Trot along with Traveller

Lexington celebrates 150 years since Robert E. Lee and Traveller’s arrival

Sam Bramlett

With a day to celebrate general Robert E. Lee, Saturday marked the first day of recognition for his companion, Traveller.

Children from all across Rockbridge county visited Traveller’s grave with their parents for Traveller Day to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the duo’s arrival in Lexington.

Although the museum has considered holding this event for two years, this is the first time it has taken place.

“This is aimed more towards the public and more towards elementary-age school children,” Lucy Wilkins, Director of University Collections and Lee Chapel, said. “We hope this can be a sort of kickoff to the new educational approach to the museum.”

The event included scavenger hunts, a historical impersonator of Mildred Lee telling stories, various game booths and an area for kids to pet “Traveller.”

According to Wilkins, notice had been sent to public and home school systems in the area encouraging younger students to attend the event.

Traveller Day helped the museum to increase its educational outreach. The Lee Chapel Museum plans to create online programs and lesson plans to help elementary school teachers get their students interested in various subjects through a historical lense.

“We can do a variety of different approaches to [expand educational outreach],” Wilkins said. “A story that we tell of course is what Robert E. Lee and George Washington did for the school and for higher education in general. [But] with Lee being an engineer and very interested in science and math, we don’t have to just approach it from just the history angle.”

Traveller died in the summer of 1871 and was buried in the ravine near the area that is now Elrod Commons.Traveller's gravestone

His skeleton was eventually exhumed, cleaned and set on display in the science center. It became customary for students to write messages on his bones for good luck.

By 1971, Traveller’s skeleton had shown increasing signs of wear and tear. He was put to rest next to Lee Chapel.

“Lee was so popular when he got here to town, students and other people would often surround he and Traveller,” Wilkins said. “They would pluck Traveller’s mane and hair for souvenirs, just like rock stars get mobbed today.”