Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Looking at the Schneider Family of Cedar Hill - following the 1902 Letters to Santa from their Children


Today, we are backing up to December 1902.  These are Letters to Santa from the Nashville Banner. These letters are from children who grew up in the town of Cedar Hill, Tennessee.  A railroad town located on the Edgefield line of the L&N railroad.  Let’s look at their requests:

Dear Old Santa  - It is only two weeks now, until you will make all good little boys like me a visit, so I will tell you what I want.  I would like for you to bring me a large wagon, tow story books, a saw, a large engine, a bag of marbles, a baseball mitt, nine roman candles, a pack of fire crackers, some torpedoes, a sky-rocket, and of course some candies, oranges, and nuts; be sure and come. Your little friend,

Tom Schneider – Cedar Hill, Tenn.

 J. Thomas Schneider attended school in Cedar Hill and graduated in 1917 with B.A., University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.  He was commissioned second lieutenant, United States Army in 1918, and servied as an Artillery officer in the American Expeditionary Forces, France He became the Information and staff officer, general headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces, France. through 1924  He became to Aide to General John J. Pershing the next year. He graduated from Harvard University with a law degree and resigned from the Army. He practiced law for several years, and was appointed Counsel for the Reconstruction Finance Corp. and its subsidiaries. From the years 1943-1949, he became the General counsel, Standard Brands, New York, N.Y.

In 1952. he was appointed the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International affairs and later became the Coordinator of Field Offices, Antitrust Division, Justice Department.  Upon  his death he is buried in Arlington Cemetery, near the grave of General 'Black Jack' Pershing. 

Finding Aid to his Papers at the Library of Congress

Interview with Mr Schneider held by Truman Presidential Library

Elizabeth Schneider Richardson

Mr. Santa Claus – A little girl 4 years old wants you to visit her in your travels and bring some toys, a tea sea, a picture book, a go-cart, a Doll, roman candles, skyrockets, firecrackers, candy nuts, oranges, a fur muff and any other nice things to wear, eat, and play with.  I can not go to school yet, so I need a lot of playthings to keep me busy at my home.  Please Don’t forget your little friend.     Elizabeth Schneider – Cedar Hill, Tenn.

 Dear Old Santa – You were so kind to bring me what I asked for last Christmas, I am going to write to you again, so that you will not forget me: please bring me a doll, some furs, a steamer trunk, a story book, five roman candles, a skyrocket, a pack of firecrackers, and just lots of candy, oranges, and nuts.  With lots of love from                           Rebecca L. Schneider – Cedar Hill, Tenn.

The parents of these three children were Charles and Lila Ayres Schneider.  He was a telegraph operator and clerk for the L&N railroad.  Their daughter, Rebecca, was the last of the family to live in their big house in Cedar Hill.  When she passed, the family settled her estate and sold the house. I attended that auction sale as a little boy - I grew up about a 1/4 mile from this house.   I was looking through a box of old books, and an older gentleman knelt down and said, "Let me make some recommendations."  He pulled out some of the books and said, "These were among my favorites."  He gave me those books - that was J. Thomas Schneider.  

My parents purchased the old house in a closed bid after the auction.  That is another story indeed!    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family.   Be sure to share some stories while you are together. 

Sources: The Nashville Banner, 20 Dec 1902, p 20.; Schneider Family Files (personal collection)

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Learning about People - Listening to the Letters to Santa in 1903

These Letters to Santa appeared in the December 24th 1903 edition of The Nashville Banner.  The newspaper reported receiving over 2200 letters that were published at Christmas time.  Reading these letters has always made me want to connect to more information - Let's read a few with some additional information added in some cases. 

Advertisement from Murfreesboro Post

 Dear Santa Claus will you please bring me a Pearl handle knife, and a set of furs, and some leggings, and a game of Jack Straw, and a whole lot of games, and some story books, and a little doll. My little friend Marie says it's no Santa Claus, but I want some dolls, nuts and oranges and candy, also bananas and figs and a Christmas tree. Don't forget Mama and Papa and our cook Sammy, and anything that is nice. I am seven years old. Lucille Tobias, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Lucile Josephine Tobias  daughter of Joseph Tobias and Carrie Koshland. Mr Tobias was born in Poland, and came to the US in 1873 and to Murfreesboro shortly.  He was working at Tobias & Co as a bookkeeper in 1900.  The family moved to Chicago before 1905, and Lucile was a student at Hyde Park High School there. 

