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Tales from the Tread: From History to Happy Hour

Two men drink Louis Obert Gold Beer in this photograph by Richard Gruss, ca. 1910.
Missouri Historical Society/Courtesy photo

Do you love craft beer? Local history too? How about fascinating local history and craft beer. Join the Tread of Pioneers Museum monthly at 5:30 p.m. at Olympian Hall at Howelsen Hill for the popular event series “History Happy Hours.”

The events take the rowdy and raucous side of Routt County and Colorado history to the community via beloved happy hour. Ages 21 and over are invited, and Storm Peak Brewery will provide free craft beer.

What do we mean by rowdy and raucous history? The talks focus on the mysteries, legends, lore, debauchery, conflicts, wars, crimes, lawlessness, and wayward ways of the Wild West. Let’s take a look at these upcoming events:



Colorado Women of the Ku Klux Klan” with Betty Jo Brenner on Oct. 5 — After 23 years with Colorado Humanities as a history programs coordinator, Betty Jo Brenner is now an independent public historian who illuminates the history of women’s roles in sustaining white supremacy and the KKK in the early 20th century. 

Prostitution in the West & The Women of Hell’s Swift Alley with author Randi Samuelson-Brown on Nov. 2 — Back by popular demand, acclaimed author Randi Samuelson-Brown will unveil sordid truths from yesteryear surrounding the flesh trade, the women and their sordid companions, and the influence of alcohol and drugs upon their lifestyles. It wasn’t called “Mining for Miners” for nothing. There was plenty of money to be made, and the women were enterprising. 1800s Colorado wasn’t for the faint of heart, and neither is this talk.



“Colorado in the Civil War” with author and historian Flint Whitlock on Dec. 7 — Denver author and military historian Flint Whitlock is a former U.S. Army officer, the author of 15 books, and the editor of WWII Quarterly magazine. He has appeared several times on the History Channel and in documentaries and gives history lectures around the country. He also leads battlefield tours for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society and the Colorado National Guard.

Many people don’t realize that Colorado was even involved in the Civil War, let alone aware of the all-important role that Colorado played in one crucial battle in New Mexico. Whitlock will tell us just how Colorado won the Civil War for the Union.  

“The Dead Tell Tales in Routt County Cemeteries” with Rachel Jackson on Jan. 3 — Former reporter Rachel Jackson has loved wandering around Routt County cemeteries since moving here but recently wanted to find out more information about some of the forgotten graves in the area. Through careful research and historic newspapers, she discovered many “Wild West” stories unveiling the early years of Steamboat Springs and the surrounding towns, a fascinating alternative look at the more well-known pioneer stories.

The Aspen Archives: Sheepherder Testimonies in the CO High Country” with Alison Krogel on Feb. 1 — Alison Krögel, Ph.D. — a professor of Andean and Quechua Studies at the University of Denver — has spent the last several years uncovering the history of aspen tree carvings (1925-2019) in Colorado and Routt County. The exhibit opening at the Tread of Pioneers Museum on Dec. 2 features images of the carvings, original maps, oral history audio recordings, Quechua language poetry related to Andean sheepherding cultural traditions, and more. Her History Happy Hour talk in February will also uncover stock driveway politics in the early 20th century, cattle and sheep range wars, ethics of “culturally modified trees” and “aspen graffiti” in aborglyph art, and “aspen erotica.” 

“Harry Tracy: The Shocking True Story of the West’s Most Overlooked Outlaw” with Paul Knowles, Museum of Northwest Colorado, on March 1 — Paul Knowles will narrate Harry Tracy’s murderous criminal career that included killing eight lawmen and Tracy’s near-mythical ability to evade capture. The presentation will feature incredible details, rarely seen photos and accounts, and a visual journey through Tracy’s 500-mile path of carnage as lawmen hunted Tracy down in the summer of 1902. Tracy’s Colt revolver will also be on display as an additional bonus.

“Miners, Mischief & Mayhem in Routt County” with historian Paul Bonnifield on April 5 — Beloved local historian Paul Bonnifield is a veteran speaker of the History Happy Hour series. He has co-authored books and numerous articles on local and regional history with his wife Ellen, regularly presents scholarly papers to the Western History Association and speaks at regional events. Paul’s background includes being a professional rodeo cowboy, college professor, underground coal miner, railroad conductor, contract cowboy, and professional historian and author. 

The History Happy Hour events are just one example of the museum’s outreach efforts to bring unique history programs and events into the community. These events will be recorded and posted on the museum’s Youtube Channel. We look forward to seeing you for these safe and celebratory events. Cheers!

Candice Bannister is the executive director at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.


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