Cottonwood Ranch - Exhibits
Exterior signs tell the story of Cottonwood Ranch and its Yorkshire architecture inspired by John Fenton Pratt's native England. The ranch and outbuildings are all made of native Kansas stone.
Abraham Pratt sold his business in Yorkshire County, England, and homesteaded 160 acres of land along the Solomon River in Sheridan County, Kansas. He then encouraged his sons, John Fenton and Tom, to join him.
At first, the Pratts lived in a dugout along the river. In 1885 they built their one-room native stone house with a sod roof and earth floor. The wingers were added in the 1890s along with outbuildings and the stone corral walls. They patterned the buildings after the farms in their native Yorkshire.
Fenton married Yorkshire native Jennie Elizabeth Place in 1888. The harsh conditions on the High Plains shocked Jennie at first. The couple had two daughters, Hilda and Elsie. Tom married Elizabeth Mozier and they had eight children. Their father, Abraham, died in 1901.
The Pratts ordered four stained glass windows for the ranch through the Studley lumber yard. The buttons and bows pattern located on the north side of the house cost $8.70 in 1896. The other windows are in the kitchen, living room, and guest bedroom.
Yorkshire ranching on the High Plains
The Pratts raised Merino sheep, unlike most other Kansans who raised cattle. Merinos are considered to have the finest and softest wool of any sheep.
The Pratt's washhouse was unique for its fine stonework, chimney, running water, wallpaper, and tin ceiling. The washhouse is the only structure on the property built on a foundation, a cellar is located underneath.
Most of the wall of the house and washhouse were built with stone from the Ogallalah Formation, quarried from the slope behind the outbuildings and a timber claim a half mile away. The pale yellow and pink cornerstones and lintels were form the Smoky Hill Chalk member of the Niobrara Formation about a mile from the site.
End of an era
Fent sold all his sheep by 1904 as wool prices fell and the cattle industry grew. After he died in 1937, Jennie and Hilda continued to live on the ranch and Elsie married and moved to Manhattan. Hilda lived in the house until her death in 1980.