This page was last updated 23 April 2001.
Great grandmother had been pregnant with Granddad on the boat coming across the Atlantic -- that must have been real pleasant! So granddad was born 16 September 1877 in a sod house in Canada, Kansas -- a then thriving and growing small town in Gale Township of Marion County. When my brother John and I were last there about 1995 it appeared to have a population of about 15 and there was no visible commercial activity.
I don't know if great grandmother Mary had any help with the delivery, but if she did, my guess is that it was the midwife Sara Block Eitzen (1840-1917), a Mennonite midwife who herself had come to Marion County (probably Liberty Township just a few miles from Canada) in 1876. She is said to have delivered over 1800 babies during her medical "ministry" [see Solomon L. Loewen, "Medical and Dental Services in Early Mennonite Communities", AHSGR Journal 7.3, pp.15-20 (has her picture)].
I don't know if great-granddad had built the sod house or been able to move into one which had recently been vacated by some family which had been recently been able to move into a frame house. On the great plains you needed shelter in a hurry. The winds made tents pretty useless and there was plenty of sod -- so you started digging, chopped a few saplings in a creek bottom for roof "timbers", and in a couple of days could have a place for your family. The people you arrived with probably helped you and you helped them.
Solomon Otto describes the sod house built by his dad in South Dakota in 1895 in the AHSGR Journal, volume 7.1, p.41. It had two small rooms -- a kitchen and a bedroom. The style was probably fairly common on the high plains in those days.
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