Sod House Museum at Gothenburg, Nebraska

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Personal history comes to life at the Sod House Museum

When I was in the fourth grade, one of my school assignments was to create a family tree. I remember asking my mom for the names of my great-grandparents. In the process, I found out all sorts of interesting facts about both sides of my family.

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book page spiral bound. text says the history of the divine eivindsen family 1997
Our family history book.

This is part of an ongoing series about our family road trip from Oregon to Georgia and back. To start at the beginning, click here.

Both of my parents had grandparents or great-grandparents who were first generation immigrants from European countries. 

sod house museum red barn
The Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, Nebraska

I remember looking through a wire-bound family history book that a distant cousin had created, and finding out that some of my forebears settled in the Plains and lived in a sod house. So when our route took us right past a town in Nebraska with a Sod House Museum, I could not resist asking for a lunch stop there!

kids in front of giant corn cob
Giant corn cob outside the barn

When we entered the barn, a lady looked up from her chair in the corner. She eagerly shared the story of the Museum, and handed us a newspaper-type brochure. 

Inside the Barn by the Sod House

This is a family-owned business, run by a couple who bought the farm with the intention of preserving a part of American history that is fast disappearing.

A sign commemorating the sod house settlers.

The sod house on the property was not original, but the previous owner had built it in the same way that the old “soddies” were made, and had furnished it with period pieces. 

As we meandered through the collections in the barn, I appreciated the mix of historical artifacts and beautiful arts and crafts for sale to support the museum.

Black and white framed photo of cowboy with indigenous chief. Property of the Sod House Museum.
One of the photos on display.

There were old historic photos with explanations of the history behind them. An old Bell telephone (which my kids did not recognize) created a fun conversation piece. Brian and I had to explain what many of the objects were, or how they were used- though my children could easily recognize the cherry pitter! 

Pony Express advertisement at the Sod House Museum.
Pony Express Advertisement.

Although the children had to keep their hands off most of it, there is a large wooden swing set up right in the middle of the barn. The boys had fun taking turns on that while Mom and Dad finished admiring the antiques.

Boy on wooden swing inside store at the Sod house Museum
Enjoying the swing inside

I chuckled seeing a typewriter among the objects, since I still remember typing on one as a child in the 1980s! I’m not that old, folks! 

Antique quilt

1918 patchwork quilt at the Sod House Museum
1918 patchwork quilt

My favorite antique was a patchwork quilt dated 1918! As a beginning quilter, I loved seeing the creativity and craftsmanship that had gone into this fabric art.

woman in front of old quilt
Love this beautiful old quilt!

Quilts from before 1920 are hard to find, partly because so many were burned during the Spanish influenza pandemic— a fact I appreciate even more now that we are living through our own pandemic!

Once we had seen enough inside, and the boys were starting to get rambunctious, we went out back.

Barbed Wire Art

Bison sculpture behind the red barn

Two huge barbed-wire sculptures, one of a bison and another of an indigenous man on horseback, stood sentinel in a field.

Close-up of the barbed wire sculpture

The barbed wire had been wound and twisted to create the statues. Having had a few run-ins with barbed wires in Jamaica as a teen, I cautioned the kids against carelessly brushing against it!

Indigenous man on horseback sculpture

The boys especially loved examining the statues up close- nearly as much as they enjoyed exploring the open field. We reminded them to keep an eye out for snakes.

The Sod House

My son looking at the sod house

Finally I stepped up to the sod house. What a fascinating and creative way the settlers had come up with to make a house!

Sod House
The Sod House

I was amazed at the ingenuity of people who had no large trees to build with, no large stones, and made use of the one thing that was plentiful—grass-covered sod! We were careful not to touch the crumbling sod walls, but we stepped inside and looked around. 

Inside the small sod house

Appaloosa and I were delighted to see a replica kitchen / living room/ bedroom all-in-one. This room was set up almost exactly as Laura had described her sod house in On the Banks of Plum Creek!

Table setting

There was a table, chair, tin cup (“Like Laura’s!” My daughter exclaimed), bed with faded quilts, and an iron stove.

