To begin with, this posting would not even happen if it weren't for two reasons:
1) That the farm animals in Greenfield Village's barns - horses, cows, pigs, etc. - need daily care and attention, therefore at least one of the farmers has to visit daily to do the necessary chores to ensure the animals are all safe and fed.
2) That Tom Kemper happens to be the farmer with the foresight to take a few minutes to snap such wonderful pictures on this most wonderful day of the year - - most of the images here were taken on his own time away from his own family. Thank you sir - - you have blessed all of us who love this place of history so much by such a simple act!
Ghosts of Christmas Past can be seen in the pictures included herein. Oh! those of us who visit Greenfield Village in person or see the homes and presenters through photos here on Passion for the Past may think, "well, Ken, this is no big deal."
But it actually is, especially for those of us who can feel the spirits within the walls...that roam about the historic buildings. Every outdoor picture here, sans one, was taken on Christmas Day itself by Farmer Tom.
No big deal?
I think it is!
I think it is!
No, the structures don't look any different.
It's the spirit within you that makes all the difference.
Yep---I do firmly believe that.
So, I'd like to present, courtesy of farmer and GFV employee, Tom Kemper, many of his photographs taken on Christmas Day at Greenfield Village. In fact, if it is an outdoor shot, all but one were taken by Tom. All other (especially indoor) pictures were from my own camera:
|A replicated printing of a historic advertisement from, according to research, 1868.
Meanwhile, inside the Ford parlor -
|Awaiting for the festivities to begin!
"C'mon, Henry! Get your chores done!"
As you can see, we awakened to a White Christmas this morning, and it continued to snow lightly throughout the day. Yes, White Christmas's are a dream for many, but for us here in Michigan, it is a reality!
|So now we are passed the Sweet Shop, looking back from whence we came, and on the left here we have a replication of a New England Town Hall, while on the right we see the building housing the Herschell-Spillman Carousel
Churches were one of the very first buildings to be built upon the formation of any new settlement, and they were always to be the tallest structure in any town or village - the point to where anyone from any part of town may see it was very important. It also would house the bell to be rung for service or for important news - the bells were used as a call to worship, to ring the time of day in the community, as a wedding peal, as a solemn funeral toll to mark the passing of a cherished member, to summon townsfolk for important news, or possibly as a warning…perhaps of an impending attack - therefore it could be heard farther into the countryside the higher it was. So rather than build an extremely tall building, they built a tall steeple to place the cross atop and put the bell inside instead.
Just to the left as we face the church is the Eagle Tavern.
Now, taverns at this time - mid-19th century - were more for travellers than considered a drinking establishment, though more and more, as the century went on, their reputation began to change to where by the early 20th century, taverns were in close association of what we today call a bar.
It was one of the first of the taverns built on this road, which eventually extended to Niles, Michigan in 1832, and then, by 1833, the road made it to Chicago, when it became known as the Chicago Turnpike, and finally the Chicago Road/US 12.
|My wife and I enjoying a Christmas meal many years ago, dressed as if we were
in the year 1860. And that is Mr. Fred Priebe, in the role of Calvin C. Wood,
owner and caterer.
Let's head eastward toward the porches & parlors end of the Village, where. perhaps we'll find ghosts of Christmas Past:
This house, built in 1870, originally stood near the laboratory where Thomas Edison and his men toiled in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
Yes, it's true the presenter actually was preparing the meal listed, but I'm not quite sure if that would have been a Christmas meal. Of course, out on the frontier, a Christmas dinner could have been anything beyond the norm.
It was artist Nast who is most responsible for the still prevalent image of Santa Claus as a rotund, bearded, benevolent figure.
|Technically not part of Porches & Parlors, the Sarah Jordan Boarding House is a part
of the Edison District, for it's here where many of Edison's workers lived while
working for the great inventor.
|While inside the house Sarah and her daughter celebrated Christmas with their
table-top feather tree, made of real goose feathers positioned to look like
pine tree branches.
