Homestead Life


The dogtrot house with detached kitchen that still stands on the property today was built by Jules Ladner in the 1880s. Melvina and Gilbert Shaw expanded the house in 1902, with the addition of lean-to bedrooms. Although the kitchen was central to homestead life and several family members shared the living quarters, many daily activities took place outside on the grounds and on the house porches. The yard immediately around the house was called the “chicken yard” and outbuildings included the existing kitchen, smokehouse, jar house and corn crib, as well as a large barn, sweet potato house, outhouse, garage, well and tractor shed. Most properties these days already come with a garage that is attached to their home. And even if there isn’t a garage, homeowners now have the option to have a 12×24 portable garage, or a different size of their choice built onto their property, which will allow for the same amount of storage space that this home had. There are so many things that can be done now to make life easier, but it wasn’t always like this.

The Shaw family home had no electricity, plumbing or running water until 1951. The only cash the family earned was through their yearly wool shearing; the rest of the year, they subsisted mostly on what they could raise themselves. Homestead life was quite active! While men were usually responsible for raising the livestock, smoking meat and tending to large fields of crops, homestead women cultivated the vegetable garden, growing enough food to feed the family during the growing season and preserve for the winter. Considerable time was devoted to food canning, as well as quilting and washing.