8 Wonders of Kansas history

An 8 Wonder of Kansas History

El Cuartelejo Pueblo Ruins, Scott County

Address: 101 W. Lake Scott Drive, Scott City, KS 67861
Phone: 620.872.2061
Website: tinyurl.com/8u9m77q

El Cuartelejo Pueblo Ruins are a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas History because they are archeologically significant as the northeasternmost pueblo ruin in the United States, dating from 1650 to 1750 A.D.

El Cuartelejo (also spelled "Quartelejo"), the Picurie Indian Pueblo located in Lake Scott State Park in western Kansas.  Photo KSF
Located at Lake Scott State Park, approximately 12 miles north of Scott City, by way of U.S. 83 and K-95 highways. State park entrance fee applies.

According to Spanish accounts, two groups of Pueblo Indians fled into the Plains to escape Spanish rule. The first were the Taos Indians who settled with a band of Plains Apache about 1664 and remained for several years. Their village became known as El Cuartelejo and the local Apaches as the Cuartelejo band. The second were Picuris who joined the Apache in 1696 and were returned to New Mexico ten years later by Juan de Ulibarri.


Another view of the ruins.  Photo courtesy Betty Latoush

A Spanish expedition of some 100 men under Pedro de Villazur camped at El Cuartelejo in 1720 on its way north to determine the location and strength of the French to the north and east.  About 150 miles north, the Spanish were attacked and most of them killed by Pawnee Indians said to be under French direction.


Following this, the Spanish considered making El Cuartelejo a military outpost but the plan was dropped.  Indians reported French traders at the settlement in 1727.  A few years later, Comanche, Ute, and Pawnee attacks forced the Cuartelejo Apache southward out of the Plains and El Cuartelejo was abandoned.


Stone from the surrounding hills was used to build the El Cuartelejo pueblo. Walls were plastered inside and out with adobe, and the roof was made of willow poles or brush covered with mud. When first excavated, abundant charcoal, burned tools, adobe, and quantities of the charred corn were found, all evidence that the pueblo had been destroyed by fire. There were no indications of doors or windows, and small paired post holes in the corners of most rooms suggested entrance by ladders through openings in the roof.


In 1889, archeological excavations  located and exposed the lower portions of stone walls of a pueblo in Scott County, Kansas.  The ruins together with the recovered artifacts, stone and bone tools, ornaments and pottery shards characteristic of Plains Apaches led to the identification of this site as that of the historic El Cuartelejo.


It is a short walk from the road leading to the ruins. Photo KSF
In 1970, the Kansas State Historical Society undertook additional archeological investigations.  At this time all that remained were portions of the stone hearths, two sections of the outer wall and several post holes.  Interpretive markers were placed at the site, and it is open to the public throughout the year.  The Pueblo site is located within the boundary of Lake Scott State Park and is maintained by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. 

All that remains of El Cuartelejo are the excavated foundations of the pueblo.  Signs are currently being replaced but look for a brochure at the site of the ruins.

Source:  KDWP Lake Scott Park brochure


In the 1890s, Scott County pioneer, Herbert L. Steele, had discovered and was using the irrigation ditches, when he noticed other artifacts. In 1899 University of Kansas Professors Martin and Williams investigated the site. Their archeological excavations revealed stone walls of a pueblo, stone and bone tools, ornaments, and pottery shards characteristic of Plains Apaches. Herbert and his wife, Eliza J. Landon Steele, knowing the historical significance of the site, wanted it preserved by the Kansas D.A.R. On September 18, 1922, the Steeles deeded the site of El Quartelejo to the Kansas Daughters of the American Revolution.  In 1964, the site was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Kansas D.A.R. raised funds to place a monument marking the site and for its upkeep. A 12-foot gray granite obelisk, engraved with the D.A.R. insignia and EL QUARTELEJO, was placed on the 60-foot x 500-foot tract. Four granite corner stones engraved with D.A.R. mark the property lines.

Excerpts from http://kansasdar.org/ElQuart.html as written by Shirley Coupal

902 W. 5th, Scott City, KS  67871
Open Monday-Friday 1-5 p.m.
See displays that tell the story of the El Cuartelejo Pueblo Ruins and a replica of one room of the ruins.