Take a step into history as you tour the grounds and house of this relatively unchanged rural ranch set in Kansas' South Solomon River Valley. Through Pratt’s photo collection, stained glass windows, and examples of Yorkshire architecture, you’ll learn more about businessman and sheep rancher Pratt, other early Kansas ranchers, and their stories when you visit Cottonwood Ranch State Historic Site.
In the late 1800s many thousands of European Americans attempted to establish permanent settlements on the High Plains of northwestern Kansas. Only a few were successful. Among those who survived and prospered were the Pratts, a family of immigrants from Yorkshire County, England. Between 1878 and 1882 Abraham Pratt and his sons, John Fenton and Tom, settled on adjacent tracts of land in the South Solomon valley.
John Fenton Pratt had no idea when he started building his ranch that it would someday tell the story of his family and his native Yorkshire, England.
The Pratt’s photo collection, stained glass windows and examples of architecture, provide an opportunity to learn about Pratt the businessman and sheep rancher, his family, other ranchers and their lives.
Fenton Pratt, Sheepman and Entrepreneur
Fenton Pratt became a very successful sheep rancher. His business ledgers indicate that in March and April 1891 he shipped 3,566 pounds of wool to markets in St. Louis and Philadelphia. In addition to selling wool and dealing in the livestock trade, Fenton served as the local financier. He accepted livestock, farm implements, and land as collateral against loans he made to dozens of people in the area. In the 1890s Fenton constructed a stone house and buildings. He also planted many cottonwood trees and named his home Cottonwood Ranch.
By 1888 Fenton felt he was prosperous enough to have his fiancée in Ripon, England, join him in America. Jennie Elizabeth Place made the long journey to Kansas alone, arriving at Lenora, Kansas, the end of the rail line, on December 30, 1888. She and Fent were married the next day. The couple had two daughters, Hilda (1889-1980), and Elsie (1894-1975). Except for Elsie, they all essentially lived at Cottonwood Ranch until their deaths. Jennie had to adjust to the challenges of providing hospitality in her new home.
She recalled: "Everybody who came pulled up at the stable -- strangers and everyone! When people came to call, they brought their bedding with them. The men slept on the floor and the women in the beds, as long as the beds lasted."
Fenton died in 1937. Hilda never married and remained on the home place with her mother. After the death of Mrs. Pratt in 1959, Hilda lived alone at the ranch until 1978. She died in 1980.
We Are Open... May 1 - September 30 Thur., Fri. &, Sat. 9:00a-12:00p / 1:00p - 5:00p
Cottonwood Ranch 14432 E US Hwy. 24 P.O. Box 13 Studley, Kansas 67740
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