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Little House on the Prairie

EDINBURG, N.D. -- Stepping over the threshold of the Edinburg sod house is a trip back in time. Members of the community have furnished the sod house with late 19th and early 20th century replicas and original pieces, including a working wood sto...

EDINBURG, N.D. -- Stepping over the threshold of the Edinburg sod house is a trip back in time.

Members of the community have furnished the sod house with late 19th and early 20th century replicas and original pieces, including a working wood stove, kerosene lamps and a home-made wooden bed and table.

About 200 visitors, mostly from eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, have traveled to Edinburg to see the sod house during the past two and a half months.

Volunteers built the 12-by-16-sod house in late October with sod donated by Loretta and David Monson who live on a farm near Edinburg. The couple originally planned to sell the sod they were growing on a two-acre plot, but found it was difficult to market.

The Monsons, instead, decided to donate some of the sod to their hometown, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary this summer.



Community residents rallied around the sod house project, researching how to build it on the Internet. Loretta Monson called volunteers to help build the house and it was constructed on Oct. 21 .

Using a sod cutter made by Edinburg resident Joseph Holm, volunteers cut 1,500 blocks from the Monson's plot on Oct. 14.

About 60 volunteers gathered on Oct. 21 to build the house, using 1,400 of the 4-inches thick by 12-inches wide by 24-inches long sod blocks they had cut. Each block weighed 35 pounds.

"That's nearly 50,000 pounds moved twice," Loretta Monson says. That gave her renewed respect for the pioneers who handled the sod the old-fashioned way.

"You wonder how they did it without Bobcats or mechanization."

Volunteers built the sod house about a block from main street on a grassy strip of land.

"We just picked what seemed to be the most level place," says Chris Vargason, Edinburg's mayor and the owner of an auto repair shop in the town.


The sod house raising was completed in just one day. The construction project was a social event as people contributed not only labor, but also food for the workers.

"It truly was an adventure," Loretta Monson says.

"We started about nine in the morning and got done about six at night," Vargason says.


More than two months after construction was completed area residents continue to donate furnishings and other items to "decorate" the interior.

The house is heated with a wood burning stove patented in 1882, the same year Edinburg was founded. Two kerosene lamps help light the house. The only other light sources are two narrow windows at either end.

A narrow bed, tables and bench that area resident Elroy Brandvold built from cedar logs complete the house's furnishings.

Drawing card


The small rustic house has generated interest not only from people who want to visit, but for overnight guests.

The city has held two drawings for a chance for Edinburg community members to sleep overnight in the sod house, and other out-of-town people have inquired about spending a night there.

The community plans to keep the house until it erodes. According to research the construction volunteers conducted on the Internet, the average life span of a sod house is five to seven years, Loretta Monson says.

Edinburg General Store owner Bernice Flanagan believes the sod house is a good way to teach area residents about pioneer life.

"It's part of our history. It makes us realize what our forefathers did. You have to have so much admiration for the people who lived that way."

A key to the sod house is available at the Edinburg General Store. Store hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Ann Bailey is Recollections editor. Reach her by phone at (701) 787-6753, (800) 477-6572, ext. 753 or e-mail her at abailey@gfherald.com

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