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HomeAmerican HistoryA Christmas in Kingston in the 1880s

A Christmas in Kingston in the 1880s


McEntee- Christmas in the Catskills,1867“I went out after a Christmas tree and some laurel, through seas of mud,” Jervis McEntee of Kingston wrote on Christmas Eve 1881, “to the place where I always go on the cross road between the Flat-bush and Pine bush roads. It rained a part of the time and turned into a snow storm on our return.”

Another 12 months, McEntee’s common locations for a tree have been so moist that he settled for a small hemlock on the aspect of the hill the place he lived. It was a hill that supplied a panoramic view of the whole village in addition to the Rondout Creek and the Hudson River. His father James, an engineer who had helped construct the close by Delaware and Hudson Canal, had constructed the first home on the hill and the household nonetheless lived there.

I occur to stay on the McEntee household’s hill. If my household had moved to West Chestnut Street in Kingston, New York in 1872 as an alternative of 1972, the McEntees would have been our neighbors. Because Jervis McEntee saved a journal from 1872 by 1890, I’ve realized one thing about how they lived and these days I’ve been studying about how they spent Christmas.

A extremely regarded panorama painter and a member of what got here to be known as the Hudson River School, Jervis McEntee spent half the 12 months in his New York City studio the place he painted and confirmed his work to potential patrons. For the hotter half of the 12 months, he got here house to the household homestead in the Village of Rondout, New York (which in 1872 turned a part of the City of Kingston). But he additionally got here house on some weekends and holidays and all the time for Christmas.

Toward the later years of his journal, Jervis typically didn’t arrive house by practice till Christmas eve. “Went home by 11 o’clock train,” he wrote on Christmas eve of 1887. “Found Sara and Marion had the Xmas tree up in the sitting room and all ready except the things I bought and the candles.” We know from a sketch of the Christmas tree that Jervis painted one 12 months that there have been candles on the tree. The candles have been lit in the late afternoon or early night simply earlier than festivities started.

Perhaps like different households then and now, the excellent place for the Christmas tree appeared to fluctuate from 12 months to 12 months. On Christmas eve of 1878, Jervis wrote “I trimmed the parlor and put up the Christmas tree. The room looked very festive and pretty and in the evening [the tree] was lighted and all the household came in to see it.” In different years, the tree was arrange in the sitting room.

Jervis from TuckermanThe members of the family included, till the late 1880s, Jervis’s dad and mom, James and Sarah. Jervis’s sister Sara, a medical practitioner, was all the time house. Jervis’s different sisters – Mary, Augusta, and Lucy – have been married and residing elsewhere throughout the years of the journal. Jervis’s brother Maurice was house, working as a neighborhood newspaper reporter. Jervis’s a lot youthful brother Girard and his spouse Mary had constructed a home throughout the avenue and far of Christmas concerned their kids.- Jimmie, Dwighty, Girard, Jr. and child Florence whom Jervis one 12 months described as “a little girl baby who squalled all the time.” There have been additionally Tom, a employed man, and one or two younger servant women.

In most years, Girard and Mary introduced their kids over to the homestead home for the tree lighting and current opening. Stockings crammed with presents had additionally been hung by the fire in the eating room.

“The children had been told we would have all ready at 5 o’clock,” wrote Jervis on December 24, 1887. “They of course came over before and had to be kept in the dining room like a lot of little wild animals. At 5, we let them in and while we were looking at the tree, bells were heard out in front of the house and a shouting and a stamping and we cried out ‘here he comes.’ It was very interesting to see the expression of Girard [Jr.] and Dwightie. Presently Girard bounded in as Santa Claus in a buffalo robe, a good big belly, a cotton beard and a bundle of new India rubber boots on his back. His make-up was excellent and he did his part well and finally shot out in a most mysterious manner. Then we distributed the presents and blew out the lights and the children all having gone home we took the tree out on the back porch, and thus another Xmas ended, as so many previous ones have ended under this dear roof of home.”

On Christmas day, Jervis and the different members of the James and Sarah McEntee family usually went throughout the avenue to see Girard and Mary’s kids open extra presents. It was additionally a day for visiting cousins and neighbors. They typically dined with the household of Jervis’s Uncle Charles. For a number of years, their neighbors, Charles and Mary Cantine despatched roses to the senior McEntees and one other distinguished citizen, Mary Coykendall, despatched a basket of fruit. In varied years, calls have been exchanged with the Lindsleys, Mrs. Dewitt Roosa, and Miss Sadie Crosby. On the day after Christmas of 1884, Jervis wrote that “Marion [his niece] and Miss Sadie Crosby went for a sleigh ride but found it very cold.”

Sleigh rides have been very fashionable with the McEntees, who saved one or two horses in their barn and a big sleigh and a small, two-person cutter sleigh in their carriage home. Jervis himself was given to lengthy walks and on Christmas eve of 1882, he discovered time for “a long walk after breakfast with [the family dog] Park, down through the woods back of the old Wilhelmus Hasbrouck house and over the hills stopping for a sketch, then down through the woods behind the Roatina, returning by the road across the lake and over the hill toward the Alms House and home by Ludlum’s Woods.”

That was Christmas on my avenue over 100 and thirty years in the past. The McEntees have lengthy since departed the city; their homestead is now a subdivision. Jervis McEntees’ phrase photos, nonetheless, stay on for individuals who can uncover them and, as we get able to exit for this 12 months’s tree, I take into consideration the McEntees and surprise if “the cross road between Flat-bush and Pine bush roads” continues to be there.

Photos: Above, Jervis McEntee’s “Christmas in the Catskills, 1867” (with the permission of Matthew and Maria Brown); and under, Napoleon Sarony’s {photograph} of Jervis McEntee (c. 1867), courtesy The Century Association.

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