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Christmas 1863 in Northwest Wisconsin

December 25, 2013

Various holiday items from The Polk County Press throughout December of 1863, plus Harper’s Weekly’s Christmas 1863 illustration by Thomas Nast.

From The Polk County Press, December 5, 1863:

CHRISTMAS ENTERTAINMENT.—A meeting was convened at the School House in this village on Monday evening last, for the purpose of taking steps toward getting up a Christmas Tree entertainment, in this village on Christmas Eve, for the benefit of the children.  A good number of our citizens were present, and committees were appointed to take the matter in hand.  A programme has been prepared which will be carried our with spirit and in such a manner as will give pleasure to all who attend.  The Festival will be held in the Court House, which will be decorated and supplied with all the conveniences necessary.  Doors open at half past 6 o’clock. Admission is 25 cents.— Children under 14 years of age will be admitted free.  The proceeds of the evening will be used to purchase Sabbath School books for the village Sabbath School.  A general invitation is extended to the public.

From The Polk County Press, December 12, 1863:

— We think that owing to the accident¹ which recently happened, and the absence of several of our citizens, that our Christmas Tree entertainment should be given up.—We know this to be the mind of several of the Executive Committee, and we mention the matter that others may consider what is best to be done.

SHOOTING MATCH.—There will be a shooting match in the village of Osceola, on Christmas Day.  Turkies [sic] and chickens by the hundred will be on hand.  But who is going to have charge of the match? ask one.  Why who should but BILLY WILSON !  He is the only man who gets up fun for the boys in Osceola.  Yes BILLY is the boy, and all hands must burn out and take a shot.

From The Polk County Press, December 19, 1863:

— R. & F. WEBB have some nice china toys and other pretty things for Christmas presents.

— We understand that the Christmas Tree entertainment in this village has been given up.

— The “Sports” in this vicinity will please bear in mind BILLY WILSON’s Shooting Match, which comes off in this village, on Christmas day.

— We shall issue our next paper on Thursday on account of its being Christmas, Friday.  Articles to secure an insertion must be handed in by Wednesday morning.

A Christmas Salutation.

The season of old time festivity is again upon us.  Pile on the Yule log and let the hearth around which we gather in these December days blaze brightly.  As we are gathered around our home circles and look back upon the Spring time and the Harvest, we have abundant reason to be thankful, and rejoice that Providence has been so kind to us.  It is right that a season of festivity should crown the going out of the old year, as it is but the offering of grateful hearts, to a beneficent author of all good, and well pleasing in his sight.  Why should we not rejoice in our blessings and render up tribute of thanksgiving to Him?  In what way can we do this better, than by making our own hearth-stones, the place of our heart-offerings.  But our sympathies should not be circumscribed by our own family circles only ;  but let us impart to the poor, the afflicted, and the unfortunate a portion of our good cheer, and divide with them the fireside, the  festivities, and the friendly sympathy of our hearts.

Let us recall with gratitude those who have left behind them their joys, and who while we thus sit, are lying upon the tented field, with the blue sky above them, and the thoughts of the dear ones far away, in their breast.  They are our country’s brave ones, and let us cherish their brave deeds, and make their names in wreaths of evergreen upon our walls, and let the little flocks, left to us as an heritage, be especial objects of our mercy and solicitude.  “For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these” remember ye do it unto the Savior, whose birth upon the plains of Bethlehem, caused the morning stars to sing together on Christmas morning eighteen hundred and sixty-three years agone.   For the religion of Christ, is the religion of humanity, and the solider who wages a just battle for humanity—wages it for Him who stilled the waves of Galilee.

Let us repeat to the children the stories of the heroes who stood on Bunker Hill and Saratoga ;—who shivered and wandered with bleeding feet around the bleak wastes of Valley Forge,—and of him who crossed with his band of heroes over the waters of the Delaware on the tempestuous night, with clouds of adversity around his pathway and the light of God’s promises in his soul, that guided him like the pillar of cloud, and the pillar of fire on his pilgrimage.—So shall they grow up to reverence the battle-scared Freemen of the first and second revolution.  So shall we love our country, and our country’s defenders, with a strong and a more earnest love.

Let the fire burn brightly, and let song and story cheer the Christmas days of old ’63.  We send you greeting with our PRESS, and hope to jog along through the days and weeks of the coming year by your side.  We shall share in your joys and participate in your sorrows—we shall work with you and for you —we ask that you will return us your sympathy, your good wishes, and earnest efforts in our behalf.  So shall we be of mutual benefit to each other and when another Christmas time shall bring its wonted joys and sorrows, its pleasures, and its mournings, we may feel that you, friends and neighbors of Polk County, are drawn nearer to us, and we to you, than ever.  That we have come to know and understand  your wants and wishers better and you have learned to know us and our truer feelings more thoroughly than in the Christmas time of the past.

So in this world of ours let us journey along, in Charity and in Hope, judging all our friends in sympathy and kindness , going out among our fellow mortals in the days and years that are still before us.  Then shall the Christmas fire burnt brightly and festive days be joyous indeed, and though years my rest within winter snows upon our heads, the heart shall be over full for youth and bid defiance to the ravages of time.

From The Polk County Press, December 26, 1863:

— We wish our readers one and all a MERRY, HAPPY CHRISTMAS !

From Harper’s Weekly,² December 26, 1863:

A Thomas Nast print for the Christmas 1863 "Harper's Weekly," published on December 26, 1863

Home on Furlough for Christmas, from “Harper’s Weekly,” published on December 26, 1863²

1.  Jennie Kent and Edward Armstrong drowned after falling through the ice while skating.
2.  A Thomas Nast illustration with multiple vignettes. The center image shows a Civil War soldier, on furlough, coming home for Christmas. The oval vingette on the left shows little children asleep in bed, and Santa Claus with a bag of gifts on his shoulder. This is Nast’s first representation of Santa as we know him today. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Chalmer Davee Library has microfilm copies of Harper’s Weekly for 1858-1865 (UWRF online catalog).

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