Christmas on the Creek, Part 2

By Rosemary Anderson - Plain City Times

If you tried our “Christmas on the Creek, 1817” quiz last week, here are the answers.

• Was Christmas Day a legal holiday?

No. Christmas did not become a legal holiday in Ohio until 1857.

• Could Jonathan Alder have visited your house at Christmas?

Yes. Jonathan Alder lived in a log cabin along Big Darby south of where Plain City is now. He was well-liked and respected by the early settlers. He died in 1849 at the age of 76.

• Would there have been a Christmas party at someone’s house, with music and dancing?

Yes. Christmas parties were very common on the frontier.

• Would you have been waiting for Santa Claus to come?

No. Santa Claus did not become a part of Christmas for most people until later in the 1800s. “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” by Clement Moore, was published in 1823, and drew on the traditions of the Dutch in New York, who celebrated St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6.

• Could you have visited relatives in another state, or could they have come to visit you?

No. Travel was very difficult in 1817. Just going from Big Darby to Franklinton (which is now Columbus) would be a round trip of at least two days in good weather.

• Could your father have shot a wild turkey for Christmas dinner?

Yes. “Turkey shoots” were a popular event in the days just before Christmas. Sometimes there were competitions among the men to see who could shoot the most turkeys, the largest, etc.

• Would you have sung “Joy to the World?”

Yes. The words of “Joy to the World” were written by Isaac Watts in 1719, and were set to music by George Frederick Handel in 1742.

• Would you have sent or received Christmas cards?

No. The first Christmas cards did not appear in the Untied States until 1851. They were not in general use until the late 1870s.

• How many presents would you probably have received?

0-2. Gifts were generally homemade, like rag dolls, shirts or deerskin moccasins, and usually given only to the youngest children. “Store-bought” gifts might include a slate for school or a peppermint stick.

• Would you have had a Christmas tree?

No. Christmas trees did not become common here until the 1850s. German settlers might have had a tree, because the custom began in Germany, but most settlers in this area were from New England (where Christmas was not celebrated) or Virginia (which had entirely different customs).

• Could you have celebrated “Christmas under the Clock?”

No. The clock was not erected until 1902. In 1817 there was no building on that corner.

• Could you have met Isaac Bigelow at a Christmas party?

No. Isaac Bigelow and his wife Polly came to Champaign County in 1817, but did not move to Darby Township until 1818.

By Rosemary Anderson

Plain City Times

Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.

Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.