Trails Ran Through the Valley

The first wagon road through the Little Thompson Valley was established in 1850 when a party of Cherokee Indians traveling from northeast Oklahoma to the gold fields of California crossed the upper reaches of the Little Thompson Valley. Led by Capt. Edmonson, guided by mountain man Ben Simon, and chronicled by diarist James Mitchell, the “party camped up in the edge of the mountains on little creek running east, the water cold from the Snow.”

Twelve years later in 1862 Ben Holladay altered the route of his Overland Stage line to run north from Denver to Laramie. The result was a stagecoach road that roughly paralleled the trail the Cherokee party followed in 1850, but located a few miles east in the vicinity of present-day Colorado State Highway 287. Holladay also established a “swing station” on the banks of the Little Thompson River where stagecoaches stopped to change horse teams.

In 1937 the Pioneers of the Little Thompson, a self-described group of “men and women who blazed the trails,” placed a granite marker on Highway 287 southwest of Berthoud to mark the vicinity of the Overland stage road crossing of Little Thompson creek. The monument was later removed to Berthoud Town Park where it still stands.

By 1914 the Lincoln Highway followed a corridor through Northern Colorado similar to that of the Overland Trail. Crossing Little Thompson creek near the ford of the old stage road crossing, The Berthoud Bulletin opined, “The Lincoln Highway is at present no credit to the gentleman for whom it was named. The people who travel it during the week are not in a right frame of mind to go to church Sunday.”