Day 10, Sunday, August 14, 2016
In Grand Teton National Park, I visited the Cunningham Cabin, which is a homesteader’s cabin that was built sometime between 1888 and 1890. J. Pierce Cunningham arrived in Jackson Hole from New York in 1885, and spent his first years in the valley trapping. He got married and then decided to try his hand at homesteading, staking a claim for 160 acres. The cabin was constructed in the dogtrot style, with two small cabins joined with an open breezeway – it was a style common in the eastern states.
Unfortunately, ranching was difficult on 160 acres in the West, due to the fact that ranchers had to supplement feed for their cattle in the winter. They needed enough land to grow enough hay to last the winter, which could be up to 6 months long. Cunningham purchased an additional 140 acres in 1897 at $1.25 per acre. In 1918 he increased the size of his ranch again by purchasing 240 acres from a neighbor’s property to the north. Cunningham had to produce and store 200 tons of hay each winter.
The cabin has a dark side too… In fall of 1892, two wranglers showed up at the cabin to buy hay for their horses. Cunningham struck up a deal for them to stay over at the ranch for the winter. However, rumors began spreading that the men were horse thieves. A man who claimed to be a U.S. Marshal arrived in April 1893 with three deputies from Idaho, and convinced several local men to join their posse. The cabin was surrounded and the men were gunned down when they left the cabin. Although Cunningham wasn’t directly involved, he admitted that he felt that the brands on the men’s horses had been altered. Interestingly, neither the allegations against the men nor the identify of the supposed U.S. Marshall was ever proven…
After World War I, beef prices dropped a lot, and many ranchers were no longer able to make a living. Cunningham and his neighbors proposed a petition for the federal government to purchase the valley’s ranches for inclusion with the new Grand Teton National Park. He wasn’t successful. Luckily John D. Rockefeller had fallen in love with the area, and he created the Snake River Land Company to purchase private land and donate it to the park. Rockefeller ultimately purchased and donated 32,000 acres in the Jackson Hole valley, including Cunningham’s ranch.
To get a close up view of the ranch, you just have to walk a short, flat trail. The entire loop is 0.3 mile, if you want to explore all the areas where there were once outbuildings, but the remaining cabin is the only structure that remains. The day that I visited there was a herd of horses on the other side of the fence, so I went to say hello to them too. They looked so beautiful with their stunning mountain backdrop!
This cabin is well worth a quick visit!
That evening in Jackson, Wyoming, we had dinner at King Sushi. The food was fantastic! The kids at the next table whose parents were paying no attention to the fact that they were kicking me – not so fantastic! We also wandered around downtown Jackson for a bit, getting photos at the famous elk antler arch on the main square (each corner of the square has an arch). We also poked around in some shops, and found lots and lots of taxidermy animals. The dressed up critters!
Costs and Fees: $30 per vehicle at Grand Teton National Park (free with a National Parks Pass). Many areas of Grand Teton do not require you to pay the fee.
Distance for the Day: Cody, WY – Jackson, WY (3 hrs, 58 min, 177 miles)
Hotel for the night: Motel 6 – Jackson, WY