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December 28, 2017

A Holiday Recap in 1879

A Holiday Recap in 1879

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Taking a deep breath after Christmas and looking at the impact of the day is nothing new.  The December 27, 1879, edition of the Hamilton County Democrat had a review of celebrations that had gone on around the county and titled it “Christmas Notes”.

In Noblesville, families who had Christmas trees were noted, since this apparently was not a universal thing.  There were some Christmas trees seen in churches, including the African American Baptist church.  Santa Claus himself made an appearance at the Methodist Church and handed out presents.

Lumber dealer Abijah Jenkins gave every one of his employees a turkey and had a Christmas tree for his little children.  He also won a rocking chair at the Soldier’s Festival on Christmas Eve.  Chairs seemed to have been a common gift theme.  Teacher Calvin D. Granger was given a camp chair by his pupils.  Two prominent lawyers, Thomas J. Kane and Theodore P. Davis, were given office chairs by their wives.  The paper said, “They now can take things easy as far as a comfortable chair is concerned.”  (They had been involved in some very serious litigation earlier in the year.)

There had been a Christmas Eve Ball at the City Hall, (a large room on the upper floor of the present building with Smith Jewelry and Noble Coffee), which was considered a grand success.  It had about 50 couples attending, including 25 from Indianapolis and some from Kokomo and Tipton.  There was also a “social hop” at James Metzger’s house southwest of town.   There were reports from New Britton and Arcadia of Christmas trees at churches.  Cicero had some issues with drunkenness, but also had a successful ball at Nelson Hall, and events at churches as well.

A celebration not mentioned in the papers, but one that probably occurred, was Hanukah.  The Ledger mentioned visits by Rabbi Mayer Messing to the Levinson family in January and February of 1879.  I’ve talked about the family before and the fact that the Levinsons were Jewish emigrants from Germany who arrived in Noblesville in 1857.  Messing was an Indianapolis rabbi that served the surrounding communities, performing weddings and funerals and helping isolated families with religious issues.

Starting in 1880, the city newspapers began to post notices from Mr. Levinson that his store would be closed for Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah).  Since the family celebrated that holiday, it’s probable that they celebrated Hanukah as well, albeit in a subdued manner.  The Levinsons were well respected, but Jewish holidays were not within the experience of most of their neighbors.

So the holidays passed with good feelings for all and a minimum of fuss.  Eight years later, the natural gas boom began, Noblesville would become a city, and things would start to be a little more intense