Elizabeth Keays Stratton, in Ansel Watrous, History of Larimer County (1911), page 416.
Elizabeth Keays Stratton vividly describes Christmas 1866 in Fort Collins in “My First Christmas in Fort Collins,” a story which she read aloud in January 20, 1910, at a Pioneer’s Reunion and Banquet. Below are some excerpts from that reminiscence, as quoted in a Triangle Review article (“First Christmas marked 120 years ago,” by Josephine P. Clements, December 23, 1986).
“To keep things lively Capt. Allen planned a big Christmas dinner and dance at Mrs. Forbes’. He furnished everything and she made the preparations. It made us all feel jolly to anticipate it. … There had come to the fort on the way to Denver from Salt Lake, a wagon load of apples. They sold readily at 50 cents apiece, and were very welcome gifts. An apple tastes mighty good when so rare. … To insure the perfection of cooking, Capt. Allen spared no pains or expense for supplies. We had tomatoes from Denver at 50 cents per pound, etc. Celery we had within reach. The soldiers had put in a garden on Mr. Coy’s land. I think the celery was the first grown in this valley. Those that had been used to eating it hailed it as a luxury. … After dinner and the room cleared, we had dancing. Everyone danced. I had fancied my dancing days over, but renewed them with much enjoyment. …”
Elizabeth Keays Stratton holds two Fort Collins “firsts”: first schoolteacher, and first wedded in Fort Collins (to Mr. Harris Stratton on December 30, 1866, just four days after the event described above) (A. Watrous, History of Larimer County, 1911, pp 129-130 and p 90).
According to journalist Clements, the Forbes place – where the 1866 festivities occurred – later became the fruit farm of William F. Watrous (uncle to Ansel Watrous). The Watrous farm was on the river near the intersection of North Shields Street and Vine Drive.