Lucile Josephine Tobias - High School Photograph

“Her ready laugh flows ever free”

Dear old Santa just two more nights before time for you to come, and we are so glad. Please bring us lots of nice things, bring baby sister, her name is Geraldine, a rubber doll, she has a rattle. Bring papa and mama something nice, two. Now Santa we have been very good children so please don't forget your little friends. Johnnie Susie and Elizabeth Grigsby. Franklin TN.

Dear Santy -  I am a good little girl 8 years old I want some candy and a doll and doll buggy and a stove, some oranges, candy dishes and table and that is all. Hazel Petrie Poteet

Dear old Santa Claus -  please bring me a doll just like sister Nellie’s and a buggy, a set of dishes, a fascinator, and some chalk for my blackboard you brought me last Christmas. Please don't forget my mother and father and aunt Mary and all my little cousins and my dear grandmas both of them and dear Santa don't forget my two little cousins up in Kentucky and their Mama. I will say good bye until I see you. Your little friend, Sarah Gibson.

Dear Santa Claus - I thought I would write these few lines to let you know what I want for Christmas period I want a nice ring and a stove and a set of dishes and some nuts and oranges, apples and raisins. Your loving friend, Eva Ashton.

July 2, 1910 – Appearing in the Nashville Banner:   A marriage which has just been made public, was that of Miss Eva Ashton of near Bordeaux and Mr. Wiley Sanders of Buchanan Street, which took place while the couple were seated in a buggy at the corner of Buchanan Street and Tenth Avenue, Elder M.S. Davis officiating. 

Modern addition:  Ashton G. ‘Red’ Sanders was a son of Wiley and Eva Ashton Sanders.  He was the owner of Sanders Marine & Harley-Davidson of Nashville and Sanders’ Honda  of Springfield. Eva and Wiley’s other children were Mary Elizabeth, Ruth M., Kathleen

Dear Santa -  I want you to bring me a drum, horn, some nuts, candy, a balloon and anything else you want to bring; Also a music box. Your little friend. Jim Dyer. 606 2nd St.

This young man was the youngest son of Joseph C. Dyer, the Nashville Depot Master and Lucy Ford Dyer. He was born in Nashville and like his father, he worked for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad for 30 years. He served in the Navy during World War I.  Jim married Miss Pearl Grizzard and they had the following children: James P Dyer (Jr) and Josephine. 

Sources: 1900 US Census, 1910 US Census, Nashville City Directories,  additional newspapers accounts, including obituaries. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

More Letters to Santa Claus from 1903 - One Hundred and Twenty Years Ago

 These letters were taken from the Nashville Banner, dated 24 Dec 1903.   Please note the toys, food and candies that these children are requesting.   Imagine how it felt to have your letter published in the BIG Nashville Newspapers.   Enjoy the letters. 

One the front page the editors shared the following: 

To Our Santa Claus Correspondents:

With today’s issue the correspondence with Santa Claus closes for this year.  The little people broke the record this time.  That Banner has published with the past week 2,153 letters to Santa Claus, more than has been published on any previous ear – another evidence that the little people know their friend, and the Banner is the great family newspaper of Tennessee.

My Dear Santa Claus – I am late getting in my letter but please don’t leave me out. Dear Santy, bring me lots of toys, every thing nice for a little boy just 5 years old. And don’t forget my dear sweet mamma.   J.W. Kelley, Jr. – McKenzie, Tenn.

Dear Santa – As my father is a subscriber to your paper I will write and ask you to bring me a story book.  And please bring my little friend Lizzie Myrtle Biggar a big doll.   Hallie Hays, RR No 1, Guthrie Ky.

Dear Santa Claus – I am a little boy 6-1/2 years old and would like for you to bring me engine and coaches and s storybook and some candy, nuts, and some fireworks and some nice fruits and please don’ forget my baby Brother he is 2 years old his name is Markin Silvester Brooks – bring him something nice and some good things to eat.   Your little friend – James Allen Brooks, West Nashville, TN (Illinois Ave/7th St)  P.S.  Don’t forget mama and papa and grandma.  I go to Sunday School too!.

