A Journey Through Westminster’s Agricultural Heritage
Among the most indelible images from early Colorado history are those of Gold Rush prospectors, the rugged individualists who excavated the hard rock of mountainous terrain in search of gold and silver. Yet other “miners” were flooding the region’s flatlands, searching for a different source of wealth. These equally hardy men and women sought to extract riches from the topsoil found in abundance on the open plains and along Colorado’s waterways.
Throughout the 1800s, the United States was a predominantly agricultural nation. Most of the pioneers who crossed the prairie and ventured to Colorado had far more experience with farming and animal husbandry than with mining. Their expertise lay in growing crops and nurturing livestock, although they would have to adapt their methods to the frontier’s dry climate. In addition, the growing communities of pioneers and miners needed fresh food products, opening a potentially lucrative market to those with the knowledge and desire to pursue farming.
Homesteaders staked claims on 160-acre tracts of frontier land that became available through the 1862 Homestead Act. Some actively expanded their landholdings, acquiring additional parcels that provided ample space for pasture and crops. Before long, these pioneers were raising horses, sheep, and beef and dairy cattle. To produce crops in an area with little precipitation, they installed irrigation ditches and reservoirs. Before long, the growing agricultural sector was producing ample food supplies for the plains towns and the alpine mining camps.
While most of the early farms have been overtaken by urban development, the vestiges of Westminster’s agricultural heritage are still scattered throughout the city. Many of these remnants have been permanently protected from demolition by the City’s historic landmark ordinance and several are owned by the City.
Here are a few places you can visit, both online and on a driving or bicycle tour of Westminster:
Northwest Region Northeast Region Southern Region