El Quartelejo, or El Cuartelejo (from Spanish cuartelejo, meaning far quarter or district), is the name given to the archeological remains of the northernmost Indian pueblo and the only known pueblo in Kansas. Located in Lake Scott State Park, the remains of the stone and adobe pueblo are situated north of Scott City, Kansas, on Ladder Creek.
The origin of El Quartelejo has two likely possibilities. In 1664 a group of Pueblo Indians left New Mexico and were later rounded up and brought back by the Spanish. They may have constructed El Quartelejo. It is more likely that, after the collapse of the Pueblo Revolt (1680–1692), the Spanish reconquered New Mexican pueblos, and one group of Taos and Picuris people fled the area in 1696. They searched for a new home among the Plains Apache on the Great Plains.
For ten years, the fleeing Taos and Picuris Pueblo people evaded the Spanish. During those years, the French attempted to trade with the Cuartelejo Apaches. In 1706 the Pueblos were captured and forced back to New Mexico. When the Pueblo Indians were seized, the Spanish commander Juan de Ulibarrí wrote that they were dwelling in permanent structures. The Spanish called this settlement El Quartelejo, and the region around it was called San Luis Province. No American Indians lived in El Quartelejo after 1706, but Spanish and French occasionally occupied the structure as a frontier outpost during the 18th century.
The ill-fated, Spanish Villasur expedition of 1720 stopped at El Cuartelejo on its way north to investigate the extent of French influence. Near the forks of the Platte River, the Pawnees and Otoes killed most of the party, reportedly under French direction.
By the 1730s raids by Comanche, Ute, and Pawnee had decimated the Cuartelejo Apache. The survivors moved south to join the Jicarilla Apache at Pecos. However, after 1763 and the French retreat from the area, the pueblo was abandoned with only a mound and a few irrigation ditches remaining. Eventually, its walls decayed and the structure was buried by drifting soil.
The pueblo was unknown to American explorers, but in 1898 archeologists rediscovered El Quartelejo. Since then, the site has been excavated to reveal that the pueblo was a seven-room structure, enough to house a small band of Indians. Near the pueblo are traces of shallow ditches extending from the nearby springs. These ditches were most likely used to irrigate crops in nearby fields.
Near here in 1878, Col. William H. Lewis, commanding troops from Fort Dodge, was fatally wounded in a battle with chief Dull Knife and his Northern Cheyennes. Lewis was the last army officer killed by Indians in Kansas.
In 1964, the El Quartelejo ruins were designated a National Historic Landmark, and the area is now part of Lake Scott State Park. The Scott Lake site was developed in 1971 as an interpretive exhibit by Kansas Historical Society archeologists. The outline of the ruins was restored and markers placed for park visitors to see. Since 2004, the National Park Service has listed the El Quartelejo site as "at risk" because of ongoing weather-related deterioration to the ruins.
El Quartelejo Museum in Scott City is operated by the Scott County Historical Society. The free museum focuses on local interests, from prehistory to the present day. Temporary exhibitions highlight contemporary arts or culture.
The Spanish spelling of El Quartelejo is with a “C”: El Cuartelejo. The English spelling is with a “Q”: El Quartelejo. They are both correct and are used interchangeablely at the museum and the park.