The Chrisman Sisters, 1886: Lizzie Chrisman filed the first of the sisters’ homestead claims in 1887. Lutie Chrisman filed the following year and the other two sisters, Jennie Ruth and Hattie, had to wait until 1892, when they came of age, to file.
He photographed my relatives, too, the ones in the hallway. In one of his most famous photos, and one of his first, he captured the four Chrisman sisters, my distant relatives, late teens or early twenties, perhaps, standing before the front door of their soddy, flanked on both sides by a saddled horse, their floor-length cotton dresses—each a different pattern—lost in the brittle prairie grass. They stand tall and altogether badass, reigning in the prairie one day at a time, each of them with three claims to their name. He photographed Harvey Andrews and his family, also distant relatives, standing beside the grave of his dead child, two small cedar saplings growing up behind the tombstone, his other young children bundled in thick wool coats, a newborn in the mother’s arms. Solomon D. Butcher’s Photographs
One of the most striking features of these photos is the pride the homesteaders show.
Many of those photographed were the first landowners in their family. Homesteaders often lined up their most prized possessions in the photos to show the scope of their ownership.
One woman, reportedly embarrassed by her sod house,
requested that the family be photographed with her pump organ instead. They dragged the organ out into the yard — farm animals and wagons can be seen in the background — then dragged it back into the house after the photo was taken.
Ned Dunlap, known as Kearney, Nebraska’s only real cowboy, 1902.
The Shores family, near Westerville, Custer County, Nebraska, 1887. Jerry Shores was one of a number of former slaves to settle in Custer County. He took a claim adjacent his brothers’, Moses Speese and Henry Webb (each had taken the name of his former owner).
Sylvester Rawding brought his family to Nebraska in the 1880s. In 1886, they brought their lunch outside on a muddy day so that photographer Solomon Butcher could capture the family on film. Sylvester was a Union Army Civil War veteran, wounded during a skirmish near Mobile, Alabama.
More images at The Week – America’s pivotal move West
“Oh the hinges are of leather
And the windows have no glass
While the board roof
Lets the howling blizzards in
And I hear the hungry coyote
As he slinks up through the grass
Round the little old sod shanty
On my claim”