Tread of Pioneers exhibit features Lincoln’s walking stick, Jefferson’s violin

Jack Weinstein
A violin owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is on display at the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs through Oct. 15.
John F. Russell

If you go

What: Freemasonry exhibit

When: Through Oct. 15

Where: Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St.

Cost: Museum admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors older than 62, $1 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children younger than 6 and Routt County residents.

Items including a letter from George Washington dated 1786, a letter from James Mercer dated 1786 and Abraham Lincoln’s walking stick are on display at the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs as part of a an exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first Masonic Lodge in Colorado. The exhibit is on loan and can be viewed through Oct. 15.John F. Russell

— An exhibit featuring Abraham Lincoln’s walking stick and Thomas Jefferson’s violin are on display at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.

The items are part of a traveling exhibit that commemorates the 150th anniversary of Freemasonry in the state, specifically the construction of the Grand Lodge of Colorado in 1861. It will be on display in Steamboat Springs until Oct. 15.

Tread of Pioneers Executive Director Candice Bannister said the museum is thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase items of national significance. The exhibit indicated that Lincoln carried the walking stick during his 1860 presidential campaign and Jefferson’s violin was manufactured in the late 1700s or early 1800s.

“These are items I would expect to see in the Smithsonian because of their affiliation with our past presidents,” Bannister said. “Our museum focuses on the history of the Steamboat Springs area. Even though that stretches beyond Steamboat Springs, we don’t have items of national significance, about national history.”

According to the exhibit, Lincoln was not a mason but applied for membership in Springfield, Ill., before he was nominated for president in 1860. It indicated that Lincoln withdrew the application because he didn’t want to win the election because of his affiliation with the fraternal organization.

The exhibit indicated that Jefferson was thought to have been a mason because there was a record of his attendance at a Masonic function, but membership records were lost and lodges where he would have been a member no longer exist.

They are among 16 presidents affiliated with Freemasonry. The exhibit also includes letters from George Washington and Harry S. Truman, among other Masonic items.

Bannister said the museum worked with Steamboat mason Ray Selbe to get the exhibit.

Selbe, a member of Steamboat’s Elk Mountain Lodge No. 118, said he saw the exhibit on display at the Colorado Masonic Library and Museum in Colorado Springs. Selbe said he requested that it come to Steamboat.

“I thought it would be of interest to the community,” he said.

According to the exhibit, the first Freemasons came to Colorado in the late 1850s to prospect for gold. They first met in 1858 and built the lodge three years later, shortly after Colorado became a state. The exhibit indicated that there are 132 active Masonic lodges and 11,000 members statewide.

The Tread of Pioneers is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free for Routt County residents with identification. It’s $5 for adults, $4 for seniors older than 62, $1 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children younger than 6.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email

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