Backstory and Context
In 1854, two German brothers, Jacob and John Dietrich, arrived in America after a 53-day voyage by ship. They settled first in Connecticut and were joined the following year by their sister Elizabeth and Jacob’s bride-to-be, Catherine Jackel. Jacob and Catherine were married February 18, 1855.
The Dietrichs soon moved west to the young town of Chicago, where Jacob found work as a wheelwright for the Illinois Central Railroad. In 1857, the young couple decided to push further west. When they arrived in Westport (part of present-day Kansas City, Missouri), they bought a team and wagon for the trip that brought them to Franklin County.
They stopped one night on a hillside to camp and were so impressed by the beauty of the location that they decided to make it their home. The exact site was three miles south and two and one-quarter miles west of the present town of Princeton.
After selecting a site for their home southwest of the present-day town of Princeton, Jacob and Catherine Dietrich built a cabin in 1857. However, the cabin and most of their belongings were destroyed in a prairie fire one year later.
In 1859, they built a second cabin on the same site, which stood on a hill with a wide view and was located hear the Humboldt Trail. The cabin was about 18′ by 20′ and built of hand-hewn native walnut, with the corners dovetailed and double morticed. The walnut rafters are unusual in that they are cut on a slant, being much wider at the eaves than at the peak. An 8′ porch completed the cabin. This porch became a haven for the travelers who stopped for food and shelter from storms and were allowed to sleep there.
In June of 1863, Jacob Dietrich became ill and died of pneumonia. He was buried in St. Boniface Cemetery, Scipio, a Catholic mission parish southeast of present-day Richmond.
Alone with three small sons, Catherine decided to stay on the frontier. To earn money, she walked to Ohio City to collect laundry from city officials living there, leaving her children alone in the cabin in the meanwhile. In 1865, Catherine married Jacob Puderbaugh. They had one daughter, Addie, before his death in 1873.
Catherine helped each of her children obtain an education, and in return, her sons taught her to read English so that she could read their letters home. John, the eldest, became an educator and superintendent of schools. Charles farmed locally and was an Ottawa merchant. The youngest, Frank, taught at Ottawa University and later became a U.S. Circuit Judge. Catherine lived to be nearly 93 years old and is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Chicago.
Over the years, the Dietrich cabin was used as a farm house and was made larger by the addition of several rooms. The entire structure was covered with siding, which preserved the logs against the weather. It was eventually abandoned as a dwelling and repurposed as a hay barn.
In 1959, Mrs. Elise Gault, a granddaughter of the Dietrichs, gave the cabin to the Franklin County Historical Society. T.J. Bivins of Wellsville moved the cabin from its original site to City Park, where it stands today. The cabin was restored during 1960 and 1961 and became a focal point of Franklin County’s celebration of the Kansas Centennial in 1961.
In 2013, the cabin underwent additional restoration. Tim Wilson of Gilman City, Missouri, and his three sons replaced several rotted exterior logs. They also replaced the inappropriate chinking used in the original restoration.