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The Gibbs Farm Dugout Site         
Site Number(s):   21RA26  
County:   Ramsey, MN  
City Township:   Falcon Heights  
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Gibbs Farm Dugout
This drawing of the Gibbs Farm dugout by Deborah Schoenholz is based on archaeological findings and family memories. Courtesy Ramsey County Historical Society.

The farm of Heman and Jane Gibbs, now owned by the Ramsey County Historical Society, is located on the northern edge of present-day St. Paul. In 1995 a team from the University of Minnesota, using volunteer help, excavated the site of the 10'X12' "dugout" that had sheltered the Gibbs family during their first five years on the land (1849-54). Structures of this kind were a common form of initial dwelling for Euro-American settlers in Minnesota, but this is one of the first to be systematically studied.

Plan of Gibbs Farm Dugout
Plan of Gibbs Farm dugout and entryway. The natural soil around the dugout is silt loam; the floor of both room and entryway is gravelly sand. Wooden flooring was taken out for use elsewhere. Drawing by Carl Blair courtesy Ramsey County Historical Society

Although usable materials had been removed and the hole filled in when an above-ground cabin and other buildings were erected, the site had otherwise been undisturbed. What archaeologists found largely confirmed Gibbs family tradition as to the size and appearance of the dugout. The artifacts recovered from the level of original occupation suggested that despite their crude housing and a relatively modest socio-economic status, Heman and Jane Gibbs were able to afford a fairly broad range of manufactured and even imported household goods. These included machine-cut nails, parts of well-made tools, and fragments of good quality ceramic ware. A broader range of objects found in the materials used for fill in the dugout reflected growing prosperity and availability of goods in later years.



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Updated 29 Jun 1999