Back to the ranch

Discover Colorado's pioneer heritage along the Front Range

Lora J. Finnegan

It's a hot afternoon on the farm, and Tamara Fewell-Flowers is showing a rapt audience ― four 6-year-olds and their parents ― how to milk a cow. Fewell-Flowers, a historic site interpreter in character as an 1890s farm girl, deftly demonstrates the hand motions of proper milking technique with the help of a brown Jersey cow named Leeza. Ping, ping, ping ― the milk sings into the tin pail.

A visit to the 14-acre Littleton Historical Museum 10 miles south of Denver is a glimpse of Colorado's agricultural past, with two replica farms, barnyard animals, and a working blacksmith shop. Wander a bit and you'll get a good look at how hard those early pioneers worked, as shown by staff and volunteers in period dress.

In the simple 1860s farm cabin, they're spinning yarn by kerosene lantern or cooking over a hearth fire. Walk into the kitchen of the 1890s farmhouse and time shifts forward: it's outfitted with the comforts enjoyed 30 years later, such as a coal heater, an icebox, and a clothes wringer. In the paddocks, volunteers and staff are tending livestock rarely seen on today's farms, from massive Belgian draft horses to shaggy churro sheep. And over in Littleton's first one-room schoolhouse, built in 1864 for $65, you might see the schoolmarm, Miss Ann, unfurling a period-style American flag ― hand-stitched with 36 stars.

Back in the barn, Fewell-Flowers steps away from her milking stool and lets a visitor try her hand at the udder. After some fumbling, a thin stream of milk finally drizzles into the pail. "An 1890s farmer could milk six cows in about an hour," notes Fewell-Flowers. "Between the work and Colorado's weather, they couldn't be wimps."

At the Littleton Historical Museum ― and at three other such living preserves along the Front Range ― visitors gain tangible insights into the lives of Colorado's early farmers and ranchers. Kids have fun just watching the cows, chickens, and sheep and learning what life on Colorado's frontier was like. It all comes alive when you ride in a wagon, walk the prairie, visit a period farmhouse, or peek in on the barnyard critters. And if you've got a sure grip and a strong back, you might even try your hand at milking.


Littleton Historical Museum
The museum building features three changing exhibition galleries: two with displays detailing the history of Littleton and one with propaganda posters from World War II.

8-5 Tue-Fri, 10-5 Sat, 1-5 Sun; free. 6028 S. Gallup St.; 

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