The bed

The straw tick mattress was supported by ropes woven across the frame. The interior walls were whitewashed, but in places where they were crumbling we could see the mud and sod under the whitewashing. It was easy to imagine ourselves into the Little House story.

paper sign on post describing how a sod house was built
How they built the house

Souvenir Saw

After everyone had seen all they wanted to see, Brian loaded up the kids and sent me back to shop uninterrupted for a few minutes.

pinnable image of kids in front of cowboy on running horse metal statue. Dinkum Tribe logo. Text says: sod house museum and pony express station. URL and text box says Gothenburg Nebraska
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I was enchanted with some repurposed old saws that had been painted with beautiful scenes. Brian liked them too, so he told me to pick my favorite. I bought it, and the kind lady working there helped us to find some paper to wrap it up so we wouldn’t accidentally cut something on our trip!

painted scene on an antique saw
This was the one we brought home.

The Pony Express Station

While we were there, the docent suggested that we go into downtown Gothenburg to see the Pony Express station. Although it was not our original plan, we decided to detour since it was so close.

pony express sign in Gothenburg Nebraska

A short ten-minute drive brought us to a beautiful city park. We saw a tiny log cabin with a metal silhouette of a running horse a few feet away. This was an original Pony Express station that the city had opted to preserve and moved from its original location to the park grounds.

log cabin pony express station
Pony Express station, Gothenburg, Nebraska

When we stepped inside, we were all surprised at how tiny it was! There was room for a small display on one side, and a few gift shop items on the other.

Pony Express diorama with mannequin
Pony Express diorama

The display and placards explained the basic history of the Pony Express.

I was familiar with the history, but standing there in that tiny cabin, I could understand why they wanted “young men, ages sixteen to eighteen, orphans preferred”! It was a hard life, and many did not survive the job. I had a renewed appreciation for my next-day Amazon Prime deliveries!

Gothenburg, Nebraska was an important stop on several historic trails.

We only spent about half and hour there because we still had a long drive ahead to get to Missouri. It was just enough time to see that Gothenburg is a place we’d love to return to and explore more thoroughly. 

Coming soon: our day at Oceans of Fun waterpark in Kansas City, Missouri!

© Copyright 2021 Jennifer D. Warren

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About the author

I’m Jenn Warren, Co-Founder and Content Creator for Dinkum Tribe. I'm a Third Culture Kid (TCK) from Jamaica and California, married to my college sweetheart. I've been a missionary kid, pastor’s kid and (former) pastor’s wife. My husband and I traveled as pastors for 12 years throughout the United States and Canada before becoming travel content creators.

I love living in Oregon and exploring new places with my family. We’ve road tripped over 30,000 miles across the United States and Western Canada with our six children since their infancy. Prior to our marriage, I also lived in Spain for a summer and spent another summer in Mexico.

I’ve homeschooled our six children for over 10 years, and served on the board of a homeschool co-op for 4 years. Several members of our family are neurodivergent (gifted, ADHD, cPTSD), and I’ve spent 5+ years learning how to accommodate neurodivergent needs as well as supporting the resultant mental health challenges (anxiety, depression).

I’ve also served as a support group leader and co-director of Pure Life Alliance, a nonprofit organization that supports families struggling with sexual addiction.

I write about family travel and road trips, millennial marriage, general parenting, homeschooling, parenting neurodivergent children, grief, and abuse recovery.


  1. This is my favorite part of homeschooling. We just made our first family field trip a few weeks ago. Thanks for sharing your adventures. 🙂

  2. Amazing article. I’d love to visit this museum. I loved learning about the pony express as a child. I think it was a little more dangerous to actually ride for the pony express than we learned about. I especially love your personal connection to the site.

    1. Yes, I’m fairly certain that we learned the “sanitized” version too. It was fascinating to see the house up close!

  3. Awesome post on Gothenberg, Nebraska, exploring the details of how the Sod house was built. The barbed wire sculptures looked fabulous and thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Pony Express museum.

  4. It’s so funny that you had to give the explanation of the telephone to your kids. Technology advances do quickly it’s scary. Looks like your family had a fun day.

  5. Looks like a fun destination to explore for kids. I never would have guessed about quilts being hard to find. Learned something new today!

    1. It never occurred to me either, but my husband picked up a book on World War 1 quilting that mentioned the reason why, and I found it fascinating.

    1. Yes, it really was a unique experience, and a little bit of a nervous one too – hopefully the sod house will remain standing a little longer!

  6. What an adventure, I came across a reference to a sod hut in our history and wondered… thank you for showing me about…I do love the barbed wire art…

    1. That was one of my favorite things about visiting the Sod house museum – the opportunity to see an actual sod house!

  7. Really enjoyed reading this article your great grandma Evenson was born in Gothenburg looks like a fun place to visit cool you displayed the family book that my mom wrote from everyone’s experiences..

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