Dear Old Santa Claus – I am a little girl nearly four years old and I want you to bring me a doll and a set of furs and I want some picture books and Santa Claus I want a little stove and a little table so I can put my dishes on and some chairs and Santa Claus – I want a little rocking chair to nurse my doll and I want candy , oranges and nuts and Santa Clause don’t forget my little brother, he is nearly two years old. I want you to bring him a ball and rocking horse and that is all he wants except candies, oranges and nuts – We will be your good little children – Bunyon and Robbie Draughon – We live on Division Street.

Dear Santy Claws – I am a little boy 5 years old, and this is the first time that I have written to you, and I hope you will be kind enough to bring me lots of good things. I am a good boy.  Please bring me some candy, nuts, raisins, figs, oranges, apples and fireworks, and lots of nice toys and nice little trunk to put them in, and don’t forget little brother Oscar.  He has been sick, and bring him lots of good things and lots of toys.  He is a good boy 3-1/2 year old. I am a small boy and I can make my A, B, C, and I can make figures on my slate.  We have got two dogs, but will have them fastened under the house when you come so don’t be afraid of them.  My name is Phillip S. Colley and I live at 532 North First St., Esat Nashville.  Dear Santy, don’t forget mamma and papa, so goodbye.  Dear Old Santy, I forgot to tell you I want a nice overcoat if you please, and thanking the Banner for kindness in publishing my letter.  I will make papa continue to take it, for I think it is the best paper in the State of Tennessee, yours respectfully,  - Phillip L Colley

Stay tuned - we will be adding more letters each day

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Letters to Santa from Children in 1903

 These letters were published in the Nashville Banner (Tennessee) newspaper just prior to Christmas, 1903.  Be sure to note the family connections included in the letters from the wee ones to the man in Red. 


Dear Santa

I am a little girl 7 years old, and I want you to bring me a doll, set of dishes, table and some doll chairs and some candies, nuts, oranges, figs and all good things to eat.

Nellie Egan


P.S.  Please don’t forget my little brother, Morris Egan.  Bring him a nice rubber doll


Dear Santa

I am a little girl 5 years old. I want you to bring me a doll, set of dishes, doll table and doll chairs and some candies, nuts, oranges and everything good to eat.

Esther Egan


Dear Santa

I am a little girl 9 yrs old.  I wish you would bring me a big doll.  I have kept the one you brought me last Christmas and I want one a little larger and bring me a set of dishes and a book satchel, oranges, candies and nuts.  Bring all of the little children something.

Bessie Morgan


Dear Santa Claus

Please bring me a watch and a chain.  Bring me some candy and raisins and nuts.  Pleas bring me a knife and some fireworks.  Please bring me a pretty picture book.  Bring me a pretty picture book.  Bring me a steel trap.  Please bring me some oranges and some skyrockets.  Please bring me some fireworks.

John Miller Woodson


Dear Santa

I have been a good little boy ever since I heard that you were coming to see me Christmas.  Please bring me a pair of skates, velocipede, wagon, fireworks and everything that is good to eat.

Austin DeMontbreun


Dear Santa

I am 9 years old and good as I can be, so please do not forget to bring me a game of flinch and lagomachy, pair of skates, rocking chair, pocketbook, pencil box, story book and anything else that you think would suit me.  Don’t forget mamma and my four little brothers.

Jennie Lavender White


Dear Santa

I am looking forward to you coming with great pleasure, so please do not forget me.  I want a baseball, glove, watch, pair of skates, pair of leggins, pair of corduroy pants that come below my knees to wear with my leggins, and plenty of good things to eat above all things.  Think of Mamma and all good mammas like her.

Duncan DeMontbreun


Dear Santa

I am a little girl 12 years old and first of all I have quit playing with dolls.  You can bring me a work box, writing desk, rocking chair, cushions, bed, rat for my hair, some pretty hairpins, ring, trunk, furs, and somebody to help mamma with her work so I will not have to do it.

Myrtle DeMontbreun


Dear Santa

I am a little boy 9 years old.  I go to school every day and try to be a good little boy.  I hope you won’t forget me. I want you to please bring me a set of carpenter tools, some tops, marbles, a air-gun and some candies, oranges, nuts, firecrackers, roman candles and please bring me a story book.  Your little friend.

Hazle Russell

Dear Old Criss,

I am a little boy just 4 years old and I want you to bring me a little wagon, a paper cap pistol, and a horn, lots of candy, nuts, and oranges.

