Luther Taylor Homestead (Landscapes of Loss)

#1: Taylor Cabin

Luther Taylor Homestead: Taylor CabinOriginally established in 1916 by John Erwin, the Luther Taylor homestead has a long history that is often overlooked – overshadowed by its use as a movie set for film Shane in 1953.Luther Taylor purchased the property in 1923 and built this homestead cabin. While not much of the building remains today, it has been largely unused since the movie was made. Nevertheless, this is one of the most important historic resources in the Jackson Hole valley. This is the most intact original homestead in the valley, with all of the original buildings still standing. There are three on the property and one large depression in the soil that suggests a fourth may have stood here. On most homesteads in the area, the original cabins were taken apart and reincorporated into larger, more impressive cabins. This was not the case on the Luther Taylor homestead.

The three buildings that remain have not been moved or altered, weathering more than 60 years of deferred maintenance and abandonment. Taylor sold the property to Andy Chambers and his son Roy in 1948. The Chambers family used the land to add to their ranch and rented out the buildings for a few years. By the time Paramount Pictures came to survey Jackson Hole for Shane, the Luther Taylor ranch had been unused for a several years. The buildings were largely unchanged after the movie shoot, retaining much of their original appearance. As one of the most intact of the valley’s original homesteads, they are now a particularly important historical and cultural resource.


#2: Taylor Cabin


Luther Taylor Homestead: Cabin


Despite being an early homestead cabin, extra care was taken to make this a home beyond the usual log wall and dirt floor construction. While the main house did have a wooden plank and sod roof, the interior was intentionally given extra attention in order to create a good, clean home. The round logs were hewn with an ax to create a smooth flat surface. This was then coated with newspaper for insulation and whitewashed. Over the paint, layers of wallpaper were applied to create a light and bright atmosphere – all unusual steps taken to create a comfortable and homey atmosphere in an early homestead.

Today, only the ax marks can be seen, and the original floor joists are the only remaining component of the designed interior. The cabin sits precariously on a few remaining stones, which act as piers. The stones were previously part of a connected, dry-laid stone foundation. This type of construction was clearly meant to be permanent, and the extra care taken for the interior of the house suggests that Taylor may never have had any intentions of building a better home later on.


#3: Taylor Cabin


Luther Taylor Cabin: Taylor Cabin


The Luther Taylor cabin is also remarkable for its unusual construction materials and Taylor employed the classic resourcefulness of the valley’s early homesteader. Most chinking materials used stone or sand as aggregate to hold together loose clay or mud. Taylor did not, however, appear to have access to these types of materials, as the chinking remnants found on this cabin used tiny pieces of chopped wood as aggregate. It is unclear if this was an intentional use of leftover building materials mixed into the mud chinking, or if Taylor was actually without a more sufficient material for his home. It does appear, however, that it was a very successful mix as large chunks are still visible between the logs more than sixty years after the first application. While other chinking material can be found on the cabin, witness to repairs made by unknown individuals a long time ago, the majority is the mud and wood combination originally applied by Luther Taylor.


From our Archives:




The old Taylor cabin on the Gros Ventre; Lena Taylors’ parent’s cabin.


Return to Exhibit Navigation: