Friday, May 11, 2007

Inside the sod house

Step into your imagination and into the sod house the Opseth's just finished. It is hot outside. Can you feel how much cooler it is inside? What does it smell like? Remember the walls and roof are made from soil. The walls are dirt color, the floor is dirt color, and the ceiling is the same. Try to imagine how dark it is.
Let's look around at the furniture. Is there furniture? What is it made of? Is it crude planking for a table? Are there wooden boxes to sit on? Is there a bed or hammock? Or are they sleeping on the dirt floor with a massive pile of long grass?

One of the most important things a family needed was a way to heat the house and cook the food. In the summer, they were cooking over an open fire outdoors. In the winter, a stove of some sort was the heat source. Poor folks like the Opseth's may have made their stove out of sod and covered it with clay. It just needed a chimney, which would have to be bought. We know from early writings that Opseth's cut green cord wood, they used wood for fuel. One of the items that they most certainly had was a lantern.

Although poor, the Opseth's had the ingenuity to make do. The only known item left is the Opseth Bible and a prayer book. The inside cover is stamped A Opseth/Hanna Opseth. On the next page has Andreas Opseth and Hanna Opseth, (notice spelling changes). It appears to be like a marriage certificate and includes their birth dates. It includes Olaff Andreassen Opseth's birth in 1875 and is signed by A. Opseth. It does not include Gust's birthday in 1878. The Bible obviously came with them from Norway, it is worn and has worm like tunnels in it.

The Bible was possibly handed down to Olaf, the oldest. At one time, all of Olaf's leather bound books were given to Julia. Julia was probably the one that wrote in it in pencil. Some of the marks are: 11 March 1920, which is the day her mother, Hannah, died. Other marks include 1922-1875=47 There is no name to attach this date to. Another pencil mark is 1912-1876=26. Yet another is 1876+36=1914. All of Olaf's books were given to me in the mid sixties, including the Bible and a prayer book published in 1900, which belonged to Andreas Opseth.
When we turn the page of this old book, we find, it Julia's handwriting, the following:

Andrew Opseth Born Feb. 25, 1844 Died August 3, 1931

Hannah Opseth Born Dec 11, 1841 Died 11 March 1920

Olaf Opseth Born Dec 20, 1875 Died Sep 19, 1948

(The death certificate states September 17, 1948)

Gust Opseth Born March 11, 1878 Died July 1949

(The death certificate states July 31, 1949)

Hilda Opseth Skinner Born Sep 9, 1883 Died October 27, 1937

(Death certificate reads October 28, 1937)

Julia Opseth Ranum Born October 24, 1885

Julia died November 6, 1966.

In Matthew, chapter 3 and 4, there is a piece of napkin like paper with a set of green outlines stamped with yellow flowers. I wonder what this is from. Could it have been a wedding? Or is it just randomly placed there for no reason.

This seems like a good time to record her death, although it is 40+ years since her passing. I will write it in pencil, date if for today and give the pedigree, I am her grand daughter.
How meager were their beginnings in Minnesota. Let's take a minute and talk about what happens when it rains OR when there is a drought while living in a sod house. If it rains and there is not a suitable barrier between the rafter poles and the sod roof, we are going to wake up by drips of rain. Everything would have to be hung outside to dry and the floor would be a muddy place to walk. If it was a dry year, the sod would crumble and pieces of hard dirt would drop from the ceiling.
There is a story in the family about how a mother played the accordion. Her many children begged her to play it for them. She would take the accordion down from the rafters were it was stored and dry it out before playing it. One time when she took it down a snake crawled out of it! It is said that was the last time she ever played it.
Next time: Household chores

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