Kansas Settlers Made a Dugout on Smoky River

With no place to live, resilient Kansas settlers made the most of the Kansas landscape.

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The winter my father and mother moved to Chapman, Kansas, nearly 90 years ago, they found no place to live. So Father and my uncle built us a dugout out on the Smoky River.

My mother put a curtain in the one big room to make a bedroom and a kitchen. My father built a summer living room in a row of cottonwoods.

The dugout was warm in winter and cool in summer. My sister and I played with our shepherd dog on the dugout roof – it was grass as our father had covered the dugout with sod.

Young folks, friends of my step-sister, had picnics among the rees and went rowing on the river. 

Mrs. John French 
Parma, Idaho


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.