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The Ghost of Boone County Christmas Past

The hectic pace of the holidays may make us yearn for simpler times: horses clip-clopping down a snowy pike, festive carolers strolling from door-to-door, and decorating the parlor with family. After all, in the old days, folks didn’t have the distractions and commitments we do today, right?  Before “Black Friday” shopping and traffic jams, Christmas came at a much slower pace, certainly.  As we look into the archives, maybe it wasn’t so different.


Boone County Recorder, December 19, 1883:

“Florence- The snow is coming; Christmas is coming, and Old Santa Claus, with his precious freight is coming; and everybody is getting ready for the coming. The farmer is busily arranging his stock convenient to feed and shelter, else husking the heaps of corn or piling high the loads of fuel. The sleighs are brought from their resting places and cleared for action. The merchants are looking over their stocks of warm goods and wishing for a lower temperature. Their stores are teeming with all the good things that are edible and the show windows alive with things to make the little ones rejoice in the event of Old Santa’s breaking down. Then gay belles are at the manteaux makers with their laces and velvets and trimmings, arming for the conquest.  Then old maids have laid in a fresh supply of cologne and bloom of youth, the widows having their lives insured.  Mamma is darning the stockings to keep the sugar-plums from running out.  The little ones are counting the days while their imaginations see away up the road to the moon, the leaders of St. Nick’s gallant team of reindeer, heading for the earth with the precious burden.”


In 1890, our communities were full of bustling merchants, musical and dramatic performances and social engagements:

Dec. 24:

“Joe Reed was out Monday and Tuesday inviting people to a ‘turkey wing’ dinner at James Westbay’s on Christmas Day.  After dinner the guests will proceed to the courthouse, where they will be treated to a drama in three acts.”

“The enterprising firm of Gaines and Berkshire laid in 1,000 pounds of candy for the holidays.”


Dec. 31:
“The Christmas festivities were inaugurated in Burlington by a cotillion party at F. Riddell’s. Flying feet kept time to merry music until midnight.”

 “At the home of G.T. Gaines, quite a large number enjoyed tripping the light fantastic till a late hour.”


Revelers and shoppers were all but forced to slow down when, on Christmas morning they were greeted by a heavy blanket of waist-deep snow, bringing the pace to a near-halt, which doesn’t sound so bad from the perspective of our busy modern lives.  

Hillary Delaney is the Local History Associate at Boone County Public Library

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