Life on the plains
By the design of geography the Great Plains of North Dakota became a sparsely populated rural frontier scattered with small hamlets and lacked the development of large cities. (+ Pop of Joliette) Rural isolation and subsistence survival necessitated the development of a strong sense of community. Together, the small diverse population faced the challenges of severely cold winters, spring floods, with drought and grasshopper infestations during the summers. Settlers like the Fergusons shared these common challenges and needs with their fellow homesteaders. Quilting bees, barn-raising bees, and church functions brought community members together.
For many, the conversion from sod house to log house came slowly. Sod offered superior insulation during the winter months, despite the earthy odours associated with them. Many homesteaders made considerable improvements and extensions to their original soddy. Timber, purchased from those who had wooded lots, were able to stabilize the ever sagging walls. Many applied tar paper and timber planking to the exterior walls to prevent deterioration by melting snow and rain. Roofs were thatched from wheat stalks and interiors were plastered to create a nicely finished appearance. Nevertheless, seasonal maintenance was required as the walls tended to respond unfavourably to the changes in moisture.
The following photo shows a hummock of ruins representing the remains of Robert’s sod house beside Highway 5 at the northeast corner of his farmstead.
+++ include explanation & images of the discovery of remnants of the Ferguson soddy