As our previous posts have shown, homesteading could be rewarding, but it was also difficult. People participating in homesteading had to “prove up” their claim with a house and various other improvements. This week I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what a homestead might look like, how people actually farmed their land, and just some interesting agriculture photos. You can also find additional photos on our Flickr Favorite list.
One of the first structures built on a claim was the “homestead shack” which was a very simple one story, one room wood framed building at about 10 feet by 12 feet. The above photo is a homestead shack in Fort Ross State Historic Park in California. “Homestead shacks” were typically replaced with permanent residences, and the shack was then used for storage.
Permanent residences ranged in architectural style, from the simple to the elegant:
Another essential building was the barn. Barns vary in purpose as well as architectural style, and Ada and Canyon County had a rich heritage in barns. Many are now abandoned, derelict, and falling in on themselves.
In addition to houses and barns, other types of buildings and equipment became essential to operating a homestead. These included poultry houses, hog houses, loafing sheds, corrals, feeding/watering troughs, loading/squeeze chutes, bull pens, granaries, silos, ice houses, milk houses, water tanks, well houses, smokehouses, corn cribs and hay derricks. I found the corn cribs and hay derricks the most interesting, and hay derricks themselves have a special Idaho connection.
Corn cribs were built with horizontal lath or slat walls and later on with wire mesh and other metal components and were used to dry corn. It has been said that the Native Americans were the first to build such structures. Hay derricks were particularly popular in Idaho and Utah and were used to load hay onto wagons or into barn lofts.
They were often called by their nicknames of “Mormon derricks” or “Mormon stackers.” The derricks were primarily constructed by the farmers that needed them, and moved hay by using a “Jackson Fork” (a four-pronged fork) that lifted up the hay and a pole attached to a cable would pivot, placing the hay in the barn or wagon.
Check back next week for our last homesteading article and share your Ada County or Canyon County agriculture photos with us on Flickr.
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