"Old Sod House Comes Back for C.C.C. Boys"

More accurately described as adobe structures, a number of early C.C.C. camps in western Kansas were comprised in part of adobe buildings as a unique and short lived variation to what became the standard frame structures. The following article is from the Scott City, Kansas News Chronicle, Thursday, December 14, 1933 and provides some insight into the construction process.

Old Sod House Comes Back for C.C.C. Boys
Kinney Dam Builders Will Live In Rude Quarters

Dodge City- A throwback to the days of the pioneer, sod houses are being built again on the Kansas plains.

Ten such crude homes are nearing completion between Dodge City and Garden City, calling up memories of those years when ox-drawn prairie schooners bore settlers to the prairie country.
"Soddies" is the plainsman's term for the houses which are to shelter Civilian Conservation Corps men this winter while they work on Kinney dam to form a 780 acre lake.

When it was decided for economy's sake to build soddies, advertisements had to be placed in county newspapers to locate persons who knew the art of their construction. Sixty men responded from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska.

Sod Was Too Dry
Even the old-timers were stumped at first when it was found that the summer's drought had made the sod too dry and brittle to hang together. Charles Woodrum of Garden City, in charge of the soddy crew, conceived a plan upon noting that an old windmill near at hand still was in working condition.

Tubs were used in devising a homemade mixing machine. Water and chopped prairie grass were added to brittle earth. Then 40,000 "sods", grass-bound chunks of earth measuring 10 to 15 inches wide and two feet or more in length, were cut.

The procedure from that point in the words of an authority, W. M. De Voe of Dodge City is:

Need Eye, Spade, Arms
"The only other things a man needs are good eyes, and a sharp spade- yes, and I guess you might say a couple of strong arms. A double row of sods are first laid lengthwise all around. Then crosswise, then lengthwise, and so on until you have 'er as high as you want 'er."

The return of the sod house adds a whimsical twist to the prediction of an anonymous news dispatch from Salina in 1920:
"This is the year of the passing of the sod house in western Kansas," it read. "Except those kept as souvenirs of the early days and through sentiment, there will be scarcely any of them left after this fall. In the years of figuring and worrying to make both ends meet the farmer of western Kansas was content to live in a soddy. But now prosperity is here and the sod house has passed with the poverty of former years."

Photo of CCC Camp, Atwood, KS (Co. 731) ca. 1934.
Note stack of adobe blocks in foreground.
Source: Howell- C.C.C. Boys Remember, p. 46 (Nick Haller Collection).

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