Christmas of 1874 in Hamilton County

When I was working on the Thanksgiving column, I noticed the January 1, 1875 Noblesville Ledger contained accounts of several Christmas celebrations around Hamilton County in 1874.

I thought it was interesting to read about the differences and similarities between Christmas then and now.

In Noblesville, the holiday was observed with both public and private celebrations.

A capacity crowd filled Noblesville’s Christian Church on Christmas Eve to see a “brilliantly illuminated” Christmas tree surrounded by a “tremendous collection of presents.” After listening to some “excellent” music, the presents were distributed to the congregation.

A short distance away in the county courthouse, the First Baptist Church held an equally well-attended festival on Christmas Eve and Christmas night. The festival, which was a benefit for the church, also included entertainment and a Christmas tree loaded with presents.

On Christmas day, a number of Noblesville residents and their out-of-town friends attended a fancy dress ball at City Hall. The supper was catered by a local restaurant owner and music was provided by “the Italian band.”

Christmas day in Noblesville was also marked by several private parties, services at the Evangelical Church, and — curiously — open doors at most of the city’s businesses (“ . . . not a little business was transacted.”)

Westfield held no public celebration, but a number of private parties were “largely attended.”

The Westfield Masons had quite a shindig. Members and their families assembled at the lodge room on Christmas Day with “baskets filled with good things to refresh the inner man.” Entertainment was furnished by the Westfield String Band.

Additional reports of holiday activities came in from the Ledger’s county correspondents. (I have no idea why, but the correspondents at that time always used pseudonyms instead of their real names.)

“Charlemagne,” a Washington Township correspondent, mentioned a panorama exhibit held at the Bowman schoolhouse on Christmas Eve.

(The Bowman schoolhouse, Noblesville Township’s School No. 3, was located on what is now State Road 32, in the vicinity of Mill Creek Road.)

Charlemagne also described a private party where the guests feasted on “roast turkey, chicken, pies and cakes of every description, and everything else that accompanies a first-class dinner.”

An unnamed correspondent from East Branch reported that, despite feeling under the weather, N. S. Davis had hosted an oyster supper on Christmas Eve.

(East Branch was the original name for Gray, a small community that once sat at the intersection of 146th Street and Gray Road. All that’s left of Gray today is the Gray Friends Church.)

“Kalip” wrote about a Christmas tree concert at New Britton on December 23. (New Britton was on 131st Street, halfway between Lantern Road and State Road 37.) The tree at this event boasted almost 300 presents “varying in value from five cents to ten dollars.” Entertainment was by the King Glee Club of the New Britton School.

“Golly” reported that a similar celebration took place at Fishersburg on Christmas Eve. Santa Claus even made an appearance there, passing out toys and other gifts to children.

Golly added that a “splendid oyster supper“ was held in Fishersburg’s Granger Hall on Christmas night. (Oysters again!)

Clarksville’s “Penobscot” observed that “we had a tree, sure enough . . .” and noted that the “young gents and ladies” of the community were out early on Christmas morning shouting “Merry Christmas.”

In addition, an all-day Christmas turkey shoot was held in Joseph Nicholson’s woods.

Then there was Strawtown . . .

“More Anon” wrote that “Christmas passed by in our village without any fighting and but very little drunkness [sic.] No turkey dinners, parties, dances or anything else of much interest. On the whole a real dry time.”

Merry Christmas!

Notable Nineties Update: Finally, some new Notable Nineties! Dr. Tim Fleck has added Don and Nancy Garrison to the list. Congratulations!

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at