A Prairie Homestead’s Story: A Final Journey

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Those that truly know me know that my only passion in life isn’t just writing, it’s also history. Each time I pass by an old, run down home, shack, or even a pile of wood in the woods, I want to know, who lived there, what their family was like, how they came to be there, and what kind of struggles they faced there.

Recently we had the opportunity to explore a home that I actually grew up next to. Often when taking a walk down to the creek to play we would study this house, wonder who lived there, and why they left such a beautiful location. Luckily my dad is friends with the owner (who lives further down the road now). The home was his growing up, built in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, it was their homestead. The early was settled in the late 1800’s so they would have been one of the first settlers in the area. The family lived in the home until the 1960’s and then moved into a different home. The home and area was then used for calving and they would come stay in the home during that season. Eventually it fell into disrepair and was completely abandoned. It’s become a dangerous structure and the owner has asked that it be torn down.

Since my family will be doing the demo work, the owner has given them all possessions they find during the demo. And since we are the kind of people where nothing of use goes to waste, the wood is going to be re-purposed to build new buildings on my own family’s ranch. This weekend we had the opportunity to give the home it’s last photoshoot. These pictures and more will be given to the owner so he can remember his family’s homestead and how beautiful it used to be. Enjoy the photos.

Little House Living - Abandoned House

The driveway to the house which sat just upon the top of the little hill of land. Can you imagine all the different kinds of vehicles drove up this road over the last 100 years?

Little House Living - Abandoned House

The outside of the house. I’m guessing the square part of the house was the original and the other part was an addition added later as they needed it (It added a bedroom and a living room). The fence went around the house making a little yard with nice trees. (And a tire swing!)

Little House Living - Abandoned House

This was another building on the property, the hired hand’s house. It consisted of one large room and livable attic space. The entryway and door on the side went into a cellar. There were several other buildings on the property including a smokehouse, several large barns, and a big chicken coop.

Little House Living - Abandoned House

The last hired hand must have been a reader because we found books upon books in his home. Unfortunately almost all of them have bad water damage and will not be salvageable. These 2 books in the front of the picture are a Bible and The Complete Works of John Bunyan.

Little House Living - Abandoned House

I have something of an obsession with old doorknobs. This house didn’t disappoint me in this area! Each screen door still attached had a door pusher on it and the doors were still somewhat whitewashed. The doorknobs were either porcelain or ornate metal work.

Little House Living - Abandoned House

They just don’t make them like that anymore! Beautiful.

Little House Living - Abandoned House

Ok, here’s a public service announcement. We believe this house has not been lived in since the 60’s according to the papers we found in the house and a calender on the wall. These cookies were STILL in the kitchen cupboard and STILL look like this. I saw mold, dead creatures, and all other nastiness in the house and I’m pretty sure this was the grossest thing we came across. Don’t buy store bought cookies.

Little House Living - Abandoned House

This was in the cellar we went into under the hired hand’s house. It definitely appears to be the food pantry! Jars laid all over the messy floor and the walls were filled with shelves, most with jars still on them. The room was nice and cold so I’m sure it served it’s purpose well.

Little House Living - Old Ball Jar

We found this jar in the hired hand’s house. I collect unique jars and I hadn’t seen this type of writing on a Ball Jar before. And if we check out the image below…


We can see that this jar is from 1896 – 1910! At least 100 years old, amazing. To me, the jar will never just be a jar. Or just a decorative piece. When I hold it in my hands I wonder….What kinds of foods did this jar hold? What kinds of things did this jar see over the years? Was it’s contents used for a special family meal? Or maybe just simple dinners? Maybe it held food that nourished a little child? So many things to ponder in just this little jar that now sits proudly on my counter top, holding some flowers.

Are you into history too? Do you wonder about the stories of old homesteads?


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  1. Thank you for writing this and posting the pictures. Such a wonderful way to preserve the past. I am sure the owners will appreciate it.

  2. History is my passion, too, Merissa. Thank you very much for sharing this home with us through your pictures and your writing. I am the Director of Visitor Services at my county Historical Society (Osceola, FL). Like you, I love to ponder and try to visualize in my mind’s eye all the details of people, places and things of the past. Check out our website: http://www.osceolahistory.org

  3. Wow! Thanks for sharing! I too love old jars and door knobs. Always saddens me to see these great old houses abandoned and torn down, oh the stories they could tell!

