Time Era

Historic time period: 1801–1861

Life in a Sod House

Before the 1860s, most of the people living on the Great Plains were Native Americans. In 1862, Congress passed the Homestead Act, allowing men or women who were 21 years old or older to "stake a claim" to 160 acres of land. Homesteaders agreed to build a home within six months and then live there for the next five years.

People who dreamed of owning a farm of their own or a bigger farm came from all around the country and the world to try to build a better future for themselves and their families.

The land the settlers found was flat and treeless. Many people said that it looked like an ocean of grass. Without trees or rocks to build houses with, settlers used sod, a tough combination of dirt and the roots of grass.

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Read This Book

You can learn more about what it was like to live in a sod house by exploring these books. Click on the book titles below for more information, or visit our complete bibliography.

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Dakota Dugout book cover

Featured Book

Dakota Dugout

by Ann Turner

Dakota Dugout. Text copyright 1985 by Ann Turner. Illustration copyright Ron Himler. All rights reserved. Used by permission from Simon and Schuster Books.

Activities

  • Build a sod house

    Build a Sod House

    Use Technology

    Imagine you’re a settler on the open prairie. Help build a home for yourself and your family.

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  • Vintage photograph of woman with horse

    Darkroom Detective

    Learn From Objects

    Investigate photographs of people who lived in sod houses and see what you can figure out about their lives!

    Download the PDF »
  • Vintage photograph of a barn

    Get a "Sense" of It!

    Play and Create

    Use your senses to explore how sod houses felt, looked, and even how they smelled!

    Download the PDF »

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