Tales from the Tread: Museum award honors outstanding local citizens | SteamboatToday.com

Tales from the Tread: Museum award honors outstanding local citizens

Tread of Pioneers Museum
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Every year the Leckenby and Larson Awards Committee, associated with the Tread of Pioneers Museum, presents two awards that honor persons who have enriched the quality of life in Routt County. These citizens have served our public institutions, preserved our local history, or contributed significantly to the county’s heritage.

Since 1980, the museum has bestowed the Leckenby Pioneer Award to a living person in Routt County. Since 1982, the museum has presented the Stanley L. Larson Award posthumously. The museum calls for nominations from the public each year to assure community-wide representation.

For both awards, the committee considers the individual’s involvement in community activities such as volunteerism, supporting organizations, and serving on various boards and advisory groups. Awardees have often inspired the next generation by working with youth and others, are dedicated to preserving local history, and make the community a better place to live for all.

The nominees for the Leckenby Pioneer Award:

  • Have lived a total of 30 years or more in the county, but do not have to be living here now.
  • Are involved with the community, responsive to community needs, and serve as representatives of the history of the community.
  • Demonstrate personal integrity.                                                                
  • Are inspirational to youth.

Recent recipients of the Leckenby Award are: Mike Yurich, Bill McKelvie, Bill Gay, Jim Stanko, Jerry Green, Marion Gibson, Noreen Moore, Paul and Ellen Bonnifield, Jack Sprengle, and Arianthe Stettner.

For her tireless volunteerism and dedication to Routt County history, the 2022 Larson Award recipient is Rita Herold. Herold and her family live and operate a fifth-generation ranch outside Yampa.

For her tireless volunteerism and dedication to Routt County history, the 2022 Larson Award recipient is Rita Herold.
Tread of Pioneers/Courtesy photo

Herold’s passion for history developed early in life as she grew up listening to the stories of the area told by her father, grandfather, and great-uncles. As a guest speaker throughout Routt County, Herold has given numerous historical talks, tours, and lectures. She recently wrote two published books, “Yampa Valley’s Lost Egeria Park” and “Hidden History of Routt County.”

Over her career, she taught kindergarten through 12th grade and worked as an adjunct history professor for Colorado Northwestern Community College and Colorado Mountain College.

Herold has always been active in the community, serving as a longtime 4-H leader and county fair volunteer. She has been a board member and volunteer for the CattleWomen’s Association, Routt County Historic Preservation Review Board, and the Yampa-Egeria Historical Society.

As her daughter, Nita Naugle notes, “I cannot remember a time in my life when Mom wasn’t continuing her education and learning. She taught me the importance of volunteering and making the community a better place. Her example of contributing has shaped the course of my life.”

The qualifications for the Stanley L. Larson Award:

  • The nominees must have lived in Routt County and are now deceased.
  • The nominees must have made a significant contribution to Routt County.

Recent recipients of the Larson Award are: Bill Meek, Don Brookshire, Benita Bristol, Jan Vail, Jan Leslie, Lewis Kemry, Jim Golden, Lucile Bogue, Leon Wilkins, and Al Wegeman.

Marcellus Samuel Merrill is the recipient of the 2022 Stanley L. Larson Award. Four-year-old Merrill (Celly) and his family arrived in Steamboat Springs by stagecoach in 1905. They were later joined by Merrill’s grandfather, who had started several businesses, including the First National Bank on Lincoln Avenue.

Marcellus Samuel Merrill is the recipient of the 2022 Stanley L. Larson Award.
Tread of Pioneers/Courtesy photo

Merrill always fondly remembered his time growing up in Steamboat Springs and was involved in Routt County until passing in 1986. He made his living in Denver as an inventor and owner of Merrill Engineering Laboratories and Merrill Axle and Wheel Service. He spent much of his free time hunting, fishing, camping, and skiing in Routt County. Despite his success as an inventor and businessman in the automotive industry, Merrill never forgot his Steamboat friends. During the Great Depression, when he started his business, he employed many Routt County people, which he continued to do throughout his career.

Merrill and his two brothers, Hollis and Conrad, learned to ski jump with Carl Howelsen in 1913. Merrill loved skiing and began awarding the Merrill Trophy, in memory of his brothers, for the longest-standing jump (without regard to style) at the annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival in 1940. He became a partner in Groswold Ski Company in Denver, inventing and patenting the first American 3-point binding in 1935. In the 1950s, Merrill created skis on rollers to allow the Steamboat Springs High School Band to march in a summertime parade down Michigan Boulevard in Chicago. He also invented and sold a car-top ski carrier to the A&P Co. of Seattle. In 1978, Merrill was inducted into the Colorado Ski (now Snowsports) Museum Hall of Fame.

Through his countless stories, tales, and letters to the editor in the Steamboat Pilot, and stories his grandson compiled in the book, “Steamboat Springs: Memories of a Young Colorado Pioneer,” Merrill has captured an essential and entertaining glimpse into the everyday happenings and attitudes of early day Steamboat Springs and its citizens.

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