Historic Cabin Hidden Inside Walls Of Modern Home Is Being Restored In Southern Colorado

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Greta Hanson Maurer
The Dotson cabin with a fresh coat of oil for preservation, and mid-roofing project in May 2020

A 150-year old cabin discovered encased in the walls of a modern home in Beulah, southwest of Pueblo,  is undergoing restoration. 

The cabin was once the home of Peter and Emily Dotson, who played a role in developing Southern Colorado during the mid-to-late 1800s. They were involved in ranching, mining, politics and more. National publications at the time featured the Dotson’s ranch, making it a destination for travelers from all over, who wanted to see a real Colorado ranch.

Local historian James Campbell is working on a book about the couple and helped identify the cabin. 

“This is much more than local and regional history. This is one of those interfaces that brings a national story into a local perspective,” he said.

Before coming to Colorado, Peter Dotson was a U.S. Marshal in Utah during the notorious Mountain Meadows Massacre. Campbell said he had also worked for Brigham Young, an early Mormon leader, in various capacities including distilling a whiskey known as Valley Tan.

According to Campbell, these aspects of Peter Dotson’s history were part of the reason that people came to visit the ranch. He was known locally as Uncle Pete.

“They came to sit on the porch and hear the stories of Uncle Pete,” Campbell said. “They didn't just go to see the ranch. They went to the ranch to be with the man who ran the ranch.”

After it was built, the original log cabin was covered with other materials that both hid and preserved it. Campbell said he was amazed when they first pulled away the facade exposing the old walls.

“These are 150 year old logs that still have red and yellow in them, they look like they've been cut 10-15 years ago,” he said.

Greta Hanson Maurer
A crane lowers the roof onto the re-built Dotson cabin in Beulah, CO. The original roof did not meet building codes. April 27, 2020.

A laboratory analyzed the tree rings and dated the cabin to about 1871. The Beulah Heritage Preservation League dismantled the cabin and moved it to a site across the street from the Beulah School. The group continues to raise funds to complete the restoration, which includes plans to eventually open it up to the public as an educational facility. 

“It is not an object of an artifact of the past,” Campbell said. “This is the place for people in Colorado to be able to not just reclaim the story that was, but it is a place where you are beckoned to come and tell story.”

The cabin isn't the only piece of Southern Colorado history recently undergoing restoration.

The Dotson ranch was originally part of a huge swath of land known as the Nolan Land Grant. In the mid-1800s the couple bought a third of the 48,000 acre property that encompassed most of Pueblo County. Cattleman Charles Goodnight bought another third. 

Like the Dotsons, he was an influential person in the area’s history and became one of the inspirations for the mini-series “Lonesome Dove” -  based on the novel by Larry McMurtry. Goodnight built a stone barn on his property by the Arkansas River just outside of Pueblo. That structure recently got a million dollar facelift.