Couple Lives in Dugout Until Sawmill Provided Green Lumber

Sawmill provided green lumber, and couple boarded up sides of dugout and put in a floor when they homesteaded after Oklahoma Land Run.

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I was married in 1891, and my husband took part in the Cherokee Strip Land Run and claimed land in 1893. In March 1894, we moved and lived in a dugout the first year. The walls and floor were dirt. There was a lot of timber just two miles from us, so when a sawmill came in we got green lumber and boarded up the sides of the dugout and put in a floor.

I bought old newspapers at the printing press at Kingman and papered the walls, and got gunny sacks for a carpet in half of the room. When I finished I thought my room was beautiful.

The first year was the hardest. We had no grain for the horses, so my husband would break sod with a walking plow in the mornings and then turn the horses out to grass and plant corn with a hand planter in the afternoons.

The corn looked fine when my husband went back to Kansas to help with the harvest. We had a little girl, 2, and she and I stayed alone in the dugout for five weeks. Our corn began to burn up, so I cut it for fodder with a corn knife. I had 25 big shocks. We had a neighbor who went to Kansas and shucked corn for a penny and a half a bushel. He brought enough corn home with him to fatten a hog. That was the best meat I ever tasted.

In the meantime, we had another little girl. When she was 8 months old and the other little girl was 4 we lost them both to diphtheria. One died on January 17 and the other on the 18th in 1896. We put them both in the same grave. They were the only children we had then.

Mrs. Z. Smith
Wakita, Oklahoma

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.