Week 6: Life in the Midwest
Read K – 4: Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner AND Read NOTE*
5 – 8: On the Banks of Plum Creek (pgs 1 – 141 only) by Laura Ingalls Wilder AND Read NOTE*
In 1862 “The Homestead Act” became law when it was signed by Abraham Lincoln. This law gave any U.S. citizen 160 acres of unoccupied land west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains if they lived on the land for 5 years and made improvements to the land. Thousands of settlers took advantage of this opportunity, including starved immigrants, newly freed slaves, and unmarried women. Kansas was known as an abolitionist state and therefore became the area of choice for many African Americans.
Living on a homestead was tough. Newcomers suffered from prairie fires, storms, droughts, and grasshopper plagues. Because very few trees existed on the prairies, settlers often built their homes from sod. (View the picture of the “Sod house” from internet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sod_house )
The “unoccupied land” west of the Mississippi River was occupied. It belonged to the Native Americans. They had been assured again and again under various treaties that the white man would not build on their land. They fiercely opposed the construction of the transcontinental railroad because they assumed correctly that more and more white settlers would begin homesteads on their land. Consequently homesteaders also had to be ready to defend themselves against Indian attacks.
For K – 4 only:
- What state was the Muldie family moving to ? (Kansas)
- Why? (Free land)
- Why do you think the Native Americans shared their food with the settlers in this story? (possibly because they were intrigued by the African American’s dark skin, friendly Indians, etc.)
- Why do you think the “Homestead Act” appealed to the Muldie family? ( freedom, free land, good community, African American community)
- What dangers did the Muldie family face? (storms, prairie fire, boys had to travel by themselves, snakes)
- Most of the families living in the town of Nicodemus were of what nationality? (African American)
For All Grades:
- What did the roof of a sod house or a “dug out” look like? (Grassy hill)
- What was a “dugout” or “sod house”? (Dirt house built partially underground)
- What types of food did people eat on the prairie? (fish, rabbit, cornmeal, milk, candy, potatoes, goose, corn, plums)
For Grades 5 – 8:
- Most of the families living near the Ingals were of what nationality? (Norwegian)
- Why do you think the “Homestead Act” appealed to them? (starving in Norway, free, good land)
- What state were the Ingals moving to? (Minnesota)
- What dangers did the Ingals face? (leeches, wild cows with dangerous horns, unruly oxen, storms, out in the cold, creek could be dangerous)
- What chores did the children do? (milked cow, took cow to the herd, picked fruit)
- What chores did the adults do? (cooked, cleaned, sewed, planted, harvested, built house, mended house, fished, hunted, stacked hay, cared for children)
- What things did the girls want for Christmas? (candy, dresses, a coat)
- What did they get instead? (horses)
- Why? (Their family needed them; they couldn’t afford to get the girls clothes and still buy horses)
- Why did it take so long to have a wood house? (trees were scarce, had to work for a long time to have the money to buy wood)
- How far did the girls walk to school? (2 ½ miles)
- What happened to a student who misbehaved in class? (Punished with a ruler)
- The Ingals often spoke of their “lean to”. Look up pictures on the internet by typing in the words “Pioneer Lean to” under google images: https://www.google.com/search?q=1800%27s+lean+to&safe=active&rlz=1C1RNLE_enUS528US582&es_sm=122&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAWoVChMIjpWe1e70xwIVRHUeCh2XrgNC&biw=1680&bih=925#safe=active&tbm=isch&q=pioneer+lean+to
K – 2: Draw your own picture of the Muldie family living in a sod house. Would you enjoy living in a sod house for a week? Write the answer to this question at the bottom of your picture.
3 – 4: Draw a picture of a sod house. What do you think were the three hardest things the Muldie boys faced while living on the prairie? Why? Write three short paragraphs to explain your answer.
5 – 8: Do the following:
- Read this article about living in a sod house: http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/stories/0501_0109.html
- Then, consider how it would be living in such a house during a storm or prairie fire. What were the advantages of living in a sod house? What were the disadvantages? Write an essay to explain your answer.
- Finally, if you had the opportunity to live in a sod house for a week, would you want to do it? Why or why not?
Copyright March 27th, 2016 by Gwen Fredette