National Register of Historic Places in Grand County

National Register #75000167: Wolfe Ranch Historical District 24 June 2011
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National Register #75000167
Wolfe Ranch Historical District
Arches National Park
Built 1907

Because of hostile Indians and rugged terrain, permanent settlement was slow to come to southeast Utah. In 1877, Moab, on the Colorado River at the foot of the La Sal Mountains was established. By 1883, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was completed and Indian hostilities had become less frequent.

In 1888, John Wesley Wolfe, a disabled Civil War veteran from Ohio and his son, Fred, arrived in the area and either bought or built a cabin on the banks of Salt Wash, in an isolated valley about halfway between Moab and the railroad at Thompson Springs. They dammed the wash and irrigated a garden with the impounded water. Drinking water came from a spring about three quarters of a mile away. They grazed cattle under the Bar DX brand. In 1906 Wolfe's daughter, son-in-law, and their two small children arrived, and a new cabin and a dugout cellar were built for them in the spring of 1907. The logs for the structures came from banks of the Colorado, six miles away. The newcomers stayed for less than two years and then moved to Moab. In 1910 Wolfe sold the ranch and he and Fred moved back east. Shortly thereafter the original cabin was destroyed in a flash flood; the "new" cabin and dugout cellar were left unharmed.

Historically, the activities of man on the Colorado Plateau have been a function of his ability to exploit and control its meager water resources. Wolfe's ranching operation on Salt Wash is an excellent example of early subsistence farming and grazing in a marginal environment.

The crudeness of the remaining structures reflects the harshness of the environment, not a lack of skill in construction. Because building materials were so scarce, no two logs used were of the same size or shape. By expertly fitting the logs together, these men created durable, unique structures, which are all that remain of one of the earliest ranches in Southeast Utah.

Excerpted from the NRHP nomination submitted in 1975.

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