Pioneer Days at Bonnifield Cabin: A Rare Glimpse of Pioneering Life

    Bonnifield Cabin in Waterworks Park, Fairfield, a relic of pioneering life

Step back in time for the inaugural Pioneer Days & Crafter Show, a unique blend of history, family fun, and community spirit set against the backdrop of Iowa’s oldest two-story log house. the Bonnifield Cabin. This one-day event, on Saturday, May 18, from 9–5 p.m., promises an enriching experience that is as educational as it is entertaining. Wander through the rarely opened doors of this historic cabin, marvel at its architectural significance, and immerse yourself in the pioneer spirit that shaped our region.

The Bonnifield Cabin dates back to 1838, a year before Jefferson County officially became a county, and still stands today as a relic of pioneering life. Built by Rhodham Bonnifield and his sons, it replaced a makeshift cabin that the large family squeezed into for a year upon arriving in the area. The new cabin must have felt luxurious with its hewed logs and second floor. At times the cabin would serve as a temporary church, but mostly it became a gathering spot for guests, including unmarried men seeking to court one of the Bonnifield daughters.

Historical photo of the Bonnifield Cabin interior

And what makes its history all that much more interesting is that this log home served as a hospitable stop-over for many notable visitors passing through the area, such as territorial politicians, governors, delegates to Congress, and judges. It was during one of those gatherings of visitors that the growing town of Fairfield received its name. As commissioners gathered to discuss an appropriate name, they asked Mrs. Bonnifield for her opinion. Some would say that Nancy Bonnifield’s suggestion of “Fairfield” (because of all the “bonny” fields in the area) was a sly way for her to give tribute to her growing family.

As a fundraiser aimed at the restoration and upkeep of this treasured landmark, Pioneer Days is more than just an event; it’s a community endeavor to preserve a piece of history on the brink of vanishing. With a focus on craftsmanship over commercialism, the day is dedicated to showcasing the talents of local crafters, offering an array of handmade goods that reflect the pioneering spirit. This is not your average flea market; it’s a curated vendor fair that highlights the artistry and ingenuity of our local artisans.

Vintage post card of the Bonnifield Cabin. Photos and stories about the cabin are available at the Carnegie Historical Museum in Fairfield.

The day will be filled with engaging activities and demonstrations designed to captivate attendees of all ages. From building log cabins out of pretzels and hewing logs to demonstrations of the timeless art of butter churning—and perhaps even a spirited pie-eating contest—there’s something to spark the curiosity and joy of every family member. While some activities are free, others require a small fee.

Local historians will be on hand to share tales of the cabin’s past and offer insights into pioneer life that are as informative as they are fascinating. This event is a rare opportunity to connect with local heritage in a hands-on way, learning and laughing in the very rooms that witnessed history unfold.

Those attending Pioneer Days are not just enjoying a day out with family and friends, but also contributing to a vital cause. Your support helps ensure that this historic cabin can continue to tell its story for generations to come. L et’s celebrate our history, support local craftsmanship, and save a landmark that holds the stories of our past.