Soddy Life

Excerpts from my Book, “Descendants of Lemuel Edmonds Volume 1”

Robert Edmonds born 1855 was the 1st to come out West out of all of the family members in 1885. Robert Edmonds took on a Homestead Claim South of Parks Nebraska. There is discrepancies as to whether Robert’s original claim was Cheyenne County Kansas in 1885 or Ives (Parks) Nebraska. An early Cheyenne Platt Map shows his name at the very Northern part of Cheyenne County Kansas across the border of where Parks Nebraska is located. This could be where the confusion lies within sources. Robert returned back to Illinois before winter set in. On February 1, 1886 in Robert Edmonds Diary he wrote that he bought 1 mule and started breaking it to pull. March 10, 1886 he adds in his diary hat he bought a cow to take West. On March 12 he bought lumber $30.70, a watch and a stove in preparation for coming West. On March 13, 1886 they (it is assumed the entire Edmonds Family or a portion of the family) had a sale of things they did not need in the West.

On Tuesday March 16, 1886 the Father (Oren Edmonds born 1828) and Robert Edmonds started on their trip West at about 2 O’clock from Gladstone Illinois and arrived at Parks (Ives) Nebraska on Friday March 19, 1886.

The Edmonds family boarded an “Emigrant Car” had rented a car on the freight train to bring their stock, farm implements, lumber for their home on the claim. Furniture and feed for the animals. Many other items that were needed for a family to survive this new country. After they off loaded all of their belongings they rested their stock, went to the claim, and on to preaching and Sabbath School in Benkelman. On Tuesday March 23, 1886 they started to haul lumber out to their claim and started building their house.

Life on the Plains
Less than a month after Robert and Oren started building on their claims Nancy Edmonds with Laura Belle and Johnnie (John Leander) came out west. On April 15th 1886 it is easy to imagine Oren and Robert and possibly Lemuel being at the depot waiting to see Nancy and the two youngest children get off the train and reunite the separated families. It is recorded that Nancy and children moved in with Robert until they could build the family home. There are two written sources which state that the family after arriving in Kansas lived in a dugout until the Soddy could be built. Specifically one source states that the dugout was located on Robert’s claim. Breaking of the land started on May 5, 1886. The planting of potatoes and corn had begun. During this time of planting, the building of homes, barn, and a chicken house was accomplished.

Building the Sod House
The building of the Sod House was back breaking and time consuming. One acre of land was required for an average sized home. The sod blocks were cut by a breaking plow or sod buster. The blocks were cut into rectangular slabs. These slabs were laid lengthwise, and then a block laid cross wise to build a wall two feet thick. When looking at the old sod home you can see that there was a wooden door and windows and also a wooden roof. They came with the wood when they traveled from Illinois to Kansas. From numerous sources it can be read that many homes didn’t have a wooden roof right away. Bugs and varmints were prevalent throughout the year. When there was rain showers the roof would leak and the dirt floor would turn to mud. Bed bugs, and fleas were also a problem. There is no written account of how the inside of the old Soddy looked. The author can easily imagine a kitchen area and at least two bedroom areas sectioned off one for Oren and Nancy and one for the last two children, Laura and John Leander.
Three years after the Edmonds family arrived in Kansas the first death occurred with Oren and Nancy’s 23 year old Son Lemuel died of Consumption on August 20, 1889. Robert wrote in his diary, “We buried our Brother Lem at half past Eleven O’clock on the North West corner of the old homestead on August 22, 1889.

Quoting Nancy Curren McGregor Edmonds
About this barren Western Country (Kansas). The only trees were along the creeks and the Republican River. Our home was a Soddy. The only building material this land offered was the sock bricks plowed from the prairie. They were thick enough to handle and laid brick stile with openings for doors and window. Poles laid length wise for the roof and sod and clay on the roof. It resembles a field with all the grass and weeds growing on top. Some walls were white washed and in many cases muslin was hung against the ceiling to catch the dirt and bits of sod that fell. Fleas, bed bugs, mice and insects were common pests. Each week the beds were taken down and saturated in boiling water composed of salt or lye. Boiling water was used to wash woodwork and walls. The bed bugs lived in high places and the fleas made their homes near the floor in the quarter-rounds. Cow chips were used in stoves (for fuel).

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