W. Ridley Smith


Dear Santa Claus

I am a little girl 7 years old. I live in the country.  Please bring me a doll that will go to sleep, some candy, nuts, raisins, orange and some fireworks and anything else you have nice for a little girl.  Please don’t forget my brothers and sister.  Good-bye. 

Birdie Clare Phipps


Dear Old Santa Claus

As it is nearing Christmas, thaught I would write you and ask you to please bring me a catcher’s glove, baseball and bat, and anything else nice you may choose to bring.  And Dear Old Santa Claus, please don’t forget my little brother, Gus.  He is such a sweet, good little fellow.  Now Santa don’t forget us, and I thank you ever so much.  Your Loving Little Friend,

Frank M. Byrne


Dear St. Nicholas

Please bring me a nice box of handkerchiefs, book called “The Story of a Short Life,” some hair ribbons, statuette, new dark red waist, and have the sets put in my old ring.  Also bring me some candy, oranges, apples, nuts and dates.  Yours truly

Helen Galloway


Dear Santy

I want some big fire crackers and some fireworks, a loud whistle, some paper caps,  fifteen cents worth of little fire crackers and a velossipede, some candy and a top and string.  Please bring me a big cannon and a fire engine and a box of tools and a football and a drum and anything else you can think of that a little boy like me wants.  Your friend

John Lea Quarles


Dear Santa

I want you to not forget me, for I want a rubber rattle and a pair of little shoes and a high chair and some candy.

Willie U. Knott


Dear Santa Claus

This letter is from Kate Leak.  Please bring me a doll, set of furniture and a tea set.  also some candy, and some oranges and nuts, and a doll.  Augusta Little says bring her a doll, set of furniture and some nuts and a tea set, and Kate a doll carriage and me one.  I want some butter nuts and some oranges, and a little red rocking chair.  I am 6 years old and Kate Leak is 7.  Bring me a doll cradle and a bottle of cologne and just anything that you can.  And bring a box of candy and a little kitchen to go to Mamie’s parlor.

Kate Leak and Augusta Little


Deaer Santa

I am a little man 10 years of age and have been a pretty good boy this year, and hope you will come to see me.  Please bring me a little tool box, an air gun, a fire engine, a train of cars and nuts, candies, oranges and fireworks.

Watson Williams



The following description and greeting appeared on Christmas Eve, 1903.



The little people broke the record this time.  2,153 letters to Santa Claus, more than any previous year, were written to the Nashville Banner this year [1903].  This is evidence that the little people know their friend.  The letters have been printed just as they were written, and that most of them were genuine child-letters.  Of course, the usual “smartie” has attempted to get in his joke work or fake, and for this we have kept a careful lookout, and have thrown out all communications that seemed to us suspicious.  We have been alarmed by the enormous demand for dolls, but have no doubt the supply will quite equal the demand.

A great cause for congratulation in the magnificent report so many boy letter-writers have to offer as in their conduct during the year. Surely the world has never witnessed such a fine army of “good little boys” as those who have reported to old Santa Claus of 1903. The girls do not have much to say on that subject, but this is doubtless due to the fact that girls are always good and old Santa Claus know it.  But the boys are evidently “catching up” and will no doubt soon be just as good.

Of course, all may not get just what they desired, for there are a great many little boys and girls in the world, and some of you have sent in rather large orders.  But your old friend Santa Claus is going to do his very best for you; you may be sure of that.  But, after all, the real happiness of Christmas does not consist in what we get, nor even in what we give, but in a glad heart, a contented spirit and a sweet and loving gratitude to the friends who remember us at this gracious season of good will

Friday, November 25, 2022

Several Retrospective Views of Thanksgiving Day

 Thanksgiving Day has always been a day of retrospect. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, to commemorate the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony after a harsh winter. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians. 

Days of thanksgiving were celebrated throughout the colonies after fall harvests. George Washington, our first president, declared the holiday in 1789.

By the mid–1800s, many states observed a Thanksgiving holiday. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November 1863 a day of thanksgiving. 

Turkeys and Football were included in this Holiday Postcard from 1900. 

Thanksgiving - Civil War 1863

Let’s follow the diary of a young nurse, Elvira J. Powers, who served in hospitals in the Louisville area and Nashville. Here are her thoughts just prior to that Thanksgiving in 1863.

“My writing progresses slowly of late and is often interrupted, for I am very busy. I would like to note down the duties and incidents of one day if time permitted, but can only select a portion.