  4. What a wonderful post. I wonder the same things as well. Old buildings hold a fascination with me as I wonder about who built them, who lived in them, who loved them…. Thank you!

  5. Hi Merissa! This is one of the best historical house story/posts I have ever read. For starters, the fact that your family does the demolition and takes such care to take a photo for the family is significant. I adore the old knobs and doors and the 1896-1910 Bell Jar find that is a keeper. OMG- the store bought cookies still standing since the 1960s is mind boggling. I can’t thank you enough for letting me know about this post. I am going exploring on your blog some more now. If you are interested, I would love to showcase this post on my blog.

    1. Sure you can Sue, that’s why I shared it with you, I figured your readers wold love to see it! I’d love to do more posts like this, we explore ghost towns all the time and I love doing research on them for fun 🙂

  6. Loved the pictures and be sure to keep all the old door knobs. Do you think maybe the addition to the house was a kitchen? Around here they would build the kitchen off from the house in case of fire.

    1. The kitchen was part of the square part so I’m pretty sure that addition was the bedroom and living room. Oh and there was a bathroom addition too, although there used to be a nice 2 seater outhouse in the yard!

  7. I love your blog and I share your passion for old things. There is nothing more fun than discovering history. This may seem a bit morbid, but I used to investigate graveyards on occasion and wonder what stories the people would tell. I also believe in creating your own history today and everyday!

    1. I absolutely love old graveyards and I’m not ashamed about it! I like to look over headstones and wonder about all those peoples lives and what they were like It’s fascinating!

    1. We looked but couldn’t find one. We assumed the date though from the other newspapers and calenders and bank statements we found in the house.

  8. I also collect unique jars.
    I was blessed to collect several 100 yr old ones too from the old house we tore down for lumber. It is exciting to find them!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing the story and your journey through this piece of history. I too love the old and the abandoned and what they can teach us and try to imagine what they might tell us. Thank you too for your kind preservation of this piece of history and for salvaging what you can from the home for the owners but for us too.

  10. This is fascinating! As I looked at your photos I imagined the lives and stories of the people who must’ve lived here.
    And I, too, am a collector of old jars. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Have you emailed Keebler about the dates that particular cookie was manufactured? I’ve never heard of Marigold cookies and searching turned up nothing so it was probably only in production during a certain time period. That is so crazy that the cookies were still in tact and that the animals didn’t get them. I also tried looking into the Keebler logo, but didn’t come up with anything.

    Do you have additional pictures? If so, a slideshow would be so interesting. I would love to see the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, etc. I’ve always wanted to go inside the abandoned houses that we’ve seen in SD, but have never had the opportunity. I was able to peek in the windows and doorways of one while we were on vacation in Colorado near the mines last year. It was definitely interesting, but it was also very evident that many others had been through the property previously.

    1. We do have additional photos but I’m waiting to post more until demo days because I know more awesome things will pop up! We searched the cookies too and all we found was a grocery ad for the cookies from 1959 so I think our dates are right on! Good idea emailing Keebler though, that would be really interesting.

      1. I’m so glad there will be additional pictures 🙂 I’m finding this fascinating. Thank you for posting.

        That does sound like the dates are right on with the grocery ad. I really would be interested in Keebler’s response if you emailed them that picture 🙂 I was really hoping to find a Keebler logo chart online like the Ball chart that you had posted, but I had no luck.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing. I, too, love old homes and have lots of questions go through my head about who, what, when, where and why?! I love your Ball Mason jars. They are beautiful! Enjoy!

  13. Love, love, love the photos. I always drive by old homes and wonder about the stories they could tell. Great post, makes me want to explore a little more.

  14. I live in a house that was built about 1915, is a tong and grove built house that is 24′ wide times 32′ long with an open front porch, which is now closed and remolded to be part of the living room and to make a dining room out of the foyer and this house had electircity put in it when it was built. The lines were single and ran wide not side by side from the box to the fixture.You would love my door knobs….we have 6 sets of the original door knobs in this house. I will take a picture one of these days and post it for you.

