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;

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Civil War Christmas - 1864


Let’s follow the diary of a young nurse, Elvira J. Powers, who served as a nurse in military hospitals in the Louisville area and Nashville. Here are her thoughts just prior to Christmas in 1864.

Friday, Dec. 9.

The first snow of the season. Winter has really come to the Ohio valley.

Much public excitement in Louisville. Men are being conscripted, and horses impressed. Several thousand soldiers have just been sent there, as they anticipate a cavalry raid from the rebels. Hood is threatening Nashville. He says he "… is ordered either to go into Nashville, or to " a certain very warm place. Our boys [Union soldiers] think he will get into the latter place first.


Yesterday was at work most of the day and evening on evergreen wreaths to trim the ward. Christmas is coming I have plenty of help from the ward-master, chief nurse and convalescents. How kind they all are. I receive nothing in my ward from the surgeon down, but the greatest respect and consideration.

Friday, Dec.16.


The first death in my ward, since my coming, occurred last night. It was that of Robert Burnett, of Kentucky. On Sunday morning, over a week since, I found him lying in bed and that he had not been out to breakfast, as he had done the two days previous, since entering the ward.


Upon conversing with him he told me he was going to die. I saw that he was excited and thought he was nervous and tried to quiet him. But he was sure, he said, that he should die, " he understood why I did not think so, and appreciated what I said, but he knew he was going to die, " and asked if I would stay by him whenever I could, and he begged for a promise that I would be by him and " watch his face when he died." These were his exact words, and though I did not think he was dangerous and told him so, yet he would not be pacified till I promised if he died at any hour when we were allowed in the ward, or if at any other, and he was conscious and would send for me, I would be with him. He was also concerned for the future, for he was not a Christian, he said. I read for him from the Bible, sang for him, and the chaplain's orderly came and prayed with him. He professed afterward to think himself prepared to die, and he gradually grew worse each day until he died. I remained with him until late last evening, but he was unconscious else I should have remained until his death. He died about twelve. I had written to his wife the first day, but the mails are interrupted by guerillas. He has two brother-in-laws here, who have started home with his body. At the funeral service we sang the appropriate hymn,


" Oh! watch my dying face,

When I am called to die."


[Note: Robert Burnett was the son of David and Elizabeth Cole Burnett of Hardin County, Kentucky. He enlisted in Company d, 21st Kentucky Infantry USA. He was married to Electa Ann Smallwood in 1857 and they had children.  The records indicate he died of a fever. He was buried in the New Albany National Cemetery in Indiana.]


The University of Nashville served as a Hospital during the Civil War

Robert Burnett's Civil War Pension Card
The Compiled Military Service Record of Robert Burnett. This indicated he died of fever in the hospital.

Wednesday, Dec. 21.

Transfers and furloughs are the order of the day. Some twenty-five hundred have been transferred from Nashville to this hospital, this month. From fifty to two, three or four hundred are transferred from here at one time, to hospitals farther north. As we hear that those are pretty well filled, it seems just the time to give as many sick furloughs as possible, thus clearing the hospitals for those unable to go home.



Saturday, Dec. 24.

The second death in the ward. It was that of a young, noble-looking man—Prevo, of the 40th Indiana. He died of a gunshot wound, the ball entering the lungs. He was battling with the grim monster all day yesterday, and thought himself at one time on a forced march through the country of an enemy, and at another in the heat of battle, when he would cheer on the soldiers. A lock of hair and a few words of condolence will go to one more mourning family in place of the dear, noble boy.


[Note: James T. Prevo was the son of John and Jane Greer Prevo of Fountain County, Indiana.  He mustered in to the 40th Indiana on 21 Dec 1861 almost three years to the day of his death.  The record indicates he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Franklin TN on 20 November.  He is listed among the wounded in the Chicago Tribune (8 Dec 1864).  He was buried in the National Cemetery in New Albany Indiana. ]


This newspaper accounty shows James Provo with a shoulder injury. Other records indicated it was received in Franklin, Tennessee.

Great preparations are being made for Christmas tomorrow ; thus death and feasting go hand in hand in this strange world of ours.


