As we are approaching the Christmas season, it is always important to gain some historical significance of how our ancestors celebrated this time of year. To do so gives us a new perspective on making our own traditions and we can find out how our ancestors observed this holiday.
It is interesting to look at scrapbooks and diaries from the early settlers of Rhea County. One in particular which is in the possession of the Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society is that which belonged to William Gibbs Allen. This scrapbook contains various newspaper articles which Allen wrote, telling about his experiences during the War Between the States. Allen also includes other items of interest which have to do with the war and history of Rhea County. One page which caught my eye was a poem by his son, John Gibbs Allen. John was born on March 3, 1866, in a log cabin which had been used as a stable. The Allen house had been burned by the Federals during the War Between the States; therefore, W.G. and his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Thomison) moved the cabin/stable and used it as their home during the days of Reconstruction. Their son, John, married Versailles (Versie) Ault, daughter of W.N. Ault. John died in 1927 and is buried in Buttram Cemetery. The following is the undated Christmas poem written by John Allen just as he wrote it:
John G. Allen
Loitering around the market place,
Idling the moments by,
Listlessly dreaming while low sunk the sun
In the glowing Western sky;
I heard the pit-a-pat of tiny feet on pavement of concrete
And children’s glad and joyous cries
As they with beaming countenance and gleaming eyes
Gazed into the shop windows at the toys there.
Think you Santa Claus will come
And bring those toys our way?
In childish pleading voices they said
Will you please tell him where we stay?
Please tell him to visit us all,
The rich and poor
And bring each and every one
Something from his store.
Sorry of the time I’d wasted
In idle dreams that day,
I straight way sent a message
To him in his land far away.
It was a wireless message
And it named one and all
The black, brown and blue eyed girls,
The short boy and the tall.
Please, dear old Santa, bring
The little boys and girls
Of Dayton candies, nuts and toys
And dollies with golden curls,
Miss not one of them
For they are all very, very good,
You love them and so do I,
We’d love them more if we could.
Softly the shadows dimmed the street,
Silently sank the blood red sun,
Impatiently stamped little restless feet,
As I waited for Santa Claus’ answer,
And quickly it come,
Dancing like the lightning’s flash,
Saying none of the children will I pass
Though I have to travel from
A cold and far away land
Where the Reindeer and white Rabbits band.
“I told the children a faint little
Echo might fall soft on their ear,
A tinkle and jingle whose meaning
To me was indeed very clear
And when the jingles and tinkles
I hear, I know whose coming because
I’ve up against him---
It’s old Santa Claus.”
And I know he’ll come with his Reindeer
O’er mountains and plains
With Jingle of sleigh bells
Through snow covered lanes,
For hundreds of years
He’s made the same trip
And laughs at automobile and air ship.
John Gibbs Allen wrote many poems, which have been found in the papers of his father. John’s only child, a daughter, Hazel, married Francis Pray, and resided in Knoxville. This poem is just one example of a view into the lives of our early settlers in Rhea County. We can learn a great deal by studying their lives and applying what we learn to our own lives. It is necessary for us to learn from the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.