Wolfe Cabin, Arches National Park, Utah, September 24, 2007
Wolfe Ranch (National Park Service)
Turnbow & son at Wolfe Cabin
This humble, one-room cabin sits near the present-day trailhead for the hike to Delicate Arch. Visitors regularly peer through the doorway and wonder aloud, “Who lived here… and how?… And why?”
In 1898, a nagging leg injury from the Civil War prompted 69-year-old John Wesley Wolfe to leave his home in Ohio and seek a drier climate. He brought his oldest son, Fred, with him out west, and the two settled a 100+-acre property along Salt Wash, just north of the sleepy little village of Moab. The property had fresh water, enough grassland to feed a few head of cattle, and plenty of peace and quiet. For nearly a decade, they lived and worked alone on the remote “Bar DX” ranch.
The scene changed in 1906 when John’s daughter, Flora, made the westward trek with her husband, Ed Stanley, and two young children, Esther and Ferol. Appalled by the condition in which her father and brother lived, Flora demanded they build a new cabin with a wooden floor and real windows. John obliged, creating the small (17 x 15 ft / 5.2 x 4.6m) but sturdy cabin made of cottonwood logs that remains in the park to this day. He also constructed a root celler, irrigation dams, and a corral. All six family members lived and slept under the distinctive thatch-and-clay roof for just two years, when the Stanleys resettled in nearby Moab. (That house also remains, a few blocks off Main Street in the center of town.) John, Fred, and all the rest finally returned to Ohio in 1910, where John remained until his death in 1913 at the age of eighty-four.
The cabin passed through several more hands, including J. Marvin Turnbow (pictured above), the first custodian of Arches National Monument. The final private owner, Emmett Elizondo, sold the property to the U.S. government for inclusion in the monument. Wolfe Ranch and surrounding acreage were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.