  15. Oh I forgot to mention that this house is a 2 1/2 story house and when we bought it, it had 4 bedrooms which we made into 1 large master bedroom and 2 smaller bedrooms for our daughters upstairs. We also put in a pull down stairway so we could get into the attic easier…..it is high enough for a 6′ person to stand up in the center. The owners a couple before us had taken out the sliding doors to the living room, made the kitchen larger with an eating area in it. The part that is the eating area use to be the whole kitchen and the working part of the kitchen was the dining room which now is the working part of the kitchen along with a 1/2 bath and a closet. There is a knotty pine counter just as you enter the hall by the back door. This has 2 shelves above and corner shelves too for displaying knick knacks I think. On the bottom is another cupboard with a shelf. It originally was a potato bin on one side and a flour bin on the other. This house had been in the same family for 50 odd yrs before it was sold to the owners that remolded some of it and owned it for 23 yrs and then sold again to people that owned it only 4 yrs and then sold to us and we have been here 36 yrs.

  16. The brick, I’m guessing they were solid? Beautiful photos and story. Loved it, I’m just like you!

  17. Love the journey through the old house, Merissa. Is that jar a half gallon? I had one like it and knocked a hole in it…so upsetting…lol If you’re into jar collecting,you need to find you a copy of the Red Book #9 if you don’t already have one. It’s an awesome reference for jars. You can identify your jars and get an idea how much they might be worth. Unfortunately, most jars we think might be valuable really aren’t. I refuse to pay more than a dollar for most jars, they are terribly overpriced at antique stores. There are some really rare ones out there though and the book will be a handy reference. I love the old fence too, wish I could come across some of that somewhere around here. I can’t wait to see what you do with all the treasures you’re finding.

    1. Thanks for that book, I will have to look it up! I generally collect Drey Jars because they are different than the norm, but the unique Ball jars can be cool too. Oh and that jar pictured is a quart, but there might be some half gallons in that cellar, we will have to find out!

  18. Wonderful story. I too love to go and look around old properties and wonder what about the lives lived there. Also, what sort of treasures might still be around. A good place to look is where they used to dump/bury the garbage. At our place we have dug up old cameras, dinner plates with a chip, bull nose ring, jars , toys and an old box with WPA 1933 printed on it(still in good shape). I can’t wait to see some of the other pictures. If you can get the owner to tell you some stories (and add your own), write them down. That way everyone can continue to live the stories.

  19. I so enjoyed this post & you know some of our generation today just don’t take the time to enjoy the old jars etc. & to resuse the lumber, but i believe we are coming back around to it more & more as they see what older generations had to endure just to live

  20. I wrote Keebler, this was their reply:


    Thank you for contacting us regarding Keebler® Marigolds. We will be happy to share the following information with you.

    We are not able to tell exactly from the picture what year they were made. However, we did find some information that dates these cookies back to 1959.

    Again, thank you for contacting us. We appreciate your interest in our company and products.

    If you have additional comments, click here.
    Please do not use your “reply” button to respond to this e-mail. Replies to this message are routed to an unmonitored mailbox.


    Ruby G.
    Consumer Specialist
    Consumer Affairs

    So your dates are reasonably accurate…

  21. I loved this post! I often wonder about abandoned houses and almost feel like if you could listen they could ‘talk’. I love old jars for food storage and they make me happy every time I take one out of the cupboard. I am looking forward to more posts about this house.

  22. A history girl after my own heart~we must have been separated at birth. LOl You sound so much like me with your thoughts of old houses and buildings. I do the same thing and tend to romanticize the past~sometimes wishing I were born in the 1700s or 1800s.
    Thanks for showing these great pictures.
    The How to Guru

  23. I was born and raised is South Dakota but have lived elsewhere since 1986. I LOVE beautiful South Dakota and always refer to it as a “well kept secret” – how wonderful it is – no matter how cold it gets!!! LOL Thank you so much for this meaningful post! It brings back so many endearing memories. Your eye for capturing the beauty of the ordinary and coupling it with sentiments of pondering life as it passed by these objects and places shows the appreciation that comes from a deep character and warm soul. You are a true South Dakotan! Not to mention that we Dakotans know how to reuse anything from baling twine to bent nails!!!! Warmly, Trish

  24. Wow! Those door knobs are so beautiful. The picture of the door/screen door made me so sad that the house is beig torn down. 🙁
    And the cookies – yikes! I showed them to hubby and he said maybe some drifter had left them there – especially since they weren’t dusty. Bt still, eww! Haha.