Another died last Sunday in Ward 23, who had been for a long time in this ward. He shed tears when he was transferred, and I interceded to have him remain, but there are wards to which an order obliges patients to be removed when suffering from chronic diarrhea or lung diseases, and he was one of the former. But at his request I visited him, and after his death, which came suddenly, procured a lock of his hair from the dead-house and sent it to his father.


Christmas Evening.

Our dinner was truly a success. It was given by the Sanitary Commission principally, and a portion from the hospital fund. Much less stir was made about it, and one soldier expressed the general feeling, who said he " enjoyed the. Christmas dinner the most, for there wasn't so much style about it." Very excellent oyster soup for the light diet was given each time. Twenty-one hundred pies were issued for dinner, seventy-one cans of oysters, with eighteen hundred pounds of beef a la mode, also four barrels of pickles.


Friday, Dec. 30.

Most of the wards are now radiant with evergreen, tissue paper and pictures. I am content that mine should rank third or fourth in its adornings, rather than neglect the weightier matter of attending to the sick men—of whom I had quite a number last week requiring much care. The last death, mentioned under date of the 24th, was the second only in the ward since my entrance—a period of over two months, and the fifth since being in the charge of the present Burgeon, which is eight months. But the mortality in the hospital is increasing very much in consequence of war's grim visage .approaching nearer to us. A week ago last Sunday there were eleven dead bodies in the dead-house, and fourteen deaths occurred in three days.


[Note: Elvira Stockwell Powers was born on 6 August 1827 in Auburn, Worcester County, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of James and Prudence Stockwell.   Having already suffered the death of four children before the war, and with her husband, Edward Powers away in the Union army, Elvira headed to the south to work in the Union hospitals. She died a few years after the Civil War (1871) of consumption. 

The Inscription on her gravestone says: 

A devoted friend and nurse

to the soldiers in times of war and a lover of good

works in times of peace has gone home.]



Sources: Hospital Pencillings, Powers, 1866.; Adjutant General Report, Indiana; ChicagoTribune, * Dec 1864.US Civil War Pension Cards, US Census, New Albany National Cemetery Records.

More Letters to Santa - 1904


Throughout the years, boys and girls have taken the time to send their special requests to Santa Claus. These letters were written and published in the newspaper during the year 1904. Let’s examine the requests of the young Robertson county Tennessee citizens and learn more about these individuals.


Dear Santa:

I am a little girl 10 years old and want you to please bring me some doll furniture, a story-book, a good ball, a china doll, a little washboard and tub, a kite that will go very high, also some watercolors and a brush, roman candles, sky rockets and fire crackers and a lot of good things to eat. Please don’t forget my little brother, papa and mama. Your little friend,

Winnie Fort, Adams, Tenn.


Dear Santa,

Please don’t forget your little 4 year old boy, please bring me a rocking-horse, a whip, a ball, a horn, a little train, a baby doll, a monkey that climbs a string, a bicycle, a pistol and some caps, some fire crackers and a sleigh for me and my sister to ride in, apples, oranges, nuts, candy and bananas and any thing else you want to give me. Your little boy,

Billie Fort, Jr.  , Adams, Tenn.


Winnie Virginia Fort and William Dancy ‘Billy’ Fort, Jr. were the children of William Dancy ‘Billy’ and Anna Hamlett Fort of Adams, Tennessee.

Winnie was interested in family history and recorded much of the Fort family history. “My grandfather, Eppa Lawson Fort, had been married before he married Elizabeth Dancy. Their three sons were Jack, Ilai and Sugg. Uncle Ilai married my grandmother’s sister, Charlotte, a most aristocratic old lady. To my childish eyes she looked exactly like Queen Victoria of England. I remember asking Aunt Charlotte why she could not be Queen Victoria now, as she looked so much like her! I don’t believe the suggestion was well received…”

Winnie was born 15 March 1894 at Maple Hill, near Adams. Her father, Billy Fort, died just before Winnie’s sixteenth birthday (1910). Six months later on 10 September, she married J. Comer Gardner. Comer was the twin brother of Miss Cullom Gardner. Comer and Cullom were the children of Thomas Irvin and Ida Whitehead Gardner.

