Because the surrounding forest came down into nearly every resident’s backyard, the Ashland committee charged with finding a Christmas tree for the town’s 1865 celebration didn’t have far to look.
As long as the tree was set up and decorated in the town hall in time for the community festivities, which backyard the pine came from and how tall it actually was didn’t really matter.
In the hall that would eventually be replaced by today’s Odd Fellows Building on the Ashland Plaza, the tree stood in the middle of a room illuminated by candle lanterns on the walls.
Decorations were simple. Tables and walls were decorated with local Christmas greenery — ferns, Oregon grape and strategically placed mistletoe.
On the tree, strings of popcorn swirled up and down branches, along with twisted chains of colored paper in between. Tallow candles attached to the ends of branches would wait to be carefully lit and carefully watched, but only when the celebration actually began.
Ashland was still a small village with fewer than 500 residents and only 16 businesses.
Ann Russell, wife of one of those businessmen, a mother of 11 children and an active partner in the couple’s marble carving business, was chosen at the Christmas organizing meeting to solicit money and buy presents for the children. She intentionally had not even been at that meeting.
“In order to avoid being given something to do,” she said, “I stayed away but was appointed to the committee anyway.”
Initially she refused, claiming it was unfair to appoint someone who hadn’t attended the meeting. Rev. Johnson, a Methodist minister and friend who stayed with the Russells when he came to town, persuaded Ann to give in and accept the appointment.
Working with Catharine Thornton, wife of the owner of the Ashland Woolen Mills, the two women collected $40. Most of the children received a small gift along with a bag of candy, but there were two more expensive gifts.
“We bought a hat for an orphan boy,” Ann said, “and a silver thimble for a girl whose mother we feared would be displeased with a cheaper present. These two articles cost one dollar each.”
The married women in town had conspired to give all their husbands a humorous gift to wear at the Christmas party.
“The women thought it would be a good joke,” Ann said, “to give the men neckties made of bright colored calico — red, blue or green — tied in a bow with each end a yard long, and all fastened with a big brass button.”
Somehow, their secret plan was discovered, and the men prepared their own surprise. Each woman received a brightly colored apron tied with strings three yards long on each side.
“Oh, the calico wasted in those strings,” Ann said.
Why wasted? “Because,” she said, “the men themselves made the aprons, which were sewn with long, clumsy stitches.”
Wagon maker Bill Kentnor as Santa Claus handed out gifts to the children while lumberman Almon Gillette played music with his flute, the only musical instrument in town. Merchant John McCall sang bass; school clerk Charley Klum, tenor; and farmer’s wife Martha Helman, soprano.
“Our community tree was a great success,” Ann Russell said. “We felt the Christmas spirit and spent the evening together in a happy, friendly, love everybody fashion, hoping for better days to come.”
Perhaps that’s exactly what we should hope for today. Have a merry and happy Christmas and an even better New Year.
Writer Bill Miller is the author of six books, including “Spanning the Defiant Sea. Women Pilots Dare Atlantic Air.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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TooToo Boy Christmas Wishes Episode | Cartoon Animation For Children | Videogyan Kids Shows
The series features TooToo Boy and his various stints in his day to day life. The episodes are built around different objects and how he invites his own trouble while fiddling with them. It majorly involves gags and funny incidents which grow out of Too Too Boy’s carelessness.
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