“A trail bringing visitors through the valley's homesteading past.
— Tom Robson
The Cunningham Cabin is one of the area's few remaining structures from the homesteading era. In the 1880s, John and Margaret Cunningham staked a claim for the Bar Flying U Ranch. They built this cabin in 1888 in the Appalachian style, commonly called double-pen or dog-trot. John lived in the cabin until 1895 when he finished his main residence, and it later became a smithy and barn.
Cunningham ran a profitable ranch until drought ruined his crops and cattle prices fell at the end of World War I. As an agricultural depression persisted through the 1920s, Cunningham and other ranchers recognized the valleys potential as a playground. Cunningham teamed up with neighbor Josiah David Si Ferrin to write a petition signed by 97 valley ranchers. The petition proposed a buyout of ranches to create a national recreation area for public enjoyment. In 1928, Cunningham sold to the Snake River Land Company who later donated 35,000 acres for park expansion.
Two Montana wranglers approached Cunningham in the fall of 1892 to purchase hay. Cunningham allowed the strangers to winter on his ranch. However, rumors spread that the men were horse thieves. Next spring, a man claiming to be a U.S. Marshal, with three deputies, rode into Jackson from Idaho. Joined by Jackson recruits, the marshals men surrounded the ranch at night. In the morning, the posse gunned down the alleged thieves. The men's guilt, the allegations, and the marshals identity were never confirmed.