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Lore of log cabin lures family's return to Los Alamos

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By Roger Snodgrass

It can take awhile before a newcomer to Los Alamos realizes that Ashley Pond, the scenic pool that serves as a focal point for the Los Alamos community, was a person named Pond before it became a pond named Ashley.

Recently, a whole bunch of Ponds came to town, including an Ashley Pond IV, along with a number of Churches, to look at another Pond landmark. They visited the Pond Cabin, which was part of the original Pond homestead established by Ashley Pond, Jr. from whom the pond takes its name.

The genealogy of the Ponds and Churches gets a little complicated. The Ponds are the children of Ashley Pond III, and the Churches descend from his sister, Peggy Pond Church, who was Ashley Pond, Jr.’s oldest daughter and who became a well-known Southwestern writer. Peggy Pond married Fermor S. Church and had three sons, Ted, Allen and Hugh, all of whom were in the visiting party earlier this month.

The Pond contingent included Joan Pond, Karen Pond Krone, Gretchen Pond Lofgren, Ashley Pond IV and two great grandchildren.

In recent years, the Ponds and the Churches have been trying without success to come back and see the ancestral cabin, which happened to be located in an area of Los Alamo National Laboratory that also housed nuclear reactors and other highly classified operations.

Joan Pond, who coordinated the visit, remembered visiting her cousin Ted Church in the early 1950s and having a chance to catch a glimpse of the cabin through the fence at the Pajarito site inside laboratory property.

After some three years of efforts led by Joan Pond, she said this week, permission was finally granted for the extended family to visit, not long after the security status of the Pond Cabin changed from “high security” to merely “behind the fence.”

According to Los Alamos National Laboratory’s cultural documents, “The Pond Cabin is the one surviving standing log structure at LANL, dating to the Homestead period, and is listed on the New Mexico state list register (of cultural properties).”

The cabin that was the group’s destination was built by Ashley Pond, Jr., the man whose name is attached to the central feature of downtown Los Alamos.

Pond came from a wealthy Detroit family and built the Pond Cabin as the office for what was supposed to be a commercial ranch and hunting service.

“After the Pajarito Ranch was taken over by the Manhattan Project,” according to the LANL history, “the Pond Cabin was used as a sleeping quarter for various employees,” who were working in that section of the laboratory known as the Pajarito Site.

The Ponds and Churches, 14 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other family members of the original Ashley Pond, who also founded the original Los Alamos School for Boys, finally got their wish to visit the Pond Cabin on Sept. 2.

Ellen McGehee, a historian and archeologist led the tour.

“She turned out to be quite knowledgeable,” said Ted Church, who attended the boy’s school in Los Alamos and later went to work at Sandia National Laboratory.

“It was our pleasure to have them out there,” said LANL spokesman Fred de Sousa Friday.

The laboratory documents indicate that concerns arose about the safety of the Pond Cabin from an historical preservation perspective, following the Cerro Grande Fire in May 2000, when all of Pajarito Canyon appeared to be vulnerable to flash floods.

For awhile the structure was protected by barriers and sandbags, but there were no floods and the barriers have since been removed.