Day before yesterday was gladdened by a call from Rev. H. M. Miller, Agent of Universalist Army Mission and his travelling brother, Rev. Gilman. I regret that he cannot be allowed to preach in this hospital. This religious thought reminds me of the early history of my own father, long since sleeping in a western wildwood, who when a young man was repeatedly denounced from the pulpit of a Baptist diving, w ho cautioned his hearers of the fascinations of that Methodist fanatic, who was setting the people crazy with his preaching. I am wondering how many years it will be before people can worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. What a pity that so few who fight for civil liberty know so little of religious freedom. 

We are expecting a Thanksgiving dinner at the hospital next Thursday. This community feels somewhat dubious about the turkeys, chickens and pies for two thousand mouths of soldiers. Certain it is that the boys would appreciate a good dinner, as they have had rather short rations of late.

Friday, November 25, 1863 – Well, our Thanksgiving dinner was a success. Nearly three hundred turkeys and chickens suffered death for the good of their country. When those, and the five hundred pies were cooked and placed on the tables in the kitchen the night before, I mentally confessed, while viewing them through the window from the corridor, that were I one of a regiment of hungry soldiers just from the front, I might possibly stir up a mutiny to make a raid on the kitchen and capture them. A portion of the dinner was the contribution of the loyal citizens.

The chaplain sent for me as usual to attend funeral service. Today it was in Ward 15, and of four soldiers. One was that of George W. Odell. He was but seventeen, in a new regiment and only out about four weeks. He had an escort of eight young boys of his company who appeared in uniform, with white gloves. We ladies followed nest to the coffins in the procession to the soldiers’ cemetery.

Monday, November 28, 

Yesterday was very busy all day in ward, with new arrival of patients from Nashville. Did not get time to attend service. Have written out applications for transfer, filled out medical descriptive lists, and have written out orders for money to be paid to the surgeon for patients unable to get to headquarters. 

We have one individual who goes by the title of Colonel. He came with the transfer of patients from Nashville, two weeks ago, last Wednesday.

He was brought in on a shelf. They had lain his head below the pillow instead of on it, and seeing him lie thus without raising it, though he made some attempts to do so, I went to him to assist and asked if he could not raise himself higher and on the pillow.  He said no, his limbs were all paralyzed except one arm. He raised his head and I put a pillow under it. 

Soon after, when accompanying the surgeon, while he was making out cards to hang in the little tin case at the head of each bed, this patient informed him in a quiet tone that he wanted his name entered as a private, as the boys were always expecting an officer to put on airs. 

He was a Colonel of an Illinois regiment. He had been robbed of his satchel, clothing, regimentals and $3700 by a ward-master of Hospital No. 8 of Nashville. 

I’m thankful for my wonderful life.”

Here's a link to the Diary as published:

Thanksgiving Proclamation - President McKinley, 1900

Several Presidents have shared a proclamation celebrating the Day of Thanksgiving. Following is President William McKinley proclamation for Thanksgiving Day, 1900.

“It has pleased Almighty God to bring our nation in safety and honor through another year. The works of religion and charity have everywhere been manifest. Our country through all its extent has been blessed with abundant harvests. Labor and the great industries of the people have prospered beyond all precedent. Our commerce has spread over the world. Our power and influence in the cause of freedom and enlightenment have extended over distant seas and lands. The lives of our official representatives and many of our people in China have been marvelously preserved. We have been generally exempt from pestilence and other great calamities; and even the tragic visitation which overwhelmed the city of Galveston made evident the sentiments of sympathy and Christian charity by virtue of which we are one united people.

Now, therefore, I, William McKinley, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart Thursday, the 29th of November next, to be observed by all the people of the United States, at home or abroad, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Him who holds the nations in the hollow of His hand. I recommend that they gather in their several places of worship and devoutly give Him thanks for the prosperity wherewith He has endowed us, for seedtime and harvest, for the valor, devotion, and humanity of our armies and navies, and for all His benefits to us as individuals and as a nation; and that they humbly pray for the continuance of His divine favor, for concord and amity with other nations, and for righteousness and peace in all our ways.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this twenty-ninth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred, and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and twenty-fifth.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving Thoughts from the Past

 Thanksgiving Day has always been a day of retrospect. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, to commemorate the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony after a harsh winter. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians. 

Days of thanksgiving were celebrated throughout the colonies after fall harvests. George Washington, our first president, declared the holiday in 1789.

