William Shelton's Cabin

William Shelton's Cabin .....

By far the most historical building in Mena is the old log cabin in Janssen Park.

The day was hot and dusty, the new boom town of Mena had not seen rain in over 40 days. The only "watering hole" was the spring in what became Janssen Park. The park was also the site of the only structure as the new city got under way. It was this old cabin, built in 1853, by William Shelton, which served the Townsite company as an office and as living quarters for land agent, Joseph P. Landes.

(Click Here for article on how the cabin was built, and the owner)


For more than a century this modest log cabin has stubbornly defied the elements and ravages of nature, welcoming all those who came its way, and serving man continuously since 1853. Affectionately referred to as the, "Capitol of Polk County," this unpretentious cabin seems to answer the oft quoted wish of Joyce Kilmer for, "..a house by the side of the road," with the sole desire to be “a friend to men." For this cabin was built by the side of a road and from the day of its completion it has served as a friend to man. It was born of necessity and sired by need; every timber cut from virgin forest, every nail and every bit of hardware hand-forged.

The road was the Old Line Road, a military road connecting Fort Smith, Arkansas and Fort Towson in Indian Territory. The cabin, originally intended for a private dwelling, became an oasis of home life for travelers of the Old Line Road. Here, strangers found welcome, rest, food and shelter from storms, wild beasts and irresponsible wanderers, who frequented the mountain area and preyed upon travelers.

Built eight years before the Civil War, this hand-hewn cabin was constructed by William Shelton, a crippled veteran of the Mexican War, for his home. Throughout the turbulent years, with little physical change, it has served as a home, hospital, inn, a club house, civic center, a museum , and for a time, as the City Hall of Mena. It was thirty-one years old before a title grant was obtained for the land. During those years before 1882, it was just another "squatter's cabin". The title grant bears the signature of President Chester Arthur.

In 1906, the cabin, together with four city blocks surrounding it, was donated to the City of Mena by Arthur Stilwell and his associates. They were so charmed with its natural setting, and so vocal in their admiration, that it inspired the local people to develop the park.

Many plants and flowers were donated by those who remembered the quaint log cabin and its hospitality. There was a Linden tree sent all the way from Berlin, Germany. Throughout the park you will find relics of three wars. The large memorial clock is evidence of another pioneer family who lived near the site. It was during this period of stimulated civic pride and interest in the cabin and its park that the City Hall of Mena was moved into the cabin and the rent saved was put into landscaping. Thus, it became the only log cabin City Hall in the nation and was featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not.  (For More Information CLICK HERE.)

Click Here for more on the building of the Shelton cabin and proof of building date.  (The cabin has a sign which reads built in 1851--it was actually built in 1853.)

© Shirley Manning 2004