Local Christmases of the 1800s featured homemade mince pies and mommy dances |  Opinion

Local Christmases of the 1800s featured homemade mince pies and mommy dances | Opinion

Editor’s Note: Charles Wycoff was one of the pioneers of Jackson County. This first-hand account of his 19th-century Christmas was first printed in the Sabula Gazette and later reprinted in the 1910 Ellis History of Jackson County.

As the season of the year notifies me that Christmas is coming, and I am not busy, I thought I would write a few lines for the Gazette or for the trash can, which I will let the editor and my mind decide. It dates back to Christmas time in the old neighborhood sixty years ago, the busiest time for the old Wycoff house, part of which was built for fun at Christmas and other festivities.

My revered father, Colonel RB Wycoff, when building a kitchen that he needed, decided to make one that would serve two purposes, so he built it sixteen by thirty-six, and put in a swing-out partition so that when he wanted to turn it into a living room dance, could. The partition rose to a wall and became a room 15 feet wide by 10 feet long, which at the time was the most elaborate room in the country.

Looking back on my childhood days, I can see that kind old mother with her sleeves rolled up, mixing up the stuff for those famous mince pies that only mothers can make, plus the gingerbread and fried cakes that I knew. So good, and as I write to her that it seems to me that even though she has been dead for fifty years, I hear her say: “Charley, don’t touch those cakes or that gingerbread or those fried cakes, they are for Christmas. Well now, if you’re a good boy and you split up those dry rails so when Daddy comes he can light a fire in the oven, I’ve got twenty-five more cakes ready to bake, and I’ll give you a cake and a slice. gingerbread “.

The kiln in question was built of brick, arched at the top with an iron door. It was heated by filling it with firewood and when the firewood was burned, the ashes and clean coals were removed and what was to be baked was put on. The mother could bake twenty-five thin cakes with a single heating. I’ve counted two hundred mince pies on the pantry shelves at once. Perhaps, if this gets lost in the trash and reaches the Gaceta reader, there will be those who will read it with pleasure.

At the time I am writing, the company did not wait until 8 or 9 o’clock to arrive, but began to do so in the afternoon, often at 3 o’clock. At 4 in the afternoon dinner began and the tables had to be set in the ballroom. As soon as people arrived, they were taken care of, as it was expected that everything would have finished with dinner and the room cleared and ready to start dancing at 6 o’clock. If someone was late, they had to dine in a small place.

Once the room was cleared, the music was generally provided by Robert Westbrook and John Scarborough, well known in the Gazette house, who provided such guests as Canfields, Schramlings, Bards, McElroys, Whites, Vials, and others. Hauntown provided the Hauns and Griswold. Bellevue furnished Hoods, Davises and others. Andrew provided the Butterworths, Palmers and Snyders. Deep Creek supplied the Farleys and Dickeys, plus our Baldwins, Osburns, Swaneys, Prussias, and Hatheways home.

There were the old tin candelabra that they used to hang along the wall to hold the candle made of deer tallow and lard.

There was no Standard Oil in those days, and none of the whirling ones stand up and dance squeezing them out. They were gangs, money musk, or Virginia reels. The first settlers will remember that my father was a great singer and that he often entertained the company with a song. John Scarborough would tell a very funny story.

The mince pies, gingerbread, and cake were placed on the shelves in the pantry and all served overnight. Those from Sabula and other distant points used to stay until after breakfast. If there was snow on the ground, they came on sleds; if not, they came in carts, with a table in the box for the seats, or they sat in the back, and often came with oxen farms.

I don’t recall any problems at any of those dances, or anybody having too much to drink, although in a small booth there was a jug full of the best of Billy G. Haun, free to all who wanted it, but right here let me say in at that time there was no room.

At every trading post, whether in the back room or in the basement, there was a free keg keg for everyone, and furthermore, most of the young people belonged to some kind of temperance society, but the temperance promoters decided to stop. try to persuade people. to do the right thing and I decided to force them by law, and I am forced to believe that the temperance people made a big mistake in trying to make the people temperate.

But just one more thought, as I am an old man who has almost run out of sand, and come back with me sixty years ago to the old rocking bed and help me lift that warm bedding made of wool, knitted by those busy hands of mother, and help me lift my head on the cold Christmas morning and gaze at a row of stockings knitted with those same fingers, hanging around the old mantelpiece, and see those happy faces as we get out of bed. and we enthusiastically disassembled the fireplace. small chips that the man who went down the chimney left us, and together let us thank God that our lot has been cast in a Christian land, and that when he calls we will meet that good mother on a happy land.

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