By the mid–1800s, many states observed a Thanksgiving holiday. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November 1863 a day of thanksgiving. 

Let’s take a look at entries from two journals during the Civil War that relate of Thanksgiving Day in Tennessee.

Elk River, Tenn., November 27, 1863. Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day. Nobody needs to be told how our hearts turned homeward. It was with no unworthy or unmanly motives that every one thought how pleasant it would be to enjoy the festival with families and friends.

Our day was beautiful. After a cold night, the sun rose beautifully here, and soon melted away the frost. It was quite warm long before noon. We had, of course, our usual religious service at eleven o'clock — gathering beside the formidable fortification which frowns from the top of the hill, and under the flag which there was wind enough to float. It was our  storm flag, not our battle flag ; that is guarded as tenderly as a saint's relics, and only used when, although to bear it is almost a sentence of death, it waves defiance to the enemy, and when each man of our colorguard springs to catch it from the hands of the dying. But the storm flag waved near us. We were but a handful. Three times have we celebrated Thanksgiving Day, and each since the first with rapidly diminishing numbers. The dead sleep on the battlefield.

The men played ball, of course. And they had their dinner. It was impossible, in preparing, to get any supplies from Nashville, because the capacity of the railway is tried severely to carry the necessaries of life. So a large party had been sent out, well armed, into the country to make provision. They were gone two days, and found, at a distance of some fifteen miles, plenty of geese, chickens, and the like, which the people were very ready to sell. It would seem - queer to friends at home, in doing their Thanksgiving marketing, to have to go fifteen miles, and take fifty well-armed men as a matter of safety.

I have figured up a little ; and to show that there was enough to eat, report that the ratio of supply was this: to every hundred men, fourteen geese, four turkeys, and forty chickens; besides a few quails, a pig, and some plum puddings. And plenty of geese still quack, reserved for subsequent eating.

In the evening, the officers came together, inviting also the officers of the excellent Second Kentucky battery. Singing and social pleasantry made the hours pass rapidly. Some of our officers came back: they love the old homestead. And the brigade band, some of whose members used to belong to our old regimental band, came on foot for eight miles (they would have come by rail, but that no trains ran, and they waited till impatient), and discoursed most beautiful music.

The family of Oliver Perry Temple, a trustee for the University of Tennessee, shared a  Thanksgiving Feast during the Civil War with Union soldiers.  His journal recorded the events. 

Knoxville, November 26, 1863. There had been a Thanksgiving and turkey eating dinner in Knoxville previously to the one given by General Burnside—one given in his honor. On Thanksgiving Day, November 26,1863, Mrs. Temple, wife of the author, gave a dinner to him and a part of his staff. Among those were Colonel Wm. Hamilton Harris, of New York; Captain (now Colonel U.S. A.) D. H. Larned, retired; and probably Major William Cutting, of New York City, and others. I was absent at the time. Before the siege commenced, Mrs. Temple bad procured a splendid large turkey for that occasion. Other supplies she always had on hand. The entertainment was sumptuous, and, considering the time, profuse. The occasion was one of anxiety, especially to General Burnside, and well calculated to cast a gloom over the company. The fate of Knoxville and the army at that very time hung wavering in the balance. But the genial sunshine of the hostess, and her inspiring animation, drove away all gloom, even from the brow of the stern old chief. All went well with him through the various courses until coffee was reached, and there he drew the line, declaring that he could not think of drinking coffee while his poor soldiers were lying in wet trenches and had none. Noble-hearted man! But, worthy as was this sentiment, I never heard that he refused to partake of the turkey because his soldiers had none! This was perhaps the only Thanksgiving dinner given in Knoxville on that day. This incident is given as an introduction and as indirectly related to the thrilling incidents which follow:

Thirty years after that time, a carriage drove up to my house in Knoxville, one Sabbath afternoon, containing a gentleman and two ladies. On being ushered into the parlor, the gentleman introduced himself by saying that he was Wm. Hamilton Harris, a son of ex-United States Senator Ira Harris, of New York, who served in the senate during the late war. He further stated that he served on the staff of General Burnside with the rank of colonel; that he was in Knoxville during the siege; that he was one of the party who had partaken of the Thanksgiving dinner given by Mrs. Temple to General Burnside, and that we had had the honor of carving the large turkey on that occasion. He explained that he had called to pay his respects to my daughter and myself out of regard for the memory of Mrs. Temple, who was then dead, and of whom he spoke in the most tender praise. This courtesy, after the lapse of thirty years, certainly proved Colonel Harris to be a refined gentleman.