Winnie Fort and Comer Gardner were the parents of three daughters. Mildred Winnie Gardner was born in 1911. She married Charles Wright, Jr. on 5 Jan 1935 in Houston, Texas. In an interview, Winnie recalled, “My daughter, Mildred was born in my old home, Maple Hill, in the same room, and even in the same bed!

Marjorie Comer Gardner was born in 1916 in Weakley County, Tennessee. In 1940, she married Randol Sterling Harrison from Cedar Hill. The Harrisons were the parents of one daughter, Mary Gail, and moved to Maryland.

The youngest daughter, Mary Fort Gardner, was born in 1917 in Weakley County, Tennessee. In 1936, she married Nathan Cope of Robertson County. To this couple was born one daughter Cynthia Cope, who lived in Clarksville. After Mr. Cope died, Mary Fort married Clarence Fletcher of Adams. Mrs. Fletcher died in 2013. .

Comer and Winnie Fort Gardner moved to Weakley county to take advantage of the excellent schools in the community. By 1920, the family lived at 303 8th Avenue South in Nashville. Comer was working as a clerk for the newspaper. Winnie was maintaining a household with three small daughters.

In July 1920, Comer moved to Detroit, Michigan to work. Winnie and her daughters moved back to Robertson County with family. Comer hoped to come back quickly and move his family to Michigan. Whatever the circumstances were, Comer’s visit did not result in the family moving. By 1922, Winnie and Comer were divorced.

Mrs. Gardner went to Florida with her mother, Anna Fort. Winnie met and married a man from a pioneer Texas family. On December 9, 1922, Minor A. Hurst and Winnie Fort Gardner began their life together. Mr. Hurst worked for the Gulf Oil Corporation. He retired in 1954. Winnie Fort Hurst died in 1978 in McClennan County, Texas.

Billy Fort, Jr. was born 15 June 1900 at Maple Hill near Adams. Billy married Louise Johnson in 1925 and had two sons, William Dancy Fort, III and Robert Olin Fort. In 1946, William Dancy ‘Billy’ Fort, Jr. married Thelma Brown from Waco, Texas. They lived in Houston, where Mr. Fort was connected with the Citizens State Bank. He died in 1988 at McClennan County, Texas


Dear Santa Claus:

Please bring me an air gun, some story books, a pair of gloves, a suit of clothes and lots of good things to eat. Yours Truly,

Frank Huddleston,  Springfield, Tenn.


Frank Huddleston was born 20 October 1896 in Robertson County, Tennessee. He was the son of John M. and Ida Traughber Huddleston. The family lived in the Owens Chapel community.

Frank was inducted into the Army as a result of the World War I draft of 1918. He served with the 157th Depot Brigade to August of 1918. He was sent to France with the 161st Infantry, Company L and became part of the 165th Infantry, Company G for the duration of his service. He was honorably discharged on 8 May 1919.

After returning to the community, Frank married a young lady named Beatrice in 1924. They had a son, John F. Huddleston and a daughter, Mary L. Huddleston. Frank’s father, John M Huddleston, lived with the family. They lived on Orlinda Road. Frank Huddleston died 10 November 1964 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

One hundred and seventeen years ago, young boys and girls were excited about the coming of the jolly old elf from the North Pole. Perhaps things are not as different as we often suggest. Children still provide the excitement and passion for holidays and our dearest memories are those from our childhood. May you and your family have a special holiday season filled with the joys of the season.


Sources: Nashville Banner (15 Dec 1904); A Family Called Fort (Fort, Jones); U.S. Census (1900, 1910, 1920, 1930); WWI Statement of Service Cards; Robertson Co. Tenn Cemeteries; Chancery Court records


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Letters to Santa in 1903 - A Look Back to Christmas Past


Children in Robertson County Tennessee have always found a way to inform Santa of the treasures they hope to find under their tree on Christmas morning.  Although the items requested have changed, the letters still remind us of the joys of being a child at Christmas.  These letters to Santa, originally published in December 1903, were printed in the Nashville papers.

It is interesting to see how the requests change from year-to-year, while the letters continue to be sent.  Enjoy this look back, and you continue to celebrate this Holiday Season. 


