Burning Settler’s Cabin
Yesterland
Photo of Burning Settler’s Cabin
The victim of an Indian arrow

You’re sitting in a cattle car on the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad Railroad. You look up from your park map and gaze across the Rivers or America. Fire! That cabin’s on fire! Oh no! There’s a man sprawled on the ground, with an arrow in his body, sticking straight up. He’s not moving. He must be dead.

The train’s narrator explains:

“Now, we’re heading into the true backwoods. Watch for Indians and wild animals near the water’s edge. This is the American West as it was a century ago. Our forefathers who tamed this great wilderness faced constant danger. And there, across the river, is proof—a settler’s cabin afire! The old pioneer lies nearby—the victim of an Indian arrow.”

So that’s what happened. The settler was killed by an unfriendly Indian, who then torched the cabin. Looking back at your park map, you might be thinking that the settler would have been better off if he’d built his cabin across the river. That’s where the friendly Indians live.

Map excerpt showing Burning Settler’s Cabin
Your map shows that the Burning Settler’s Cabin is by the Unfriendly Indian Village.

The Burning Settler’s Cabin isn’t an attraction in the traditional sense. It’s a scene that you can see from several attractions, including the Yesterland & Santa Fe Freight Train, the Mike Fink Keel Boats, and the Indian War Canoes.

After your ride on the Freight Train, you might want to get a closer look. You can’t walk to the Burning Settler’s Cabin. According to the Tom Sawyer Island map, it’s in “Indian Territory,” where “terms of treaty prohibit entry.” You wouldn’t want to walk there anyway, because you could wind up like the unfortunate settler.

Photo of Burning Settler’s Cabin
Sit in a cattle car on the Freight Train to see the Burning Settler’s Cabin.

For a closer look at the flames, try the Indian War Canoes, which leave from the Indian Village. Don’t worry. Those are friendly Indians.

Photo of Burning Settler’s Cabin
The Indians at each end of this Indian War Canoe are friendly and peaceful.

The Settler’s Cabin burned for more than four decades on the north end of Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer Island. However, the story changed several times.

In the 1970s, the entertainment industry became increasingly aware that their often simplistic portrayal of American Indians could be offensive. At Disneyland, the settler lost the arrow and became the victim of evil river pirates.

Photo of Burning Settler’s Cabin in Disneyland (1989)
The moonshiner set his own cabin ablaze.

In the mid-1980s, the settler became a moonshiner whose still had exploded, igniting the cabin. The moonshiner was sprawled out in front of the cabin, but we were assured he wasn’t dead; he had just consumed too much of his product.

In the early 1990s, an eagle nest appeared atop a dead tree trunk right next to the cabin. The new story was that the careless settler had accidentally set his own cabin on fire, endangering the nearby nest. The settler wasn’t very smart if he burned down his own cabin. The eagles were even less smart if they built their nest right next to a settler’s cabin.

Photo of No-Longer-Burning Settler’s Cabin in Disneyland (2004)
The neglected, No-Longer-Burning Settler’s Cabin at Disneyland, 2004.

A half century after the opening of Disneyland, the sturdy, fireproof Settler’s Cabin was still there, but the fire had been out for several years.

There’s no official explanation of why the flames are gone. One story is that the gas line needs replacement, but it would be too costly. Another story is that the flames are a victim of California’s strict emissions standards.

This wasn’t the first time that the flames went out. During the period when the settler was a victim of river pirates, the flames were a victim of the energy crisis. The cabin burned with the same artificial fire effect as used in Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s a great effect in the indoor Pirates ride, but it was not convincing when used outdoors. The real fire returned in the mid-1980s.

For a while, the Settler’s Cabin looked really sad—a neglected remnant of the past. It was no longer engulfed in flame. It was engulfed in trees. Instead of being the most memorable sight along the edge of the Rivers of America, it was easily overlooked.

Photo of No-Longer-Burning Settler’s Cabin at Disneyland in 2007
The All-Fixed-Up Settler’s Cabin at Disneyland, 2007.

As part of the Pirate’s Lair makeover of Tom Sawyer Island, the former Burning Settler’s Cabin became a well-tended Settler’s Cabin. The settler even has a horse, although it doesn’t move. It’s good news that the Settler’s Cabin received some attention. There are no longer holes in the roof or empty windows meant for flames. However, the fix-up also means that we should not expect to see the Settler’s Cabin ablaze ever again.

There’s also a Settler’s Cabin at Walt Disney World. Like its California cousin, the cabin in Florida is no longer ablaze. Unlike its California cousin, the cabin in Florida still looks sad and neglected.

Photo of Burning Settler’s Cabin at Walt Disney World
The Burning Settler’s Cabin at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, 2004

The Liberty Belle riverboat went down for “rehab” in September 2005 for nearly a year. Because guests would not see the Burning Settler’s Cabin, Magic Kingdom management turned off the flames. The riverboat came back, but the flames didn’t. The pipes that supplied the propane (which were the original pipes from 1971) had deteriorated due to age and a year of not being used.

Photo of No-Longer-Burning Settler’s Cabin at Walt Disney World
The No-Longer-Burning Settler’s Cabin at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, 2006

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© 2006-2009 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Last updated November 4, 2009.

Photo of Burning Settler’s Cabin at Disneyland: Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
 
Scanned image of a small section of the 1962 Disneyland souvenir map: Copyright 1962 Walt Disney Productions (The Walt Disney Company), and is included here for historical illustration.
 
Photo of Disneyland Railroad cattle car: Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of Indian War Canoe: Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of Burning Settler’s Cabin with moonshiner in Disneyland: 1989 by Chris Bales.
Photo of no-longer-burning Settler’s Cabin in Disneyland: 2004 by Karen Weiss.
Photo of all-fixed-up Settler’s Cabin in Disneyland: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Burning Settler’s Cabin at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World: 2004 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of no-longer-burning Settler’s Cabin at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World: 2006 by Werner Weiss.