Discovering History: Our Journey to Homestead Living

by Merissa on April 1, 2014

in Farmhouse Renovation

Farmhouse Renovation: Our Journey to Homestead Living

Farmhouse Renovation Part 1: Moving On
Farmhouse Renovation Part 2: Getting Started

As soon as we knew that our offer was accepted on our new farmhouse we became very interested in discovering the roots behind the home.

Why did they build it the way they did? Who built it? Who lived here in the last 124 years?

The hubby and I have always been into history (well he wasn't until he married me but I guess I make it contagious!). Once we discovered an old OLD abandoned graveyard in the Hills and we wouldn't rest until we learned everything about it as possible. It took us over a year but we gathered up info on the people buried in the cemetery, the town that was nearby (that no longer exsisted) and the flume they used to dig precious minerals out of the hillside. Our trip took us to the area at least once a week, we even made a trip to the state capital for extra records and looked at old newspapers on microfilm. Needless to say, we were a little obsessed 🙂 But it was so much fun and it was a great hobby for us.

With the farmhouse we started by searching for anything related to the address online, when that didn't turn up any results we decided to give the county courthouse a call and see what they could tell us. I'm so thankful we live in a small town because the courthouse not only let us know they have many records from the house since it was built but we were welcome to come and take a look at everything!

So one afternoon we took a break from renovating and headed over the courthouse. First we learned the basics...the house was built in 1890 and an addition was built in 1930. There have only been 3 owners (including us) since the 60's. We then headed over to another office and they wrote down many numbers of books and pages that held records for our house. Then it was up to us to pull the HUGE books off the record shelves and look through until we found the correct pages. They were so heavy and we must have gone through about 30 books! The search actually didn't turn up as much info as we hoped but we were able to write down names and dates. Unfortunately it seemed as though much of the data had issues and some of it didn't even make sense! But nevertheless, we did gain info.

It took me a while to get through the info but here's my preliminary findings! We have discovered that there are a few more books we need to check out in the local library's archives when we get some time. So far my attempts to reach out to family members of the families that lived here have been unsuccessful.

Homestead Living

The land our home was built on was purchased in 1888, the year that South Dakota became a state. It was purchased by a farmer that owned another 160 acres a few miles away. The land our home is on isn't great for farming since it has a few streams flowing through it (and a lot of trees) but it would have been great for cattle. However it must not have worked out for that owner and he sold it in 1890 to someone that we believe was a Quaker.

Homestead History

Some writing (math) that we found inside the walls from the builder.

Quick fact....I had no idea that Quakers even lived in South Dakota until we moved to our farmhouse. Shortly after moving to the house we discovered a very old Quaker cemetery just a mile from us and the area which was once the Quaker church. The name of the owner of our home was the same last name as many that were buried in the Quaker cemetery.  Since I couldn't find his name it's hard to know for sure but given the proximity to the church and the same last name, I'm guessing it was a good probability.

Homestead History

More writing inside the walls from the builder.

After he built the home in 1890 we aren't quite sure what happened. He lived here for 3 years (he was a widower when he built the home) and then sold it to a small family of 3 from Iowa.

To be continued on Thursday... 🙂

Check back on Thursday for the next part of the series and make sure you are signed up for my weekly newsletter so you don't miss any farmhouse renovation posts!


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 n barritt April 1, 2014 at 7:36 am

It is amazing to find the history of a house . We have a modified farm house of stone it is only 29 years old . It has had 5 owners. We have broke the record of only living there a few years with our “11 and counting.” Some facts interesting and some not…the records tell the story of life and how it goes on. Stories a Realtor won’t tell you.


2 Maria April 1, 2014 at 7:42 am

Awesome …taking this walk back in time!! Looking forward to more!~


3 Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids April 1, 2014 at 7:43 am

What a great story and history! I look forward to seeing more about your house renovations.


4 Bart April 1, 2014 at 7:48 am

Really like your blog and am quite envious of your wide open spaces…
I have an indoor day job but enjoy working with my hands and have done quite a bit of carpentry over the years. It is quite common for me to do a little “figgerin” on a piece of lumber that eventually makes its way into the project. In fact, I did that very thing just last evening while building a closet for my sis-in-law! So I got a smile from the picture of the same thing being done in the long ago. Have a good’n…I’m heading out to the shop to finish up the hive boxes for my bees that are supposed to be here in a few weeks. Bart


5 cheri April 1, 2014 at 8:50 am

i also live in a small town, my family has lived here since the 1890’s. i live one block away from where the small cabin my grandma was raised. the courthouse will drop everything to help you find records but there’s always an old timer around who knows the lay of the land. i feel like my family’s history lives beside me, i walk in their footsteps every day. i have enjoyed watching your journey.


6 Linda Steiger April 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I love the history of homes & villages too. We live in a small farming village (600 pop.) in Western NY established in the early l800’s. Our village was larger in the l800’s with several mills built on the creek that flows through town & the surrounding area. We learned a lot from an 80 yr. old neighbor who loved to walk the woods on our adjoining property. Our house is rather modern – only about 60 years old ranch style. We were looking for an old farmhouse but couldn’t find any at the time and this property had 86 acres w/vineyard, pasture, pond & maple sugar bush in the 60 acres of woods, which my husband fell in love with. Our elderly neighbor showed us in the woods where the wild leeks & garlic grow along the creek & where the Trilliums bloom every spring. He also showed us a trail running along the creek at the back of our property, which was the stagecoach road running from Buffalo, NY to our village – fascinating stuff!


7 Lana April 1, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I adore old graveyards! Our house is only 35 years old but people often tell us that they know the people who built it and they wish they had never sold it. We are the third owners and have lived here for 20 years. Our five children grew up playing in the woods and the creek down back. It is way TOO big for us now as empty nesters but we have so much history here that it will hard to part with. Wouldn’t it be interesting to write out our lives here and when we lived here and stash it somewhere like the attic?


8 Merissa April 1, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Love that idea <3 🙂


9 Kelly Dearborn April 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm has all the census records you would need to find out who owned your house, and probably a few other facts.


10 Sallie Borrink April 1, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Our previous home was a 1928 Craftsman. There were HUGE drawers in the wall of the master bedroom that opened to the eaves/insulation. It was dirty and there was no way I would use them. When we sealed it off with drywall, I wrote a quick letter and put it in an envelope. We left our names, the year and why we were doing the rennovation. I don’t know if anyone will have a reason to open that wall, but perhaps someday someone will find our envelope. 🙂


11 Donneta April 4, 2014 at 11:12 am

I am loving this story. I have just started doing genealogy this year and often find ancestors that have died and where buried somewhere, but where? Often they predate state death records and cemeteries are your only clue. How exciting it would be to find an previously unknown cemetery and make the connections!


12 aing April 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm

You certainly are finding out a lot about the history of your house. Your blog is interesting.


13 Hipockets April 5, 2014 at 3:02 am

Good for you looking up the History of your new home’ It will make you more connected to it for years to come and you’ll add you’re own History. Looking back in time is so interesting,maybe that’s why I love
“old things”. I even have a postcard informing me a soldier died at “Little Bighorn” from a family member’ Makes life more interesting to learn the “Before you” Good luck on your search and your new home’ Admire you and Hubby. You’re survivors and tough cookies’


14 April May 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Hi Merissa,
I’m loving reading your blog and look forward to reading more. I have to say, I know it will be one of my favorites. Looking forward to learning from you:)


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