Rat Trapper Hotelier with Indomitable Spirit
(Reprinted from above link)
Original Title: Paths to the Present: Robert Harris was Windsor’s first and most eccentric hotelier
Windsor’s first hotel, the Hotel de Harris, tells the story of a beloved local fur trapper with an indomitable spirit.
Robert Harris, a hunter and trapper born in Canada in 1829, arrived in Windsor around 1881 to trap muskrats around what is now Windsor Lake. He quickly realized the lake’s potential to become a hunting attraction and built the Hotel de Harris in 1883 at the northwest corner of 5th and Main streets. In 1884, Robert’s wife Sally Ann arrived from Canada with their daughter, Bertha.
The hotel became renowned for Sally Ann’s dinners of roast duck and currant jam. Robert and Sally Ann hosted visitors from across the nation, including Colorado governor Benjamin Harris Eaton.
Robert also ran a muskrat trapping business, trained hunting dogs and horses, and grew his own species of rose. Additionally, he believed he could predict the weather using muskrat pelts. For years, the Windsor newspaper ran a column of Robert’s weather predictions.
Incredibly, Robert did this all with life-changing foot injuries. Before coming to Windsor, Robert’s feet were severely frostbitten. By 1908, both were amputated, but he continued to hunt, host visitors, and run his fur business.
In December 1912, Windsor’s townspeople, who loved Robert dearly, came together to surprise him with a wheelchair they purchased. When it was presented, the old trapper was so overcome with emotion he couldn’t speak.
After Robert passed away in April 1914, businessman Charles Yancey purchased the Hotel de Harris and moved it to another area of town. The building survived until at least the 1940s, when it is mentioned in a local history book.
The Hotel de Harris may still exist today. The hotel is pictured in a photograph of a 1910s livestock auction. If this building looks familiar, please contact Caitlin Heusser at (970) 674-3521.
Katherine Mercier is the Museum Education Coordinator for the Town of Windsor.