By Mick Woodcock

Based on the Days Past article of Nov 29, 2014.

What follows are excerpts from articles about Christmas in early Prescott. We hope this will give you an idea of what our predecessors thought of the holiday and how they observed it.

From the Weekly Arizona Miner, December 26, 1868: “Christmas was celebrated in a proper and becoming manner by the people of Prescott and vicinity, but owing to the heavy pressure of egg-nog, fat turkey and Grecian bend* upon our body corporate, we have no inclination to talk about the Christmas tree, or anything else.”

*An 1860s fashion trend among American women. The style involved an extreme bunching of material at the back, requiring wearers to lean forward in an exaggerated way in order to compensate for the excess rear weight.

From the Weekly Arizona Miner, December 24, 1870: “Another anniversary of the birth of the Savior and true Teacher of mankind is at hand, and we hope our people will observe it in a becoming manner.  To-night is Christmas Eve, to-morrow will be Christmas, and the Miner greets its readers, and wishes each and all of them a Merry Christmas.”

From the Arizona Weekly Miner, December 31, 1875: “It is perhaps enough to say of the Christmas tree for the Children, at the Church on Friday evening last, that it was a perfect success in all respects.  Every child . . . was provided first with a cornucopia and a stocking filled with candies, and an apple, besides a present of some description suited as neatly as it could be arranged to the child’s wants.  Old Santa Claus arrived about eight o’clock.  The bells on his reindeer team were first heard in the distance, then nearer and nearer until the driver bolted into the window at the end of the stage, all muffled up in buffalo robes and furs, with a funny cap on his head.  Several children thought if Santa Claus hadn’t been so big and fat he would have resembled D. D. Bean, and one told us confidentially that when he took his cap off to wipe his forehead he looked almost exactly like him.”

From the Arizona Weekly Miner, December 22, 1876: “A beautiful Christmas tree has been procured, placed in the hall of the school house, and elegantly decorated with flags, etc.  We are requested to state that it is especially intended for the Children of both town and County, and that while all, both old and young, are invited to attend the Exercises, on Saturday evening, it is hoped by the managers that nothing will be put upon the tree for grown persons so that they may be the better enabled to attend to the little people, for whose benefit the tree has been provided and the entertainment gotten up.”

From the Weekly Arizona Miner, December 27, 1878: “On Tuesday eve “Old Santa Claus” made his appearance at the Prescott Theater building, there to meet his young friends and distribute the gifts which the great gift-giver in his munificence provided for the occasion.  Prescott children should feel well pleased with the results, for of all those present, between two and three hundred, not one was forgotten.  Some of the older ones also received valuable presents and immediately forgot that their childhood days were things of the past, and actually imagined themselves of the ‘little ones.”  After the many costly presents were distributed . . . the hall was arranged for dancing when all, old and young, joined in tripping the light fantastic to the sweet strains of music furnished by the Twelfth Infantry Band.”

From an undated newspaper article: “. . . Prescott had the first outdoor ‘municipal’ Christmas tree in the Southwest, if not in the United States.  Among the trees on the plaza was a shaggy juniper on the east side whose branches attracted the notice of jokers who had a mind to play Christmas tricks on each other.  For years gifts, all the way from broad jokes to real needs were hung on this tree, and no person was so dignified or important as to be neglected or forgotten. Some of the jokes had a bit of sting in them – and at last the axe of one of the stung was laid to the roots of the innocent tree.”

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.