St. Paul, Minnesota

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Heman and Jane arrived in Minnesota in the spring of 1849. After purchasing the land (part of which the museum currently occupies) Heman used the resources available to him to construct his first house. With very little wood available, Heman chose to dig his house out of the ground. The original cabin was 10 feet by 12 feet and four feet into the ground.  Heman constructed short wooden walls on the parameter of the dugout to support the roof. The roof of the house was made with planks and sod.

Life in the soddy was a challenge. It was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Although the roof was stable the heavy rains of the summer would cause the roof and walls to drip mud onto anything in the soddy. The soddy was furnished with just the basics. There was a stove with a barrel chimney, a small bed, and a few family possessions.  After five years of living in these cramped quarters, Heman started construction on a cabin above ground.

 In 1995 the Ramsey County Historical Society sponsored an archaeological excavation of the original soddy. The excavation was conducted by the Wilford Archaeological Laboratory of the University of Minnesota. The goal of the project was to determine the location and actual size of the soddy and see what information could be determined by any objects left behind.

Lillie Shanty

Archaeologists were able to determine the original location and size of the soddy. Along with the structure, archaeologist found a number of artifacts left behind when the Gibbs family moved into their log cabin. These artifacts include buttons, ceramics, nails, coins, and other objects.


Saturday - Sunday, 10am-4pm

Weekday mornings by appointment
ADULTS . . . $8.00
. . . $7.00
CHILDREN, ages 3-16 . . . $5.00

of Pioneer and Dakotah Life
2097 West Larpenteur Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55113


Our Mission
"The Ramsey County Historical Society inspires current and future generations to learn from
and value their history by engaging in a diverse program of presenting, publishing and preserving." 

The place for St. Paul & Ramsey County, Minnesota history.
Ramsey County Historical Society programs include a research center, St. Paul & Ramsey County MN history magazine, 
historical exhibits, historic site attraction the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life.

323 Landmark Center, 75 West Fifth Street, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102    
Phone: (651) 222-0701, Fax: (651) 223-8539

Copyright 2012

Home  ●  About Us Gibbs Museum Events & Exhibits Research Center ●  Magazine & Books Membership