Walker Ranch Homestead Virtual Field Trip

Walker Ranch Homestead Virtual Field Trip

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.


Talk, Write, Draw, & Think

What was different during the Walkers’ time than now?

  • How would you entertain yourself during the time the Walkers lived? Did you have electricity for lights, TV, etc.?
  • Would you have an indoor bathroom? If not, where would you go to the bathroom? What if you needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night during a snowstorm? How would you take a bath?
  • What kinds of clothes would you wear? Would girls and ladies wear pants and shorts? What about tank tops? Would men and boys wear t-shirts and shorts? Why would you wear a hat to work outdoors?
  • If you lived on a ranch like Walker Ranch, which of these chores do you think different members of your family would do? Who might be suited to which chores best?

What is the difference between a ranch (like the Walkers lived on) and a farm (like the Agricultural Heritage Center in Longmont)?

Have you ever helped cook on a wood stove or over a fire or even on a grill? What do you have to think about differently than you do when cooking on a modern stove? How is it different than cooking with a microwave oven?

Things To Try

Sing A Song

Do some research and find a song or two from the time of the Walkers, 1880-1900. We bet you’ll find some that we still sing today. Sing an old song for your friends or family or, better yet, teach them to sing it with you.

Blacksmith Without A Forge

You’ll need clay or playdoh (preferably black so it looks like metal) and tools like hammers and pliers. The tools can get messy so have a plan to clean them, and if you don’t have tools, your hands will be okay – just remember that the blacksmith couldn’t use hands on that hot metal!

  1. Pretend the clay is metal and ready to go into and out of the hot fire of a forge.
  2. Use the tools to handle the clay as if it were hot metal.
  3. Shape the clay into horseshoes, hooks, nails and things that might be of use on an old-fashioned ranch or farm.

Make Calling Cards

You’ll need paper to practice on, recipe/index cards, samples of cursive/fancy handwriting, pencils, pens, markers, and ink pads and rubber stamps if you have them.

  1. Use paper and a pencil to practice writing your first and last name in your very best handwriting. Use cursive if possible.
  2. Do another practice, but now in pen or marker. Try using your very best handwriting.
  3. Do you have rubber stamps and an ink pad? Stamp those around the edges to make a border around your name.
  4. Get a blank recipe/index card.
  5. Stamp the border around where you plan to put your name (it’s okay if you don’t have stamps or an inkpad).
  6. Get your pen or marker and write your name slowly and carefully in your very best cursive fancy handwriting.
  7. Do some more calling cards using your family members’ names or your pets’ names!

Walker Ranch Homestead Virtual Tour


We would love to know if you used any of these resources for a virtual field trip. If you did, please email skippen@bouldercounty.gov with the number of students, their ages/grade levels, and the name and location of the school. Feel free to let us know what we can do to improve these resources for the future.


Contact Us

Parks & Open Space

Sheryl Kippen