Mrs. Maria S. Remington of Olympia, Wash., Writes of Pioneer Holidays in Baraboo
Baraboo News, Dec. 30, 1909
To the Editor, Baraboo News:--I am not insensible to the compliment implied in your request for an article on “Old Time Christmas in Baraboo.”I can write very little, if anything on that subject.My memory may be at fault, but I cannot remember any Christmas celebration, or, in fact, any observance of Christmas in the very early days of Baraboo.Later, when it became the custom to observe the day, it was celebrated, in most respects, with the same ceremonies that attend our present day Christmas.There were services on Christmas morning and Sunday school Christmas trees in the evening at the churches, with appropriate exercises.
But customs change somewhat with the years and generations.Grown up people then took more interest in the fun and frolic of Christmas time than they do now, when it is, by common consent, almost purely a children’s festival.Old and young crowded into bobsleds, covered themselves with buffalo robes, and to the merry tune of sleighbells, went speeding along for miles over the creaking snow to attend the Christmas party at the church.At our first Christmas festivities, it was our custom to take all our gifts, not only for members of our own family, but for our friends as well, to the church, where a committee of ladies took them in charge to be arranged and hung on a Christmas tree.This trimming of the tree was a very olly (sic) part of the celebration.
Christmas Tree in Court House.
How well I remember one Christmas tree, the first I think, for our church, at the old Court House, at that time our place of worship, forty-five years or more ago.All day people kept coming with parcels, and the little ones used every pretext to stay and get glimpses of the dolls and toys already in place.This could not be allowed, for surprise then, as now, was to be an important feature of the evening’s entertainment, and the children were speedily sent on their way.Presently a man, a prominent member of our society, strolled into the room, and began to inspect the tree.While the ladies were hesitating as to whether it was best to intimate to him that he was for once out of place in the court room, he, to their dismay, took a pair of slippers from the tree and proceeded to put them in his pocket.In reply to their remonstrance, he said with a twinkle in his eye, “Why these are mine, there is my name on them and I guess I’ll take them home.”Needless to say, the slippers were rescued and he was hustled unceremoniously out of the room.
In the evening there were songs, recitations and dialogues by the children, after which the tree was lighted up and all was joyous bustle and confusion.There were exclamations of delight as the children spied some longed for treasure half hidden among the green, and much eager conversation in the excitement of trying to decide which of the beautiful things could be “for me.”The tree was trimmed, not with the tinsel and gilded ornaments of the present day, but with strings of popcorn and cranberries, and old fashioned cornucopias and other home made articles.It was heavily loaded with gifts for old and young, toys, books and wearing apparel, bundles and packages of every description, some of which were anything but decorative, from an artistic point of view—very different from the splendidly decorated trees of the present time.But the company was not critical, and the smell of the pine and the gleam of the lighted candles were a delight to the little ones and to many of the “children of a larger growth.”
There was a breathless interest as the master of ceremonies took charge and removed the presents, one by one, reading off the names with great eclate.The recipient would leave his place and go forward to claim his gift, and there was much good natured raillery in the remarks and comments of his friends as he took his seat, only to be called forward again and again, if his circle of friends was large.When the very last gift was removed and even the popcorn strings were taken down and thrown to the children, the company became an informal gathering of friends, with hearty greetings and good wishes and a merry social hour.At last the sleepy children were wrapped in warm cloaks, tightly hugging their new treasures, and the last good byes sounded through the frosty air, and the “Christmas Tree” was over.
Perhaps you, in old Wisconsin think there can be no “Merry Christmas” without the accompaniment of sleighbells and coasting and skating.But we, on the Pacific coast, do not lack the Christmas spirit because we view from our windows, green lawn and blooming roses, instead of snow and ice.Christmas is Christmas the world over.Santa Claus has found that he can come down the chimney in an automobile or aeroplane as easily as on a sled with his prancing reindeer, though he may need a mackintosh and an umbrella to keep his pack dry.We have plenty of rain to be sure, sometimes more than we care for, but when I read of the blizzards and snow drifts and thirty below zero weather in Wisconsin, I am quite content to “listen to the patter of the soft rain on the roof.”In Wisconsin, when he wished to proclaim the foolishness of any one, we would say “He does not know enough to come in when it rains.”Out west here we have a new version of the old saw, and often exclaim, “He’s foolish to stay in because it rains.”
