogallala Grasslands - near Toadstool Park that I've seen many a times...
The wood from your wagon sides was used for the door and for framing in a couple window openings along with wood closer's for the windows, or they'd just use the wagon canvas to drape over openings... They are obviously nothing fancy. Normally the settles would gather up enough small branches along their way to layer their roof with so it would hold the sod on the roof...
Obviously nothing fancy, but it got you by if you were homesteading. Their biggest worry was rattle snakes crawling in of course. Some even gathered rocks and made a make-shift fire place in them - but mostly the cooking was done outdoors... Wood was always in short supply, so dried buffalo and cow pies could be used to make fire to stay warm and cook with. These structures were never intended as a permanent structure - but it got you by until you could afford to build something better.
They are rather neat to see and examine,,, and I have always been on guard when entering the one up at Toadstool Park as there could be a rattle snake inside. I also wouldn't care to live in one - it's really just a "dirt hole" above ground...
Ohio Joe / Chadron Fur Trade Days
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