Article printed in The Arkansas City Traveler, Thursday, March 25, 2004.

Little cabin in Cowley focus of historians.


Traveler Staff Writer


A little cabin in the woods of Cowley County is getting a lot of attention lately.

Some folks believe the stone cabin may be an historical landmark. Among them is Jay Price, a history professor at Wichita State University. Price said he is looking for "a smoking gun" to pinpoint the cabin's place in Kansas history.

He visited the structure with a group from Wichita a few weeks ago.

Another tour for Cowley County commissioners, an environmental scientist with the Kansas Water Office, and others is set for today.

They want to see the cabin first-hand as part of a study of the Grouse Creek area, and the implications of a proposed man-made lake that could force local landowners to surrender thousands of acres of land for the project.

Price said Wednesday he wouldn't be on today's tour, but is continuing to research the history of the land on which the cabin sits.

"I have been lookingand my students have tooto try to get as much information as possible on the cabin site," he said.

Price made the visit a few weeks ago because he wanted to see for himself if the old building really dated to 1801. He had seen a report that one of the stones on the outside of the cabin had that date marked on it.

"We talked about the 1801 marking, but it's not 1801, it's 8.0 with a box around it," Price said, adding that a date marking would not be placed where the stone was.

"The stone is on the lower wall," he said. "It's out of the way. It's not where you'd put any sort of a marking. You'd put it right where people could see it."

Another problem is that the stone with the marking is a different type of stone from those used on the rest of the building.

Price said his guess is that the building dates back to the mid-1800s.

"It has a shed roof on it, and one edge is higher than the other," he said. "It's not the original. My hunch is that it originally may have been a story-and-a-half structure, with a pitched roof that extended upward from an upper wall ... (the roof) was probably wooden."

Price is studying plat maps of the cabin land area dated 1881 and 1905. Neither map shows a building there.

"It might have been in ruins so that it was uninhabitable, so they didn't mark it. That's possible," he said.

"An old military road apparently went near the cabin area in the mid-1800s," Price said.

"How far away from the Arkansas (River) it veered, I don't know," he said. "There is a reference to an Indian village from an expedition from the 1820s."

"The location of the Indian village wasn't pinpointed exactly," he added, "but it was near where Grouse Creek and the Arkansas meet."

"An expedition party came across a settlement, and saw 60 to 70 huts, abandoned at the time," Price said. "But that's not uncommon because Native Americans had seasonal camps. They would move to different places at different times of the year."

"The tribe wasn't identified," he added, "and the Native Americans could have been Osage or Wichita."

"This is Osage land by the 1830s and 1840s, however this is hinterland for the Osage," Price said, adding that the heart of Osage land was near the Kansas-Missouri border.

Price said it's unlikely that the cabin was built by French traders, or that it was part of what came to be called "Ferdinandina" in Spanish and French documents. "Ferdinandina" includes an 18th century Wichita village that was visited by French traders. It is believed to be in the Newkirk, Okla., area.

"The French entrepreneurs of that era used the rivers to travel to `where their customers' (the Native Americans) were," Price said. "But the trading posts they built were crude log structures."

"It's unlikely to be a fort," he added.

"Forts don't exist by themselves," Price said. "They have a combination of buildings, while this cabin is just one structure."

"The cabin may have been the site of a Native American location or of a ranch or settler," he said.

"I'm looking for that smoking gun, where we can sayboomhere is a ranch or military outpost or whatever," Price said.