Field Trip Quests: Sod House

Field Trip Quests: Sod House

In the Sod House Quest, students explore 19th century immigrant life on the prairie by helping newcomers like the Carpenter family make tough daily choices as they try to establish a homestead.

Level 1: Students search for objects that help the Carpenters prepare for their first winter - items that will keep them warm or fed.

Level 2: Students decide how to deal with an impending grasshopper plague (seen through the sod house window) and then make tough choices about how to proceed in the aftermath of the plague.

Digital Artifacts

Blanket

With only a stove to keep the sod house warm, blankets and warm clothing were very important for staying warm in the winter. Especially during the night, when the stove wouldn't be lit or very little, it was important to have many layers.

Check out this knitted wool afghan in the MNHS Collections

Blanket

With only a stove to keep the sod house warm, blankets and warm clothing were very important for staying warm in the winter. Especially during the night, when the stove wouldn't be lit or very little, it was important to have many layers.

Check out this knitted wool afghan in the MNHS Collections

Cabinet

It will be a while until you can eat the food you'll harvest, so you brought supplies with you. No Taco Tuesdays here, you'll have few choices or variety in what you eat. Hope you like bread and preserved vegetables!

Check out this cabinet in the MNHS Collection

Cabinet

It will be a while until you can eat the food you'll harvest, so you brought supplies with you. No Taco Tuesdays here, you'll have few choices or variety in what you eat. Hope you like bread and preserved vegetables!

Check out this cabinet in the MNHS Collection

Candle

No light switches here! Candles are very expensive so use it only when necessary. You can only sew or read for a little bit because your eyes get tired quickly in the dim light. In the unhappy event you have to set your fields on fire to fend off a plague of grasshoppers, a candle would do the trick.

Candle

No light switches here! Candles are very expensive so use it only when necessary. You can only sew or read for a little bit because your eyes get tired quickly in the dim light. In the unhappy event you have to set your fields on fire to fend off a plague of grasshoppers, a candle would do the trick.

Clothes

Waste not, want not! Settlers are so far away from towns, they rarely have a chance to buy cloth to make new clothing. If you only get one new outfit a year, it has to last until it’s worn out! Then you can repair it and hand it down to your younger sibling to wear.

Check out this piece of clothing in the MNHS Collections

Clothes

Waste not, want not! Settlers are so far away from towns, they rarely have a chance to buy cloth to make new clothing. If you only get one new outfit a year, it has to last until it’s worn out! Then you can repair it and hand it down to your younger sibling to wear.

Check out this piece of clothing in the MNHS Collections

Garden

Settlers had large fields of crops to sell, but they also had smaller gardens to feed their families, with root vegetables, cabbage, and sometimes watermelon in the summer.

Garden

Settlers had large fields of crops to sell, but they also had smaller gardens to feed their families, with root vegetables, cabbage, and sometimes watermelon in the summer.

Georgie Carpenter

Georgie Carpenter moved to Marshall with his family when he was a small boy in 1870.

Georgie Carpenter

Georgie Carpenter moved to Marshall with his family when he was a small boy in 1870.

German Clock

Thirty day pendulum clock has a wood case with painted glass doors that feature a gold and black scroll design on the lower sections. Clock was purchased by the donor's grandfather near Baden-Baden, Germany.

German Clock

Thirty day pendulum clock has a wood case with painted glass doors that feature a gold and black scroll design on the lower sections. Clock was purchased by the donor's grandfather near Baden-Baden, Germany.

Ground Cherries

Ground cherries, blackberries, and raspberries are just a few of the berries that grow naturally in Minnesota. The settlers gathered berries and other edibles in the wild to add to their food supplies. Settlers like Mary Carpenter used ground cherries to make jams, pies, and preserves.

Check out this MNHS Collection of a cherry basket quilt

Ground Cherries

Ground cherries, blackberries, and raspberries are just a few of the berries that grow naturally in Minnesota. The settlers gathered berries and other edibles in the wild to add to their food supplies. Settlers like Mary Carpenter used ground cherries to make jams, pies, and preserves.

Check out this MNHS Collection of a cherry basket quilt

Hair Jewelry

Although it may make us squeamish in the 21st century, during the 1800s, it was popular to give jewelry made out of your hair to friends and family as keepsakes. It was thought to be a sentimental way to remember loved ones in a time when long distance contact was limited to letters. Did you get a chance to see the hair jewelry in the exhibit?

Read a MNHS article about hair jewelry

Hair Jewelry

Although it may make us squeamish in the 21st century, during the 1800s, it was popular to give jewelry made out of your hair to friends and family as keepsakes. It was thought to be a sentimental way to remember loved ones in a time when long distance contact was limited to letters. Did you get a chance to see the hair jewelry in the exhibit?

Read a MNHS article about hair jewelry

Homestead Act

The Homestead Act of 1862 gave anyone 21 years or older the chance to settle a 160 acre piece of land within 5 years.  If successful, the land was theirs to keep, leading to rapid immigration of the Western United States.

Research the Homestead Act at the National Archives

Homestead Act

The Homestead Act of 1862 gave anyone 21 years or older the chance to settle a 160 acre piece of land within 5 years.  If successful, the land was theirs to keep, leading to rapid immigration of the Western United States.

Research the Homestead Act at the National Archives

Mamie Carpenter

Ten year old Mamie Carpenter moved with her family to Marshall, Minnesota in 1870 to start a new life farming on the prairie. She grew up to be a schoolteacher before she married George Hurd.

Mamie Carpenter

Ten year old Mamie Carpenter moved with her family to Marshall, Minnesota in 1870 to start a new life farming on the prairie. She grew up to be a schoolteacher before she married George Hurd.

