Buffalo Chips Fueled Fire for Kansas Dugout

Family’s only fuel for one-room dugout was dried buffalo chips.


Buffalo chips were used to fuel fires many years ago.


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In 1887, my parents took up a claim on the old Fort Wallace Reservation in Kansas. Our new home was a one-room dugout with three half windows, one door and a good Mother Earth floor.

Buffalo chips were our only fuel. Back of the stove sat a fuel box in which a good supply of the chips was kept along with a hatchet with which to break the large, solid chips.

If the supply became low, someone would take a gunny sack and go out on the prairie and pick up more. In the fall, my father would hitch a team of oxen to an old lumber wagon and spend several days on the prairie gathering chips for our winter fuel. These were carefully stacked in the sod fuel shed.

How I loved fuel gathering days! I was allowed to ride in the wagon and sometimes I even got to drive the oxen. After there were no more buffalo chips we burned cow chips which were almost as good.

Frances Ball
Hiawatha, Kan.

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.