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The Sod House Experience

Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 10:20 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - During a visit to rural Comstock, we got a chance to visit the Dowse Sod House, and it has plenty of history surrounding it.

“This house was built on my great granddad’s property,” sod house owner and caretaker Ron Dowse said. “He came here in 1873. He was the first homesteader in Custer County. This gave my granddad a place to build himself a sod house. He was getting married, and he needed a place for his bride. In 1900, he had some help from relatives, and they started in on this sod house in the spring of that year. By that fall, they were living in it. The reason it’s still standing is he put a steep roof, with shingles, and it pretty much preserved it during the time it wasn’t being used.”

A sod house is unique is so many ways. “It’s warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and they are quite durable,” Dowse said. “My granddad raised five boys in this sod house, and my dad, Phillip Dowse, was the middle one.” Life was challenging in the 1900′s living in a sod house in Custer County. One of the challenges would have been just trying to make a living. “The prairie was treeless back then,” Dowse said. “From here, you could see the Middle Loup River, but now there are so many trees that you can’t see it.”

Dowse has a plow from Iowa that his grand dad actually used to plow the ground and cut the sod for the house. “They cut the sod 4-inches thick, 15-inches wide, and they would cut them in 30-inch strips,” Dowse said. “They would lay the sod like bricks. We have done some restoration. In 1958, the community got together and decided they needed to restore the house. It was a community project. Since then, I do most of the upkeep.”

The family that runs the Dowse Sod House does not charge a fee to see it, but donations are welcome. You are encouraged to come and see it. “Granddad and Grandma were hard-working people who loved the outdoors,” Dowse said.

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