Located about three miles north of Westcliffe in the Wet Mountain Valley, the Kennicott Cabin is a rare example of a two-story log cabin and is significant for its association with the early settlement of the area. Frank Kennicott built the cabin on his original homestead in 1869–70, and his family lived there until the early 1890s. In 1988 the Kennicott Ranch was recognized as a Colorado Centennial Farm, and in 1997 the cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sheltered between the Sangre de Cristo Range and the Wet Mountains, the Wet Mountain Valley has a long history of human use. Muache Utes long hunted in the Wet Mountains. Zebulon Pike passed through the valley during his 1806–7 expedition, and Hispano shepherds from the Upper Huerfano Valley later ventured north into the area. The first permanent Anglo settlers—Elisha Horn, John Taylor, William Vorhis, and brothers Frank and George Kennicott—arrived in 1869.
Originally from Illinois, the Kennicotts came to Colorado because they were suffering from tuberculosis. They recovered quickly, took 160-acre homesteads in the valley, and soon went into the cattle and freight businesses. Frank Kennicott probably built his log cabin in 1869–70, before the brothers returned to Illinois in 1871 to find wives.
The Kennicott Cabin is a rare example of a two-story log house. Although the exterior had a rustic, rough-hewn appearance with round peeled logs and simple corner joints, the interior surfaces of the logs were hewn flat and covered with muslin and wallpaper. The cabin is also distinctive in Colorado because it was built in an Eastern or Midwestern log cabin style, with side-facing gables and longer front and rear walls, reflecting the Kennicotts’ Illinois origins. Frank Kennicott’s family lived in the log cabin until 1892, when they bought the adjacent Freer Ranch and moved to a larger ranch house there. Around 1900 the cabin had a one-story log building extending perpendicularly off the back, but that addition had burned by the early 1910s.
In about 1910, Frank Kennicott’s first daughter, Mary Louise Thorpe Kennicott, moved into the log cabin with her two young sons, Walter and John, after her husband, Lou Comstock, died of tuberculosis. For a while Mary Louise made money selling honey, and later John Comstock and his uncle Edwin Rogers started a cattle company called Comstock and Rogers. Walter and John Comstock lived in the old log cabin, which had no plumbing and remained largely in its original condition, until their deaths in 1990. After the Comstock brothers died, the Kennicott Cabin passed to their cousin Gertrude Schooley, who was one of Edwin Rogers’s children.
Today a small sign on the west side of Highway 69 identifies the log cabin, and the surrounding land has been placed in a conservation easement.