  25. The previous owner is so blessed that you and your camera and your creative eye are a part of this demo. What a blessing to him!

  26. My family ( mothers side) were farmers going back to mid 1600 York England. Our last family farm here in Canada was sold 15 years ago. Thanks for sharing the story and pics.

  27. I love this article! Thank you so much. I have the same curiosity about old buildings. How nice that you have been able to learn so much about this one.

  28. I always look at old houses that are ran down and think about how at one time that was someone’s dream home. People laughed, loved, and cried in there, now it is just falling down.

  29. I liquidate estates for my income and there are times when I just cry and cry because of history in the houses. The toughest things to find are the old war journals. Some of the soldiers had written things as they were happening. Other journals were of those who had someone in the military.

    Each house is different, and each story is different. I, too, go by a house and wonder the history. I also see a plane overhead and wonder who is in the plane. Where are they headed? Where did they come from? Why are they headed to wherever they’re going? *sigh*

  30. OMG! I love old building and barns and the like! I always felt weird as a child because I would see a house like this and being curious would check it out by looking in windows and doors cause I was afraid to walk inside I didn’t want to be crushed! I would make up stories of who lived there, what a day in there life would be. I love old dishes, mason jars and the like! Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures and I am sure the owner will love the pics you give them!

  31. I love this post!! Old homes are so fascinating. Two sets of my grandparents lived in houses from that era and I loved hearing their stories about the wood behind the drywall (they all loved remodeling in the 1960s-80s, adding carpet, drywall, and whole rooms to the houses). My grandma says that on the wood under the carpeted stairs to her second floor you can see marks from logging boots – the original owner and builder of the house tromped upstairs to sleep every night after working long hours as a logger in North Idaho. I can’t wait to see more photos like these ones. Just lovely!

  32. I really loved this post!!! And all the pictures and history!!! How wonderful!! I love this time period and so much wonderful old history! Thanks again for sharing !!!!!!!!

  33. I took your Ball logo graphic up to where I have some old canning jars to see what I have on my shelves. I have a 2 quart from 1918-1923, a quart from 1896-1910 (lots of bubbles in this one) and a quart and a pint from 1923-1933. All have their zinc lids, and are a soft blue-green. I was stalling because I had to clear the snow from my driveway and not looking forward to it. Thanks for the fun activity instead!

  34. There are lots of abandoned homesteads here too, in various states of repair. Some you could almost live in , to just some tumbledown stones. LOve exploring them, so atmospheric and full of everyday history. I love to imagine who lived in them and what life was like for them.

  35. I’ve wanted to be a writer in the past so when I see a house like this, I too have the urge to “fill in the blanks”. What were the people’s hopes and dreams? And like you, What DID those jars contain? Basic ingredients for a Christmas dinner or more run of the mill fare?
    My grandmother used to have a couple of gallon sized small mouth mason jars we used to make tea in (proper Southern tea is as dark as coffee and as sweet as some candy bars). I miss those jars. If you have a mailing list, please put me on it.
    Many thnaks.

  36. I love old houses too and have always wondered about the families who used to live in them. The memories they made, were they good or bad? I took a picture of an old house where I live and then later on found out it had been torn down. So when I’m out riding the back roads and have my camera, I try to take pictures of houses, old school houses, etc of things that interest me. So glad to hear someone else feels the way I do! Someone has to preserve the past! Thanks for the pics and the story behind them!

  37. I loved your story I often find myself asking the same questions when I see an old house or out building who lived here what kind of life did they live I also love the fence I don’t know that I have ever seen one like that

  38. What a wonderful story and photos! I enjoyed it immensely Merissa. We are kindred spirits and this nourished my soul. Thank you!

  39. Oh.My.Gosh! I love this. I’ve often voiced the desire to go look inside old abandoned houses I see scattered across the land to see what’s been left behind. I always think about the stories these homes could tell and what events took place in the lives of the residents. Thank you for this. What an awesome piece!

  40. I’ve thought, most of my life, that I was weird for being intrigued by old buildings and old things (like your jar). Thank you for sharing this journey with and for this family and for letting me know that I am not alone….