It is interesting to know how Christmases were spent during the early life of Rhea County. During those beginning times, stores were not the same as today, and most people made their own clothes, gifts and cooked their food. There were no “ready-made” foods to be bought, or many items of store-bought clothing. The following is another of the gems from William Gibbs Allen’s scrapbook, and recounts the eightieth Christmas he and his family celebrated. W.G. Allen married Mary Elizabeth Thomison in December of 1859, and they celebrated fifty-seven years of marriage in 1916. Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) was the daughter of William Preston Thomison and Nancy Smith Thomison of Washington (Old Washington) in Rhea County. W.G. Allen’s parents were Valentine and Ann Frazier Allen. Allen wrote for the Dayton Herald and other newspapers at that time (1916), and this article happened to be addressed to the editor of the Herald.
Editor The News:
The old bronze-case clock that has stood on the mantel of our sittingroom for fifty-seven years, John the Divine, with the Holy Word of God in his hand, standing to the right, and St. John on the left of the old faded dial with key in hand, and ticked off time till the 25th day of December, 1916, has brought around my eighty-first and my wife’s eightieth Christmas.
How noiseless fall the feet of time that only tread on flowers. Little and unknown may I die. If at the last I may but hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
When I look around for my early friends, nearly all have crossed the dark river and taken harp and coronet in the New Jerusalem.
Do nothing in private which you avoid in the presence of wise and good.
You have respect for them; ought you not to respect much more the Great Jehovah?
One sweet, solemn thought
Comes to me o’er and o’er---
I am nearer my home today
Than I’ve ever been before;
Nearer my Father’s house,
Where many mansions be;
Nearer the great white throne,
Nearer the jasper sea;
Nearer the beyond of life,
Where we lay our burdens down;
Nearer leaving my cross,
Nearer wearing my crown.
On Christmas day our Family, including my wife, my son, John G. Allen, his wife and daughter, Miss Hazel Allen, and friend, Perry Ault, gathered around the old family table, which had been spread with a good dinner.
I opened a letter from our baby girl, Winnie Grace Allen Miller, and her husband, of Los Angeles, Cal., and found enclosed a check for $8, then another with two crisp, new treasury notes from Mary E. Allen Benson and John O. Benson and our granddaughter, of Chattanooga. We enjoyed the day as a rare one in our experience. We received hundreds of cards from friends, young and old, including several of my old Civil War comrades, who tramped and suffered with me for four long years.
We have lived within five miles of our present home for the last seventy-five years. I am thankful to all my friends, and I want to say I have been a teetotaler and abstainer from whisky, beer or pop; from tobacco, cigars or snuff. I never tasted or drank anything in these eighty-one Christmases. I am thankful I am able to write these lines without the use of glasses. Is there anything in a teetotaler or prohibitionist? May all who have been so kind to wife and I live long and be able to make sunshine in other homes many times in years to come.
Dayton, Tenn., Dec. 25,1916
This narrative from Allen shows us a different Christmas than that of today. It is written just the way he wrote, with any mistakes in spelling or grammar he made. Naturally, life was less complicated then, as compared to now; I also think people appreciated what they had, and were just glad to be remembered with a card or simple gift. This gives us insight as to what life was like during that time. Therefore, we need to learn from the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.
Pat Guffey can be reached at email@example.com