Dear Santa: I am a little Country Boy Eight years old and all I ask  you to bring me is a little 22 rifle like that which Eldridge Douglas has.  He lives on Fatherland Street [Nashville]. I would like to have a knife, some Candies and nuts.  Papa takes the Banner.  Can I see this letter again.

 Alonzo Morris

White House, Tenn

Dear Santa, I am a little Country Boy and don’t get to see you so I will rite the  Banner as my Papa takes that paper that you will see what I want is a little toy Pistol, some bananas, candy, small knife and Oranges.  I am onley 6 years old

Alesson Morris

White House, Tenn

 Dear Santa Claus,

I am four years old and my little brother Reuben is two.  I want a doll, and a doll wardrobe and a trunk.  Reuben wants a play doll that will not break and a wagon and a box of candy.  My big brother Jack is eight, and he wants some skates and some leggins and we all want lots of good things and some firecrackers.  I wish you would bring Ed something too.  She is our nurse I am most always good and Reuben is sweet as sugar.

Kate Wimberly Killebrew

Guthrie, Kentucky

 Dear Santa Claus

I am eight years old and I have gotten fourteen head marks in spelling, and my Grandpa has given me a nice knife.  I want you to bring me an air gun, a watch and a bridle and saddle so I can ride the mules.  I can ride my self without a saddle, but I will need some more halters for them pretty soon.  I want some oranges and other good things and some firecrackers, too.  I am a real good boy most all the time, you can ask my Grandpa.

J. Buckner Killebrew

Guthrie, Ky

 Dear Santa Clause

I have been a good little boy. I want a twenty-two rifle, a pair of gloves, a pair of overshoes and leguns and candy, nuts oranges, apples.

William Williamson

Greenbrier, Tenn.

 Dear Santa Cluase

I have been going to school and I would be very glad if you would bring me a nice writing desk and stool, a pair of leggings, a football, 1 dozen longest Roman candles, some small fire crackers, some mice things to eat and I would like best of all to have a nice axe and saw, so that I may get in wood when Papa is away.  I shall sleep soundly

Frank Douglas Heflin

Cedar Hill, Tenn.

 Dear Old Santa Claus


I am a little girl 6 years old and living with my grandpa.  My name is Julia Armstrong.  My grandpa is taking the Nashville Banner.  Was looking over Banner and saw the Beauty beneath he Mistletoe, the Holly Wreath, and Young Hearts beneath the Mistletoe, and I was very much pleased when I heard grandpa reading your advertisement, and I thought I would write you a few lines and see if Dear Old Santa would bring me something nice Christmas.  I know I would pleased very much to find something nice in my stockings Christmas morning

Julia Armstrong


Dear Santa Claus

Please bring me some books, a tool chest with tools and I will promise not to cut, saw or nail on any part of the house.  Bring sister a doll, set of dishes, safe and anything else that will suit a nice little girl.  Bring my little brother a metal doll and building blocks.

Your little friends,


George Elmer Batts

Springfield, Tenn.

 Dear Santy

I want you to be here this Christmas and bring me a 22 rifle and Peck’s Bad Boy which is a book and some other books besides and some steam articles and don’t forget that rifle.  Sure I want some candy nuts and all kind of things to eat I need some shoes and a rain coat too, but I can do without them if you wont forget that rifle.  I want some fireworks though and any thing else you will be kind enough to bring but be sure to bring the rifle.  Your good friend.

Fred Moore Smith

Springfield, Tenn.


P.S. Be sure to remember the Banner man.

My darling Santa

How are you?  I hope you are alright and will be sure to come Christmas.  I am going to look for you because I have been a good girl.  I have kept my doll nice and you need not bring me another but sure Santa she needs some clothes and I hope you will bring her some and please bring me a diamond ring, a good fairy tale book, a pretty piece of music, Some more dishes to match the last ones, a mackintosh, some leggins and plenty to eat.  Be sure to bring brother all he wants and my cousins William, Ruth, and Lealand too.  Do not for get Mother, Father, and Mr. Head. Rappy Granny and all the poor children.  Thanking you for coming last Christmas and hoping you will come again I am your loving little girl.

Rebecca Florence Smith

Springfield, Tenn.