Mary Carpenter

Mary Carpenter moved to Marshall, Minnesota in 1870 from Rochester with her husband George, and two kids, Mamie and Georgie. They built a homestead and faced many obstacles during their time on the prairie.

Read more about Mary Carpenter in this MNHS article

Mary Carpenter

Mary Carpenter moved to Marshall, Minnesota in 1870 from Rochester with her husband George, and two kids, Mamie and Georgie. They built a homestead and faced many obstacles during their time on the prairie.

Read more about Mary Carpenter in this MNHS article

Newspaper

Many of the settlers are immigrants who may not know English yet so they read Norwegian newspapers to stay connected to their community.Plastering the sod walls with newspaper keeps the warmth in and the bugs out. 

Newspaper

Many of the settlers are immigrants who may not know English yet so they read Norwegian newspapers to stay connected to their community.Plastering the sod walls with newspaper keeps the warmth in and the bugs out. 

Norwegian Spinning Wheel

This Flyer type spinning wheel was made of oak with three turned legs supporting the stock. The wooden treadle shaft connects to a twelve-spoke wheel. The wheel was made in 1845 in Norway and brought to the United States in 1870 and then to Dakota Territory.

Norwegian Spinning Wheel

This Flyer type spinning wheel was made of oak with three turned legs supporting the stock. The wooden treadle shaft connects to a twelve-spoke wheel. The wheel was made in 1845 in Norway and brought to the United States in 1870 and then to Dakota Territory.

Plow

Before settlers could farm the rich Minnesota soil, they had to break the sod, a thick layer of prairie grass roots. It was hard, backbreaking work plodding behind oxen all day, but plowing would pay off in the fall when the settlers would harvest their crops.
See a MNHS Collections photo of a real settler plowing fields

Plow

Before settlers could farm the rich Minnesota soil, they had to break the sod, a thick layer of prairie grass roots. It was hard, backbreaking work plodding behind oxen all day, but plowing would pay off in the fall when the settlers would harvest their crops.
See a MNHS Collections photo of a real settler plowing fields

Prairie Chicken

The only meat, usually rabbits and prairie chicken, eaten on the prairie was hunted with traps and rifles. Prairie chickens followed settlers as they moved across the prairie, but they are hard to find today. Farm animals like sheep, chickens, and cows would be used for milk, eggs, and wool, and not as much for meat.

Look at this MNHS photo of prairie chickens

Prairie Chicken

The only meat, usually rabbits and prairie chicken, eaten on the prairie was hunted with traps and rifles. Prairie chickens followed settlers as they moved across the prairie, but they are hard to find today. Farm animals like sheep, chickens, and cows would be used for milk, eggs, and wool, and not as much for meat.

Look at this MNHS photo of prairie chickens

Prairie Grass

Your family uses the cooking stove to stay warm in the winter; it must constantly be fed with straw bundles to stay warm. Even though the sod house keeps you warmer than one made of wood, it’s always chilly inside. Sometimes it is so cold in the morning; you can see your breath! 

Prairie Grass

Your family uses the cooking stove to stay warm in the winter; it must constantly be fed with straw bundles to stay warm. Even though the sod house keeps you warmer than one made of wood, it’s always chilly inside. Sometimes it is so cold in the morning; you can see your breath! 

Rug Beater

It may look like a fly swatter but rug beaters keep the dirt off your rug. With a dirt or grass floor, you do what you have to keep what you have clean.

Rug Beater

It may look like a fly swatter but rug beaters keep the dirt off your rug. With a dirt or grass floor, you do what you have to keep what you have clean.

Sod House

With few trees in sight on the prairie, houses had to be built from sod, large pieces of earth. Blocks of sod were stacked together, and the roots knit together to stay put. Leaky, dirty, and full of bugs, sod houses were a temporary solution for shelter. Most settlers build wooden houses as soon as they could.

Build your own sod house with this interactive from the Smithsonian

Sod House

With few trees in sight on the prairie, houses had to be built from sod, large pieces of earth. Blocks of sod were stacked together, and the roots knit together to stay put. Leaky, dirty, and full of bugs, sod houses were a temporary solution for shelter. Most settlers build wooden houses as soon as they could.

Build your own sod house with this interactive from the Smithsonian

Sod House Map

During the late 1800s, Minnesota's landscape changed in major ways. Settlers were coming to the large open prairie to bust the sod to build a homestead or prep the land for farming.

Sod House Map

During the late 1800s, Minnesota's landscape changed in major ways. Settlers were coming to the large open prairie to bust the sod to build a homestead or prep the land for farming.

Stove

Stoves are an essential item on the prairie; it heats the home and cooks hot meals for the family. Without wood on the prairie, the stove must be fed constantly with buffalo grass.

Stove

Stoves are an essential item on the prairie; it heats the home and cooks hot meals for the family. Without wood on the prairie, the stove must be fed constantly with buffalo grass.

Swedish Herb Grinder

This wooden herb grinder, made circa 1864, was brought from Halland County, Sweden, to the US in 1905 by Lars Andersson. It consists of three parts, all made of hand hewn wood: a trough (A) with a pouring lip at one end, a grinding wheel to roll through the trough, and a cylindrical handle (C) to guide the grinding wheel. The handle is wider at one end to prevent the wheel from sliding across the length of the handle.

Swedish Herb Grinder

This wooden herb grinder, made circa 1864, was brought from Halland County, Sweden, to the US in 1905 by Lars Andersson. It consists of three parts, all made of hand hewn wood: a trough (A) with a pouring lip at one end, a grinding wheel to roll through the trough, and a cylindrical handle (C) to guide the grinding wheel. The handle is wider at one end to prevent the wheel from sliding across the length of the handle.