Building a Ukrainian House in Billings County
This page draws on the second volume of the published history of Billings County. Pages 830-838 compose a section called “Pioneer Homes.” This provides narrative and notes about the various types of pioneer and vernacular dwellings in the county, including the earth buildings erected by Ukrainian settlers. It features the following description of the building of a packed-earth residence.
Some pioneers went to great lengths to provide a safe, warm and dry environment. Petro Demianow, who homesteaded on section 6-142-99, had a hillside sod shanty as a bachelor. When he married, he wanted something more special for his wife Anna.
He built a two room structure using Ukrainian four sided roof. He first dug the corner holes and placed cedar posts in them. Cedar posts were spaced in between. Branches were attached to the posts on the exterior and interior. Small rocks were placed on the bottom of the walls to allow seepage and drainage. A mud mixture of clay, dry grass and water was used to fill in the walls. It was also used over the inside and outside of the walls, which gave the walls a smooth finish. After the mixture dried, it was solid as cement. Cedar shingles covered the roof. An extra touch was the dormer window upstairs, providing light for the storage and the sleeping area for the older children.
A published photograph of the Demianow house shows what is meant by “Ukrainian four sided roof.” This was a hip roof, the eaves of which are slightly flared. The building is rectangular, about twice as long as it is wide. The main trance is on a long side, as is the dormer mentioned in the extract.
--Echoing Trails II: Billings County History. Medora: Billings County Historical Society, 2003.