Sources: Potomac and the Rapidan, Alonzo Quint, 2nd Massachusetts Inf.; East Tennessee and the Civil War, Oliver Perry Temple.

This post was part of an article originally published on Wed November 17, 2010.    J. Mark Lowe

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Following Traditions for the New Year


J. Mark Lowe

Eating black-eyed peas and something green (cabbage or greens) on New Year's Day is said to bring good luck and financial prosperity to the one eating them throughout the rest of the year. My Mom insisted that we at least have a spoonful of peas. Other lucky foods are lentils, pork (because chickens scratch backwards, a cow stands still, but a pig roots forward.) and sauerkraut. In order to take this a step further, some place a silver coin over the doorway or a penny on the windowsill. I asked several of my friends what traditions their family or neighbors followed.

On New Year’s Day, it is good luck for a man to be the first person to enter your house, and bad luck for a woman to be first.  John Baker, Jr. remembers men in the community coming around from house-to-house on New Year’s Day in order to spread good luck. Several folks shared this similar superstition. Absolutely nothing should leave your house or home on New Year's Day, including you, until someone has crossed into your door. You may want to have a family member or friend visit you on New Year's Day to break the threshold of your doorway before you go anywhere on the first. The best luck would be a dark-haired tall man who came bearing gifts of a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, an evergreen sprig or some salt. Beware though, remember it should be a man, not a woman, and blondes and redheads are additional bad omens.  The story is told that on one occasion, a wife allowed a female friend to come into her house on the Day.  Her husband was extremely upset that his wife allowed the female friend to be the first to come into the house and bring bad luck.  This argument led to a separation and the couple never reconciled.

This historic postcard displays many traditional symbols of luck: leprechaun, four-leaf clovers, horseshoe, ringing bells, gold coins and a pig

There are many traditions about the people with whom you celebrate and activities you are doing both on New Year’s Eve and Day.  So depending on your beliefs, the person you were with to celebrate the new year last week is with whom you will spend the next year. There's long been a superstition that if you kiss your true love at midnight on New Year's Eve, you will live in love and happiness with that person for the entire rest of the upcoming year. Plus, whatever you were doing on January 1st is the task you will continue to do all year.  I’ve heard from many people that families have avoided have funerals on the 1st because of the superstition. There is one superstition about New Year's Day that if you lend someone money or something of substantial value on the first day of the New Year, you will be loaning money out to people all year long. You're also not supposed to pay off any loan on the first day of the New Year, either. If you cry on New Year's Day, for sad reasons, then you set the tone for a year's worth of sadness and tears. Whatever happens, you should be happy and upbeat all day on New Year's Day in order to ensure a happy year to follow.

Many folks opened the doors or windows of a home at midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the old year escape.  We also make loud noises at the same time, so we scare away any evil spirits that might be tempted to come into the house. An Irish tradition involves banging on the door and walls with Christmas bread to chase the bad luck out and bring good spirits to the household with the promise of bread enough in the New Year.

Watch Night began with the Moravians, a small Christian group with roots in eastern Europe. The first such service was held in 1733 on the estate of Count von Zinzendorf in Hernhut, Germany. John Wesley, founder of a Methodist movement, incorporated the Watch Night vigil into the practices of the early Methodist church. These watch night were not only held on New Year’s Eve, but one a month and on full moons.  The first such service was held in the United States in 1770 in Philadelphia.

The end-of-year Watch Night of 1862 took on special significance and became known as Freedom Eve. On the 22nd of September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which stated, “On the first day of January… all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be, then, thenceforward, and forever free.” When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as people fell to their knees and thanked God. Among African-American congregations many have gathered in churches annually on New Year's Eve ever since, praising God for bringing them safely through another year and commemorating the significant date in history.
As I leave you to your resolutions, let me share the fate of Ten Little Resolutions taken from a 1910 Kentucky newspaper.  One little resolution keeping it a month is a chore, never mind, next New Years’ Day you can make at least ten more.

Sources: Mt. Sterling Advocate; Historic Traditions of Scotland and Ireland;

J. Mark Lowe
J. Mark Lowe Reviews
Springfield, Tennessee Speakers
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