Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Loren E. Slocum - Life Underground

Loren E. Slocum
Loren E. Slocum

      It was 1909 when the stranger rode into Faith, South Dakota on horseback, pulling an Indian-style travois behind him.  Acquiring a farm three miles from town, he went about the work of constructing an abode - underground - a lifestyle he would maintain for the next 40+ years.

    Loren Slocum built his underground dugout for reasons of solitude as well as economy.  "God placed me there for important discoveries," he said, also noting, "I live underground because I'm too poor to survive above it.  If I had a shack, I'd have to keep it up and I don't have the money for that."  His 100 acres of land was devoid of any buildings, and his home was marked by a three-foot smoke pipe protruding through the earth, a trap door leading downward, and an old wood stove above-ground that he used for cooking during the summer months.

    Inside his 5 x 8 dugout, he had few belongings and slept on rough boards as a bed.  Critics were put in their place by Slocum, who argued, "Some people have said my dugout isn't healthy, but I've lived underground for 40 years and I'm still here and those others have been dead a long time."

    He made his living from his "old age pension" during the winter, and by raising vegetables in the summer, and had in fact acquired some fame as a gardener.  He won prizes from a physical culture magazine in 1928 for articles on the value of uncooked vegetables in the diet.  In that respect, he was apparently a man ahead of his time.

    He refused the label of "hermit," noting that he walked three miles per day into the nearby town of Faith.  He did not marry, and other than "kin" he mentioned in either Artesian or Alcester, he was alone.  A New York native who was born about 1871, he was not found (at least not easily) in any censuses prior to 1920.

    While friends and neighbors desired to help him , he refused, saying, "I'm old enough to take care of myself."  He was 80 years old when his friends finally convinced him that his health was not good enough to survive another South Dakota winter underground, and he moved to a nursing home in Sturgis.  He died months later on November 26, 1950, at the age of 80.

Richard Soash.  Original newspaper clipping.  Unnamed and undated newspaper.  4 Mar. 2013.
Austin Daily Herald [Austin, Minnesota] November 27 1950, 2. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.
"Likes To Live Underground." Hutchinson News-Herald [Hutchinson, Kansas] February 16 1950, 13.
"20 Years in a Hole." Evening Independent [Massillon, Ohio] September 09 1935, 3. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. South Dakota Death Index, 1905-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
Year: 1920; Census Place:  Faith, Meade, South Dakota; Roll:  T625_1723; Page:  5A; Enumeration District:  133; Image:  579.
Year: 1930; Census Place:  Township 12, Meade, South Dakota; Roll:  2227; Page:  1A; Enumeration District:  108; Image:  941.0; FHL microfilm:  2341961.
Year: 1940; Census Place: Faith, Meade, South Dakota; Roll: T627_3862; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 47-9

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