Take a virtual visit to the Agricultural Heritage Center to explore how farm families lived and worked during the early 1900s.
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!
How It Started
A pioneer settler named George McIntosh walked from Wisconsin to this region behind an oxen team (a pair of cows trained to pull a wagon or farm machinery) in 1860. George had heard of the Colorado Gold Rush and wanted to earn a little money and a chance to improve his health. George had asthma, and doctors at the time said that high and dry places like Colorado could help people with lung diseases.
Trade was booming by the time George came here. Most miners did not strike it rich during the Gold Rush. Mining required hard work and a lot of luck. Rather, farmers like “Mr. Mac” sold supplies such as hay and food to the miners for a high profit. They “mined the miners” and usually did much better than the prospectors in terms of settling in Colorado for the long haul.
Trade then died down very quickly. The Civil War slowed things down in The West during the early to mid-1860s. Like many other local farmers, “Mr. Mac” joined the U.S. Cavalry and fought the Confederates in New Mexico. He was discharged about a month before the Sand Creek Massacre of the Arapaho and Cheyenne in Southern Colorado.
After the Civil War ended, the continuing Plains Indians Wars meant supplies for military outposts throughout The West were in high demand. One of those supply runners was George McIntosh. He learned about many areas in Colorado while delivering supplies.
He decided to farm in the Longmont area because when he passed through, he saw that rich grasses (hay) grew here for livestock to eat. He said, “The grass grew high enough to hide a buffalo bull.” He also learned to speak fluent Arapaho so he could communicate along the trail. (The Arapaho name for Long’s Peak and Mount Meeker, which can be seen from the farm, is “nay-ni-sote-uu-u” or the “Twin Guides,” as it provided a landmark for travel.)
Many early farmers found that this area’s climate needed very different farming techniques than the ones they were used to back east. In order to grow hay to feed the livestock people needed for getting around and for powering farms and businesses, farmers had to dig ditches to divert the streams of mountain snowmelt runoff into hay fields. Early on, digging was done by hand and later with a special ditching plow. Flooding hay fields using ditches is called flood irrigation. You let the water flow through floodgates and control the flow by damming the water and allowing it to flood a desired crop field. Crops would not grow without the extra water from flood irrigation. This farm usually raised about 100 head of cattle in its corral area.
The Land Before George McIntosh Arrived
What was this land like when George McIntosh got here? Instead of seeing cows grazing these fields or houses nearby, imagine bison (or “buffalo”) and pronghorn antelope grazing on the rich prairie grasses. Lake McIntosh is here now, but it was more of a swampy mud bog then. There were few trees. It was a prairie with just a farm dotting the land here and there and very small towns that were far apart.
In 1868, Mr. Mac filed for a homestead, and as required by the Homestead Act, built a log
cabin. In 1872, he married Amanda and began his family. Amanda’s first husband had died. She had two sons who came to live with her and George. She and George had four children of their own. Later, Amanda’s father died in Montana and her mother and brother came to live with them. That means 10 people lived in the small log cabin that George had first built when he settled here! Mr. Mac needed space, so in 1878, he built a house across the road from the farm.
George built his homestead next to a trail used for hunting, trade, and warfare by Plains American Indian tribes such as the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and the mountain-based Ute. Today this trail is busy State Highway 66, or the “Ute Highway.”
The Next Generation on the Farm
When George and Amanda got older, their daughter Minnie married the man who ran the post office in Hygiene. He was also named George; his last name was Lohr. They took over the McIntosh homestead.
Minnie and George had two sons who grew up on this farm: Neil, nicknamed Shorty, and Harry. Neil lived on the farm almost his whole life. Children and learning and farm life were important to Neil. When he got older, he sold this land to Boulder County Parks & Open Space. This would be a place for people to learn about farming in the early 1900s, and the Agricultural Heritage Center farm museum opened in 2001.