Abbie Gardner Cabin

Visit the site of one of the few violent conflicts between European-American settlers and American Indians in Iowa. Known first as one of the sites of the 1857 "Spirit Lake Massacre" and later as one of Iowa's first tourist attraction, the Gardner Cabin survives as a reminder of one of Iowa's tragic frontier events. Here you can learn the dramatic stories of Abbie Gardner and the Dakota leader, Inkpaduta. The cabin has been restored to resemble its approximate 1856 appearance. You can also view a monument to those people who were killed and a visitors center full of artifacts.

Prairie History

Euro-American settlement came late to Northwest Iowa. The Gardner family arrived in the area in 1856. Unfortunately the winter of 1856-1857 was one of the harshest on record.

A second story line was occurring at the same time. Inkpaduta, a Dakota Chief, who was left out of the negotiation process, refused to recognize an 1851 treaty that placed Northwest Iowa in the United States territory. Early on, Inkpaduta became a scapegoat for some of the tensions between the new settlers and the original inhabitants. Between 1853 and 1856, he was involved in several conflicts with settlers, including Henry Lott, who killed several members of Inkpaduta's band. Government officials recognized that Lott had started the problems, but refused to apprehend him.

By late winter in 1856, both the settlers and Inkpaduta's people were running out of supplies. Tensions ran high as Inkpaduta's people tried unsuccessfully to get food from the settlers. Finally, on March 8, anger turned into violence. Over several days, Inkpaduta's band killed 33 settlers and abducted four women, including Abbie Gardner. No one recorded the Dakota's losses. After the Okoboji attack, Inkpaduta's band traveled north, unsuccessfully attacked Springfield, Minnesota settlers, and then fled west to the Dakotas where they killed two of the four captives. Later that spring, Inkpaduta released Abbie and Mrs. Marble, another Okoboji captive, after ransom was paid by Indian Agents from Minnesota.

Location Description

The Abbie Gardner Cabin and Museum is open noon-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, Memorial Day-Labor Day. Group and school tours are available by appointment. Admission is free.

For more information or to schedule a group tour, contact:

Dickinson County Conservation

Driving Directions and other Information

  • Located on Monument Drive, the site is one block west of the Arnolds Park Amusement Park in Arnolds Park.
  • GPS Coordinants -
  • 1 acre - The State Historical Society of Iowa owns and preserves the Gardner Cabin and Museum. The cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Hiking

Educational Activity:

  • Pioneer Life

Visit the Abbie Gardner Cabin via Google Map by Clicking HERE!

(Please disable your browser's popup blocker before viewing map)

Take a short visit to Abbie Gardner's Cabin via the video below!

Wild Categories Photo Gallery