A Word About Olympia.
Our pretty little old fashioned city of Olympia is keeping pace with the rest of the state.In the last two years, many fine buildings have been erected which would be a credit to a much larger city.We have the only Woman’s Club House in Washington, and one of the finest high schools.Our Domestic Science girls have won fame far and wide by the lunches they served at the Educational building at the A.Y.P.We have an elegant Governor’s mansion and are soon to have a million dollar capitol.We have a fine view of grand old Mt. Tacoma; also of the long line of snow clad peaks of the Olympics, with the blue waters of the bay in the foreground.
Yet amid all this grand scenery of Sound and Mountains, my heart turns fondly to the beautiful view from our old home, with the dear old Baraboo river and Maxwell’s dam, with the railroad track beyond, and the wooded hills and Devil’s lake bluffs in the distance; so it is with a sigh for the days that are gone, that I send Christmas greetings to the few remaining friends of Auld Lang Syne.
MARIA S. REMINGTON.Olympia, Wash.,December 11th, 1909
Christmas In Baraboo Sixty Years Ago Attorney R.W. Warner of Everett, Washington, Presents Some Interesting Recollections of Three Score Years Ago. Baraboo News, December 23, 1909
To the Editor:--I am asked to write on the subject of Christmas in Baraboo fifty or more year ago.
To the question, "Do you recall the first Christmas in Baraboo?" I must frankly say, that my memory does not give back any distinct impression of the Christmas of that year, 1839. I remember some incidents of school life, I was then seven years old, that took place at that first term of the district school, under the tuition of Mr. Merville Mason; but anything special occurring on Christmas day of that particular year, I do not now recall.
During those early days any recollections of Christmas and holiday week were mostly confined to the pastime of skating on the mill pond. School used to take a vacation during holiday week, and then the boys of my age, and size, used to take to the old mill pond, Philarom Pratt’s, and skate up the river as far as the old middle mill, Captain Moore’s, at Lyons. Every day we would go, when we could get the consent of our parents, and come home late in the day, weary and worn; but always ready and willing to start out again the next day, on the same round of pleasure. In those days, of course, we had many Christmas family gatherings; and went to the homes of uncles, aunts and cousins, on sleds and bob-sleds, with the old lumber wagon box mounted thereon, sitting in the straw in the bottom, and covered with buffalo robes, to the merry jingle of the bells. It was certainly the merriest season of the year for the juvenile portion of the community. During holiday week, when school did not "keep," we gave ourselves up to mirth and hilarity.
I think that the present generation can hardly imagine the great contrast there is between the Baraboo of 1850, and that of today. In 1850, Baraboo was composed of three different villages, or settlements. One on the hill, that was generally called the "County Seat"; one by the river, on the north side of it; called Baraboo "Under the Hill"; and one on the south side of river called Baraboo, or "Browntown", so named from Chauncey Brown, one of the first settlers. Mr. Brown lived on the south side, but his grist mill, was on the north side of the river. I remember well when Brown’s mill burned; it was the first conflagration of any size that I ever saw. The Baraboo woods came right up to Mr. Brown’s house, within two blocks of the river. Mr. Lyman Clark kept the Baraboo House, on the south side, and Mr. Jepthah Jackson kept the American "Under the Hill"; and Col. Edward Sumner kept the Western Hotel, on the "County Seat." I remember the old frame building on the north side of the public square built for a court House, it was a new building then, Mr. Mason taught the public school there, in 1849; and all the religious denominations held services in it. I remember that dancing parties were the order of the day, during the Christmas season, and that candy-pulls were also pastime for both young and old.
These were the Halcyon seasons in that new country. But my recollections although pleasant are not so vivid as some others of those early years, especially those pertaining to the 4th of July, for instance, and I will now drop my pen and let others write the history of Christmas in those early times.