Search This Blog

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Post written and copyright by Doris McCraw

As the Christmas and Holiday season approaches, how about some early celebrations? Imagine if you will, 1858, you have followed the siren's call to Colorado in search of the 'golden fleece' known as gold and silver. Life has been busy and the high desert with its mild weather has fooled you. Then when you do the figuring, its Christmas, what do you do? Or maybe you have traveled with your family and now you plan to celebrate in the middle of nowhere. Join me as I share some of the stories I have found.

According to the records, the area around what is now Denver had about 200 men and 5 women (four were married) and assorted children. Perhaps I should add the two towns that made up the area were about sixty days old. Plans were being made in the two camps for a festive meal. One camp was planning and candles for a tree that had been cut in the foothills. This was the German couple and trees were a part of the home country festivities. The other party had a meal of buffalo, rabbit, wild turkey, rice pudding and peach and apple pie, listing just part of the menu.

USGS Topographic Mapping Field Camp

It is written that Christmas morning that year was 'soft and genial as a May day...'. Into this lovely mix "Uncle Dick" Wootton (sp) brought his gift, "Taos Lightening". Needless to say, the day was one to be remembered, if you hadn't taken in too much of the free gift Uncle Dick brought to the party. (I'll have to tell you more about Uncle Dick later)

One family on the Arkansas river, up close to the cut off to what is now Monarch pass, had been cut off from others and the towns due to heavy fall snow storms that year of 1863.  They had been working their claim, even in the heart of winter. When Christmas arrived, they had plenty of food, but not much variety. So the one daughter decided to bring out the good china brought from their home in Nebraska and serve up a feast. According to the story, they made mock turkey, from beef, beans, substitute coffee, made from browned bran. The parents were the guest of honor. Now that is a creative young lady, who set this up with the help of her siblings.

. Harding sandstone on gneiss and schists 1.5 miles northwest of Canyon [City]/USGS. “

In the early trapper days around 1842, the northeast corner of Colorado/Utah saw a holiday take shape with the help of the Indians in the area. Their Holiday meal consisted of appalost, a type of shish kabob with lean meat and fat roasted over a low fire, buffalo cider, a liquid found in the stomach of buffalo, supplemented with washena, marrow fat and pomme blanc from the Indians.

In Leadville in 1888, Dick Berryman's Saloon offered the following bill of fare: Possum, Turkey, Roast Pig, Sweet Potatoes and Corn Dodgers.

Leadville, Colorado, mining district, subject of an early mining-geology study, 1879.

As you can see, even back in the early days, people did what they could to celebrate. I will leave you with a lovely passage from Isabella Bird's book, "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains". As Isabella traveled the Rocky Mountains, alone, she wrote letters back to her sister in England. This passage is from her time in the Estes Park area of Colorado in 1873 as she rode her horse Birdie through the fir covered area.  "...I think I never saw such a brilliant atmosphere.That curious phenomena called frost-fall was occurring in which, whatever moisture may exist in the air, somehow aggregates into feather and fern leaves, the loveliest of creations, only seen in rarefied air and intense cold. One breath and they vanish. The air was filled with diamond sparks quite intangible. They seemed just glitter and no more. It was still and cloudless, and the shapes of violet mountains were softened by a veil of the tenderest blue."

This area is known as Little Yellowstone in Rocky Mountain national Park (photo W. Lee, USGS, ...

To each and everyone, may you have the Christmas and Holiday that your heart desires.

snowfall - by the author

also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Photo and Poem:

Film and Photography on the Front Range” (Regional History Series): Colorado Springs, CO. Pikes Peak Library District 2012


  1. I learn something from every author. Today it was you! Thank you and have a blessed Christmas!

    1. Thank you Cindy. I do love sharing Colorado History. So happy you stopped by and you also have the best Christmas, filled with joy, love and good food. *Smile* Doris

  2. Great post, Doris. A lot of good information. Loved the little stories about the families there in the early days.

  3. Thank you Robyn, so happy you enjoyed it. There are quite a few really, and I had fun reading all of them while researching for this post. Have a wonderful December and Christmas season. Doris

  4. Doris,

    You have such entertaining and interesting stories about Colorado. I love learning these lesser known tidbits of Colorado history. Thanks you. ;-)

    1. Kaye, It is my pleasure. I love sharing what I find, and when others enjoy it like I do, well that is just about Heaven for me. (Smile) Doris

  5. Wow, Doris, that was a great post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Penny, so glad you enjoyed it. There is a joy in finding resourcese that give a glimpse into what life may have been like in earlier times. It brings a smile to know others enjoy my passion for things past also. Doris