TORRINGTON – Torrington was founded in 1889. It was carved out of W.G. Curtis’ farm, and he named it after his hometown in Connecticut.
It became the Goshen County seat in 1911, when the county was formed out of the northern reaches of Laramie County. Torrington and Goshen County have seen a lot over the years, from western pioneers to the wild west. Ramshackle wooden buildings on Main Street gave way to brick structures, the sugar beet industry rose and fell, and homesteads were built, bought and sold.
It’s a long, storied history – and the Homesteaders Museum is here to tell it.
The Homesteaders Museum showcases the history of the town and county from the first settlement in 1834 to today, and it’s housed in a piece of it. The museum was built in 1925 and originally served as a train station.
“People get a little confused because it’s called the Homesteaders Museum, but we’re actually the Goshen County museum,” Director Sarah Chaires said. “We want to tell the history of our whole community.”
To further that point, the museum is home to a host of historic buildings and items that have played a part in the history of our town. Besides the Old Union Pacific Depot that serves as the main building of the museum, the Union Pacific Caboose Gallery further tells the history of the railroad in Torrington, housing items from Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern-Sante Fe Railroad. The county’s first automobile is housed in the transportation building, along with other transportation-themed artifacts, including a stagecoach.
But it’s not all transportation related.
The Yoder Family Memorial Home showcases items from the 4A Ranch and one of the first families to live in Goshen County. There’s also the Midway School House – a one-room schoolhouse built in 1928 – and the Trout Homestead Shack, built in 1910. The exhibits give visitors a look at what life was like as homesteader in Goshen County.
The museum completed a major renovation project in 2019. The jewel of the renovation is the depot’s former baggage room, which will be the home to a number of revolving exhibits. The baggage room got a little larger earlier this year, as well. The museum moved a few antique train cars to the tracks outside of the baggage room, which created an authentic extension to the baggage room.
“This will allow our visitors to access the trains from the baggage room in the depot, adding event space and making the cars more accessible,” Chaires said.
“We are going to use that for speakers, traveling exhibits, that sort of thing. If members of the public want to come in and use that space as well, you can do it.”
Chaires said she hopes to rotate exhibits based on important dates in history.
“I’m hoping to not have static exhibits in this building,” Chaires said. “I’m hoping to rotate everything through. We have a lot of stuff in our collection, and we can have it all out at once.
“If something comes up, we’ll do an exhibit to a company that during different times of the year.”