On Dugouts

During our time at The Dry we talked a lot about dugouts: we heard stories about how the first settlers built their homes in the ground, we collected artifacts from the site of a former dugout, and we used ground penetrating radar to see what that dugout looked like below the surface.  But most of us had ever actually SEEN a real-life dugout before.  In trying to imagine such a structure, we recalled images from “Little House on the Prairie,” but that was pretty much all we had to go on…

So imagine how thrilled we were when we found out that there was still a standing dugout near Nicodemus, Kansas!  During our visit we made sure to pay a visit to the little roadside structure.  Angela informed us that this is where people from Nicodemus would stay after making a trip into the nearby town of Stockton.  Local Jim Crow laws prevented black people from staying overnight in the town, so if residents from Nicodemus needed supplies from Stockton, they had to stay in the dugout on their way back home.  The structure seemed to have held up well through the years, so we wanted to take a look at how it was able to stay standing.  Upon closer examination we discovered that the walls were not just carved in to the soil, but they were reinforced with stone.  Although the room was small, it seemed sturdily built – explaining the permanence of the structure over time.  We imagined how difficult it would be to stay in such a small space overnight, then we thought about what it would be like to LIVE in a dugout.  The chance to see a dugout in person certainly helped shape our understanding of the settler experience…

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  1. #1 by Mic on August 28, 2011 - 8:46 pm

    Nice post, Jess.

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