Overland Trail Museum in Sterling

The Overland Trail Museum in Sterling, Colorado, is located just east of the South Platte River on US 6. The museum has been in operation since 1936, and is named for the Overland Trail, a spur of the Oregon Trail, which followed the river. Sterling is one of the anchor points of the Pawnee Pioneer Trails Scenic and Historic Byway.

Although Sterling is a small city, the museum offers many opportunities usually associated with museums in larger towns. In the main building, rooms contain collections of Indian artifacts, arrowheads, fossils, pioneer artifacts, dolls, clothing, and local antiques. One can learn what early settlers read and experience the music they enjoyed. The building itself is built of native rock and is in the form of a fort. The Dave Hamil Building houses a display about rural electrification of the United States, which occurred during Roosevelt's New Deal.

Behind the museum buildings, an entire pioneer town has been reconstructed. Many of the buildings are authentic and have been moved to the museum site. The village includes the Evangelical Lutheran Concordia Church, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop fitted with items from Haxtun, Colorado, a granary, filling station, the Dailey Cash Store, a print shop, a machine shed, tee pee and gazebo. A boxcar and the Herford Train Depot are also located on the grounds.

One of the outstanding interactive activities is the Stoney Buttes one-room schoolhouse. Each summer, there are several weekly sessions of Prairie School for elementary students to experience what school life was like for pioneer children.

The church can be rented for weddings and Sunday services are conducted there during the summer months. There is also an Independence Day celebration.

Demonstration of the lifestyle of the early gold seekers, pioneers, and settlers on the prairie is a major goal. Important collections include farm machinery, ranch equipment, saddles, branding irons, and collections on Sterling history. One of these documents the local influence of the Ku Klux Klan.

The museum also is a major source of information about the Overland Trail. From 1862 to 1868, the Overland Trail brought settlers from Nebraska to Colorado, and was considered to be the most heavily traveled road in America during that time period.

The Overland Trail Museum is open year round, and admission is reasonable.