On Saturday, I had grand plans to spend the afternoon cleaning house, but the day was too beautiful to spend indoors and I found myself driving around town admiring the the rapidly changing leaves on the trees in the older parts of Ottawa. As I passed by the park downtown, I noticed the door to the Dietrich Cabin was open, so I parked the car and wandered down the sidewalk to take a look.
The cabin was built in a rural area southwest of Ottawa in 1859 by a Jacob and Catherine Dietrich, who moved to Franklin County, Kansas, in 1857. This was their second cabin; the first, built shortly after the Dietrich’s arrival, burned down in a prairie fire. Losing almost everything they owned, they started over with the new cabin and it’s rather crooked logs (with the first-choice logs probably burning up in the first cabin). Jacob died in 1863.
Catherine married Jacob Puterbaugh two years later, and together they raised children from both of her marriages. During this time, the cabin evolved: rooms were added, the walls were sided, and then the house was abandoned and used to store hay. Catherine was again widowed in 1873. She lived to be 93 years old.
The family donated the cabin to the Franklin County Historical Society in 1961 in honor of the Kansas Centennial. It was moved to City Park, where it sits on a little slope between Skunk Run and the Carnegie Cultural Center.
However, the cabin, which is usually open on weekends, had been closed much of the summer as it underwent major repairs. Rotten logs needed to be replaced and walls needed to be rechinked with a proper compound. So when I saw the cabin wide open yesterday, I really wanted to go inside.
As it turned out, Kathy Quigley, who manages the Old Depot Museum in Ottawa, was opening up the cabin for a special occasion. Bryce Dietrich had returned to Ottawa to marry his bride-to-be on the front porch of his great-great-grandparents’ cabin.
The groom’s family explored the house that is a part of their heritage as they waited for Mary Metz, the bride. When Bryce caught sight of his spouse-to-be approaching the cabin, he leaned over the rail and called her up to the porch. “Welcome to my great-great-granddad’s shack,” he cheerfully called out as she climbed the limestone stairs.
Kathy and I were a little teary-eyed as the bride and groom exchanged vows and posed for photos, including one in front of the mantel where Bryce’s own great-great-grandparents’ wedding portrait is still displayed.
It was a lovely and poetic moment, seeing such love and happiness shared in a space embedded with 164 years of family connections.
While you might not be lucky enough to catch a wedding at the Dietrich Cabin, you can explore it and its history. For hours and tours, contact the Franklin County Historical Society.