"Has it been a whole year already?!" I ask Trenia Sanford, granddaughter of Quentin and Evelyn Semotan and collaborator on the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s Foundations of Steamboat Exhibit, featuring the Semotan family. The dates tell us it has been. We opened the Semotan family exhibit upstairs in the Museum’s Victorian house in February of 2015, and by the end of this month, it will be replaced with a new exhibit, honoring the Squire/Hogue family.
The family story so wonderfully demonstrates the unique and colorful history of the Steamboat Springs area. Here is how the story begins. After his wife died, Joseph Semotan Senior came to Routt County with his young daughter in 1886 from Iowa and established a ranch near Day Creek in the Elk River valley. Later he married Mary Killian Semotan, who came from Iowa with her son Arthur. They had two more children, Lucille, and Quentin.
Noted pioneers in the town of Hayden, Lemuel and Mary Kitchens arrived in Routt County from North Carolina in 1885 with six children; seven more were born near Hayden. Callie Leoma Kitchens, the third oldest child of the family, graduated eighth grade and became a school teacher.
William Ellis, a college-educated Missouri Southerner, came with his brothers to seek adventure in 1898. While teaching school near Hayden, William met fellow teacher Callie Leoma Kitchens. The two were married in 1899 and later had three daughters, Nellie, Evelyn, and Mary. William Ellis held many jobs including school teacher, manager at the J.W. Hugus Store in Wolcott, sheep rancher, ranch foreman at the Cary Ranch, and Routt County Clerk.
William and Callie’s daughter, Evelyn, was born in Wolcott, Colorado in 1902. When her father was appointed to the position of County Clerk, the family moved to the Routt County Seat of Hahns Peak for ten years before moving (with the County Seat) to Steamboat Springs in 1912. As a young girl, Evelyn and her sisters witnessed the escape of two prisoners from the Hahns Peak jail. The jailbirds swore the Ellis sisters to silence. Evelyn was full of adventure, smarts, and had a way with horses. Evelyn married cowboy Quentin Semotan in 1936.
You can see through their personal keepsakes how the family lived. A mailbag tells the story of how the family received and sent mail. A concept that seems simple enough until you take into account the distance to town and that the mail was carried by horseback. A 1920s black dress demonstrates the love of music and dance that lives in all family members. A worn cowboy hat and fencing staple bag made of a cowboy boot shows how inventive and down-to-earth ranchers can be. A saddle shows a father’s love for his daughter. Even though money was hard to come by, Quentin Semotan purchased a saddle for his daughter Jo, a gift that meant the world to her. A gold trophy (The Grand Champion of Champions) represents a lifetime of study, love, and dedication to Quarter horse breeding and success. These are the items that make a story come alive. These are the stories that make the Semotan family, and these are reasons why I will miss having the exhibit at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
Similar stories of hard work, fortitude, horses, ranching, and a love the Yampa Valley will not end, however. Following the Semotan family exhibit, we will open a new exhibit telling the story of the Squire and Hogue family. Soon I will sink myself into their stories of tribulations and successes. I will display their keepsakes and tell another Foundations story through a different family… I can’t wait.
"Moonlight Rider" Quentin Semotan on the cover of Western Livestock Journal, 1942