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.
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.
More Recommended Books
- American Safari: Adventures on the North American Prairie by Jim Brandenberg
- Children of the Wild West by Russell Freeman
- Dandelions by Eva Bunting
- I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas
- Prairie Willow by Maxine Trottier
- Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner
Read Dakota Dugout
Meet Matt and his bride, who cried when she saw his "cave in the earth." Use clues to discover a function of a mystery object.Download the PDF »
Build a Sod House
Imagine you’re a settler on the open prairie. Help build a home for yourself and your family.Play now »
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 »
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 »