 Dear Old Santa

I am a little girl 9 years old.  I go to school every day.  I have never missed a day yet.  I want you to bring me a nice doll, a new cloak and some nuts, candy fruits and figs, and anything else you think is nice for me.  So good bye Santa.  Your little girl

Laura Cook

 My Dear Old Santa Clause

Please bring me a doll with brown hair and eyes that will go to sleep, a speech book, a game , a story book, some nice candy, nuts, oranges, and some fireworks , and anything else you have for nice little girls.  Your little friend,

Virginia B. Couts

Springfield, Tenn.


Dear Santa Clause

I am  years old and I have been a good little boy, so I hope you won’t forget me.  Old Santa Clause please bring me a large brass cannon that will shoot a rubber ball and a large engine that I can set in and run it, that is if you have one.  Bring me a velocipede with a bell on it, and some talc to write on my blackboard with. I will leave the rest to you. I forgot to say I wanted some nuts and oranges an bananas.  Good by Santa, I remain truly yours.

Lemoyne Baskette


Dear Old Santa Clause

I am a little boy 7 years old, and I would like for you to bring me a game of Authors, a speech book, a bear jumping the rope, some fireworks, lots of candy, nuts, oranges and anything else you may have for nice little boys and please bring my little brother, Bryan, a little red wagon, a monkey that will walk around when you wind him up, and some nice things to eat.  Your little friend,

Haywood Couts

Springfield, Tenn


PS  I will be at Aunt Mattie Mason’s that night.

 Dear Santa Clause

Please bring me and my brother Robert all kinds of candy, and nuts, oranges, apples, wax and cheese and crackers. Bring me a doll a large one that will cry and go to sleep.  I would like to have a set of furniture for it to.  Bring Robert a little train and some firecrackers and roman cannons.   Yours

Minnie and Robert Fry


Dear Santa Clause

I live in Springfield, Tenn., on Spring Street.  I go to school.  I want a nice doll, kid body, Golden curls of natural hair.  I would like a nice Book also a Game and anything else.  I’ll take all you bring with many thanks to you.  Bring my Mother a new Drugget for her room and for Father a nice pair of Gloves would suit him.  Go to see my little Nephew Altman Brooks.  He lives in Birmingham, Ala.  Please carry him everything a little boy would like for I want him to have lots of fun.  With much love I am your little girl.

Lula D. Robertson

P.S. Please carry Sister something nice.

Springfield,  Tenn.

 Dear Old Santa Claus

I am five years old and am a very good boy and especially when I am asleep and if you will bring me the following for Xmas I’ll try very hard to be a beter boy next year.  I want a writing desk with slates on it a Drum, Horn, picture book, a pistol and some fireworks, Mamma will furnish the candy, nuts, oranges and all things good to eat.  I forgot the doll.  I want a nice little doll dressed in pink with bloomer drawers on.

John Thomas Lowe

P.S. Don’t forget my sister and little brother.


Dear Santa Claus

 I am just 3 years old and am sick with a very bad cold and mamma will not let me go out, and I want some new playthings to keep me from crying so much.  The doctor is coming tonight to see me and I hope to be better tomorrow.  Please bring me a tricycle, little desk, a little drum and drumstick to hit it with, a doll, picture book and a little horse and anything else you can spare.  Also some blocks to build with.  I want to be well to enjoy it Christmas.

Harold Gladstone Lowe


 Mr Sandy Claws

United States of America

Dear Sandy

If you please bring me some raisins and nuts and candy, and oranges and apples and knife.  I have been a bad boy all the year.  I can’t be a good boy.  Yours truly.

J.C. Hollingsworth

Barren Plains, Tenn.

Dear Santa Claus

I am a little boy seven years old, I went to school every day until two months ago.  I fell and broke my left arm, but I hope too be able to attend regular after Christmas.  Dear Santa I’ve tried to be a good boy, and want you to bring me a real little train, a big horn, a big drum, a lot of fireworks, a large book telling all about the Presidents of our country, a chair, a basket of fruit,. Please bring them to my Ma’s.  Dear Santa be kind to all the orphans and don’t forget my Ma, Pa and teacher she is so kind and good.

Sheridan Redmond

Guthrie, Ky.

J. Mark Lowe
J. Mark Lowe Reviews
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