When Grandpa Jackson Brown built his family's first home in Kansas, he chose a location in a creek bank, high enough to escape flood waters, yet close to three springs. The springs would provide abundant water for drinking and cooking, and the creek would supply water for washing clothes and for other necessities.
A room about 8 by 12 feet was cut into the bank. The walls were straight and smooth and the dirt floor was level. Sod was sed to extend the walls about two feet higher than ground level on three sides, and to construct the fourth wall which was pushed out from the lip of the bank about three feet to make the dugout larger. One window and a door were cut into the front wall which was nearly two feet thick.
The roof was made of saplings laid close together across a ridge log, covered with cornstalks or brush, and topped with a heavy layer of sod which would shed the rain.
Grandpa's dugout was fancier than most dugouts for the roof pole was long enough to create a porch roof which was supported by poles cut from small trees. Knowing Grandpa, I suspect he laid a porch floor. The porch was large enough to hold a barrel of pork and other things which were better kept outside the small house.
Furniture pieces were a stove, table and chairs, a safe for food and dishes, a bed, and a trundle bed for the children. The trundle bed could be pushed under the large bed during the daytime to be out of the way.
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.