Leckenby and Larson awards recognize contributions to building, sharing Routt County’s history (with video)

Paul and Ellen Bonnifield, Lucille Bogue recognized

From left, Jim Stanko presents Ellen and Paul Bonnifield with the 2019 Leckenby Award.
Tread of Pioneers Museum/Courtesy photo

Editor’s note: The spelling of Lucile Bogue’s name was corrected at 11 a.m. Thursday.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This year’s Leckenby and Larson awards recognized three educators who have built and carried on Routt County’s history.

The awards, presented by the Tread of Pioneers Museum, honor residents “who work tirelessly for the betterment of our community,” Museum Executive Director Candice Bannister wrote in an email to the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

“So often, these individuals spend their whole lives contributing to local organizations and causes and give of their time freely and easily,” Bannister wrote. “We want to make sure to say ‘thank you,’ on behalf of the museum and the residents of the entire county.”

Bonnifields earn the Leckenby Award

The Leckenby Pioneer Award recognizes Routt County residents of 30 years or more who serve as a representative of the community’s history, demonstrate personal integrity and inspire youth.

South Routt couple Paul and Ellen Bonnifield earned the 2019 Leckenby Award.

The Bonnifields are regulars at local history events, from speaking at the museum’s Brown Bag Lunches to celebrating the revitalization of Yampa’s historic Crossan’s Market. Paul and Ellen also author “Bonnifield Files,” a local history column in the Valley Voice.

Bill Gay tells stories of a young Paul Bonnifield

Posted by Tread of Pioneers Museum, Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Paul is retired from a colorful life wearing many hats as a rancher, miner and educator. Ellen is a poet and was the first librarian at Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville campus and taught elementary, high school and college classes.

For Paul, the stories that make up Routt County’s history reveal the values the area was built on — the same integrity, honesty and willingness to work together that he sees today.

In 1913 and 1914, as Oak Creek coal miners went on strike for an eight-hour workday and pay increases, Bonnifield said a group in Steamboat Springs wanted “to march down to have an open-fire battle, gunfire between each other.” They had to bring in the Army, he said.

Routt County emerged from that early turbulence in one piece.

“That says a lot about us. It says something good about us. To me, that’s why we should read our history,” Paul said. “None of us are anything except our past, wherever we came from. Today, this moment, is fleeting. It’s gone. The future — we don’t really know what it’s going to be. We hope. We think, but we don’t really know. But the past, we build on. When you came here from wherever and your ancestors are from wherever, you started building here.”

At a glance

Past winners of the Leckenby Award: Ferry Carpenter, Walt Webber, Lewis Phillips, Ayliffe and Henry Zehner, Dorothy Wither, John “Doc” Utterback, Margaret Rossi, Val Fitzpatrick, Bobby Robinson Sr., Evelyn and Quentin Semotan, Gordy Wren, Eldon Brummett, Effie Baily, Eleanor Bliss, Vernon Summer, Marvin Elkins, Pat Holderness, Lowell Whiteman, Dee Richards, Don Lufkin, Pete Wither, Elaine Gay, Bill Bowes, Natalie Stanko, Linda Long, Frances Wither, Sam Haslem, Dr. Bill Baldwin, Mary Jean Perry, Bud and Jane Romberg, Donna Hellyer, Judy Green, Peter “Mike” Yurich, Bill McKelvie, Bill Gay, Jim Stanko, Jerry Green, Marion Gibson and Noreen Moore.

Past winners of the Larson Award: Claude Luekens, James H. Crawford, Charles H. Leckenby, Dr. F.E. Willett, James Norvell, Charles Neiman, Minnie Hertzog, Carl Howelsen, Everett Bristol, Lulita Crawford Pritchett, Emma Willcockson, Bob Gay, Winnie Carrol, Charlotte Perry, Portia Mansfield, Joseph “Shorty” Hamidy, Thomas I. Lindley, William S. “Bill” Green, Gates Gooding, Dr. John V. Solandt, George Cook, Delano Scott, Sumner Hockett, Geraldine Elkins, Clarence Light, Delmar Vance Coyner, Robert “Bob” Moss, Chuck Fulton, John Fetcher, Bill Meek, Don Brookshire, Benita Bristol, Jan Vail, Jan Leslie, Lewis Kemry, Jim Golden and Wes Signs.

Paul gives credit for the award to all of the volunteers who give their time, knowledge and money to maintain Northwest Colorado’s many small museums.

“I got the award, but there’s a heck of a lot of volunteers that go to not only the Tread of Pioneers, but to museums in Hahns Peak, Hayden, Oak Creek, Yampa,” Paul said. “The museums and the history that we have, the rich history, would not be kept if it wasn’t for those volunteers that just give freely.”

Lucy Bogue, a founder of Yampa Valley College, receives the Larson award

The Stanley L. Larson Award is awarded posthumously to a resident who made major contributions to Routt County during his or her lifetime.

Lucile Bogue, the founding president of Yampa Valley College, is this year’s Larson Award winner.

Bonnie Bogue accepted the museum's annual Larson Award on behalf of her mother, Yampa Valley College Founder, Lucile Bogue.

Posted by Tread of Pioneers Museum, Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Bogue, a native of Glenwood Springs, taught in Yampa Valley elementary and high schools for 20 years, including at the Mesa Schoolhouse and other one-room schoolhouses. In the 1950s, she worked with Lowell Whiteman School where she later taught. The Whiteman School later became Steamboat Mountain School.

Bogue and other “public-spirited citizens” founded the college in 1962, according to a 1962 edition of the Steamboat Pilot. From that time until 1969, the college offered degrees international in scope in a much smaller Steamboat than exists today, according to a story in Steamboat Magazine. Graduates studied creative arts, humanities, social sciences, international studies and administrative studies. A building that housed student dorms and classrooms was named for Bogue in 1967, though it’s since been demolished.

“We are naturally very proud of our mother who was extraordinary in many ways,” said Bonnie Bogue at Tuesday night’s award ceremony. Bonnie accepted the award with her sister Sharon Young.  

“This is an incredible honor for Lucy, who was beyond her time and ahead of her time,” she added.

Yampa Valley College changed ownership and names several times in the late 1960s and 1970s. In 1981, voters in the Steamboat Springs School District approved a measure that brought the college into the Colorado Mountain College system.

Bogue earned the Hazie Werner Award for Excellence in 1993 and published a number of poems, plays and books. She was Colorado’s Poet of the Year in 1942.

Bogue retired to California, though Bonnie said “her heart was always here.” She passed away in 2005 in El Cerrito, California, at age 93. Her memorial service was held on the grounds of one of the schools she helped found at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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