Burning Settlers Cabin
The victim of an Indian arrow
Youre sitting in a cattle car on the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad.
You look up from your park map and gaze across
the Rivers of America.
Fire! That cabins on fire! Oh no!
Theres a man sprawled on the ground, with an arrow in his body, sticking straight up.
Hes not moving. He must be dead.
The trains narrator explains:
“Now, were heading into the true backwoods. Watch for Indians and wild
animals near the waters 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 proofa settlers
cabin afire! The old pioneer lies nearbythe victim of an Indian arrow.”
So thats 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 hed built his cabin across the river.
Thats where the friendly Indians live.
Your map shows that the Burning Settlers Cabin is by the Unfriendly Indian Village.
The Burning Settlers Cabin isnt an attraction in the traditional sense.
Its 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 cant walk to the Burning Settlers Cabin.
According to the Tom Sawyer Island map, its in
“Indian Territory,” where “terms of treaty prohibit entry.”
You wouldnt want to walk there anyway, because you could wind up like the
Sit in a cattle car on the Freight Train to see the Burning Settlers Cabin.
For a closer look at the flames, try the Indian War Canoes, which leave from the Indian Village.
Those are friendly Indians.
The Indians at each end of this Indian War Canoe are friendly and peaceful.
The Settlers Cabin burned for more than four decades on the north end of Disneylands
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.
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 wasnt 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 wasnt very smart if he burned down his own cabin.
The eagles were even less smart if they built their nest right next to a settlers cabin.
The neglected, No-Longer-Burning Settlers Cabin at Disneyland, 2004.
A half century after the opening of Disneyland, the sturdy, fireproof Settlers Cabin was still there, but the fire had been out for several years.
Theres 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 Californias strict emissions standards.
This wasnt 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.
Its 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 Settlers 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.
The All-Fixed-Up Settlers Cabin at Disneyland, 2007.
As part of the Pirates Lair makeover of Tom Sawyer Island, the former Burning Settlers Cabin became a well-tended Settlers Cabin.
The settler even has a horse, although it doesnt move.
Its good news that the Settlers 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 Settlers Cabin ablaze ever again.
Theres also a Settlers 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.
The Burning Settlers 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 Settlers Cabin, Magic Kingdom management turned off the flames.
The riverboat came back, but the flames didnt.
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.
The No-Longer-Burning Settlers 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 Settlers 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 Settlers Cabin with moonshiner in Disneyland: 1989 by Chris Bales.
Photo of no-longer-burning Settlers Cabin in Disneyland: 2004 by Karen Weiss.
Photo of all-fixed-up Settlers Cabin in Disneyland: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Burning Settlers Cabin at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World: 2004 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of no-longer-burning Settlers Cabin at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World: 2006 by Werner Weiss.