Scenic USA - South Dakota

Prairie Homestead

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Prairie Homestead - Philip, South Dakota

Photos by Ben Prepelka

     The Prairie Homestead, located in mid-state South Dakota, was home for Mr. and Mrs. Ed Brown during the early 1900s. The Brown family, including two children, grew up on a farm in Iowa. Later, the couple and one son moved from Pierce, Nebraska, to try their farming skills further west. Because the area of South Dakota was originally set aside for Indian reservations, it became the last area in the United States to be opened for homesteading. This area between the Cheyenne and White rivers was surveyed in 1892 and settled from 1900 until 1913. Simple requirements had the prospective owner erect a dwelling, cultivate ten acres of the land and live on the claim for five years. Once all the stipulations were met, the 160 acre parcel Prairie Homestead - Philip, South Dakotacould be purchased for 50 cents per acre. For 80 dollars, Mr. Brown received his patent on the land in 1909.
     Here on the prairie, where lumber was scarce, homes were constructed of cottonwood and the roofs were covered with buffalo grass sod. The typical homes were dug into the side of a small hill and provided coolness in the hot summer, as well as warmth in the winter. These new sodbusters led a difficult life. The plot of 160 acres could only support eight head of cattle. With little rainfall, crops were sparse and seldom harvested. Aside from living in poverty, familes face extremely harsh winters and often resorted to burning fenceposts for heat. Isolation, drought, grasshopper plagues, prairie fires and poor crops tested the resolve of these brave homesteaders.

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