Take a virtual visit to the Walker Ranch Homestead and explore what life was like there between 1880 and 1900.
These field trips are primarily intended for third and fourth grades, but they are flexible and can be adjusted for the group and time available. It is important that the group read the introduction to the field trip. This could be read aloud to students or by students on their own. That way students will know a bit about the place they are virtually visiting!
Meet The Walker Family
The Walkers were one of many families who came from the eastern part of the United States in the late 1800s to settle in Boulder County. Some came to find gold, others to start a new life, and some for adventure. Some, like James Walker, came to live in the Rockies with hopes of better health.
James Walker was born in Virginia in 1848 and moved with his family to Missouri when he was a teenager. A few years later, in 1869, James was very sick. He likely had yellow fever or consumption (tuberculosis). In those days, the medical technology we have now to treat many diseases was not available. His doctor recommended he move to the high, dry climate of the Rocky Mountains. With only $12 in his pocket and weighing just 98 pounds, James took the train to Cheyenne and then hitchhiked to Boulder.
After moving to Colorado, James regained his strength. He worked as a farmhand, blacksmith, guard, carpenter, and farmer. He met his wife, Phoebe Skinner, in Boulder (she was originally from Ohio) and married her in 1876. They may have lived in the log house at the ranch in summers, but they spent winters in Boulder until the white ranch house was completed in 1882. The log house, built before James Walker purchased the property, was originally a store and trading post for people who lived in the mountains west of Boulder.
The Walkers’ only son, William, was born in 1877. Phoebe was very sick after he was born and never got completely well again. It was very unusual in those days for families to have only one child. They usually had many children to help on their ranches or farms. The Walkers had a vegetable garden to provide food for their family. They also raised turkeys and chickens, and Galloway Cattle, known for their hardiness, thick fur, and good meat.
James and Phoebe’s son William married a neighbor, Veronica Kossler, in 1902 and they had six children who helped run the ranch. Life became a little easier with several new additions: a telephone was installed at the ranch in 1906, and in 1914, a garage was added to the log house to house James’ new Dodge car. James and his son William would only buy Dodges because the vacuum pump on the gas line allowed them to drive the car up Flagstaff Road frontwards rather than backing uphill as other cars had to do.
Boulder County Parks & Open Space purchased Walker Ranch in 1977. In 1984 Walker Ranch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the Walkers are no longer with us, their family story reminds us of the strength, determination, and hard work of many families who traveled west to find a new home over a century ago.