And just beyond the Tollhouse/Shoe Shop...
|...the Ackley Covered Bridge, built in 1832 by Daniel and Joshua Ackley, from whose
land, near West Finley Pennsylvania, the great oak timbers came. There was much help from the men of the community in its construction.
As we cross the bridge, the road veers to the left, and that's when the "Porches & Parlors" neighborhood opens up to us.
There are numerous wonderful houses to visit here, but I always turn right at the corner and head directly to my favorite house in the Village, the ca1750 home built by Samuel Daggett, where he and his wife and children lived for many decades to come.
The Daggetts came from strong Puritan stock, and Puritans valued order over other social virtues, reasoning that men required rules to guide them and bind them to their good behavior. Authority dominated people's lives, beginning with the highest authority of God, then the authority of religious leaders, and finally the authority of the male head of the household.
In the 1760s, though changes were on the horizon, many of these attitudes would have still described rural New England families. Many still perceived themselves as deeply religious people. They observed the hand of God in everyday occurrences. They believed in hard work and maintaining high moral standards.
And this could definitely apply to the Daggetts.
However, many of these same folk happily and publicly celebrated the coming of the New Year.
The next three pictures are from my camera, and I included them to sort of add to the story:
|I took this picture of the Daggett House during a snowstorm in late December 2021.
Meanwhile, inside the Daggett House...
|I sure do wish we celebrated Christmas here!
So, though the Daggetts may not wish you a Merry Christmas, I most certainly will!
Even though the Daggett’s most likely did not celebrate Christmas, they most certainly would have heard, at the very least, a few carols in their time - - -
Christmas carols of some form have been around for millennia, and, believe it or not, a few from the ancient times still remain in our midst. For instance, from 12th century Ireland comes The Wexford Carol, medieval England gave us The Boars Head Carol and The Gloucestershire Wassail. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is said to be from the 15th century. Bring A Torch Jeannette Isabella and Coventry Carol are both from the mid-1500s, with the mid-to-late 1600s bringing us All You That Are Good Fellows, I Saw Three Ships, The Huron Carol, and The First Noel. The Holly and the Ivy is from around 1710, Joy To the World was written in Virginia in 1719, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing was written in 1739, and O Come All Ye Faithfull is from the 1750s - all being examples of the many carols from 12th century Europe through the late American colonial period. In fact, by the mid-18th century, most of these Christmas songs began showing up in New England hymnals.
|This image of yours truly was taken by my wife as I warmed myself at the hearth of the great hall inside this home.
On a deep frosty late December evening in 2017, I journeyed to historic Greenfield Village during Holiday Nights while wearing my clothing from the 1770s. Besides a cotton shirt, a waistcoat (vest), coat, knee breeches, thick wool stockings, wool mittens, wool scarf & knitted cap, and leather shoes, I also wore my woolen cloak, which worked very well in keeping me warm in such frigid weather. Even though the temperature on this night was in the single digits and the wind blew harshly, keeping the chill far below zero, my upper chest region was warm, thankfully, due in no small part to my cloak. However, the lower quarter of me was quite cold, especially from the knees on down. Entering this historic house I stepped to the blazing hearth where the warmth of the fire upon my person at that moment felt better than any other warming device could. My toes in the leather buckle shoes were biting - they ached like I never felt them ache before - and it took a while for the "thaw" to take place, but they, too, came back to life, though were still pain-filled.
I could actually feel the warmth of the fire engulf me as I stood in front of the hearth there as this image was captured inside the Daggett house - not too close, mind you! - and I appreciated it on this extreme bitter night like I never had done before.
Being out in the single digit temps and harsh winds for over four hours in period clothing certainly gave me more of an understanding, appreciation, and a deeper respect for our ancestors and the way they survived.
Okay! Back to the Christmas Day pictures!
From the Daggett House I step across the road to see the picturesque Cotswold Cottage, built in England around 1620.
|The forge, here, on the right, was operated by members of the Stanley family
for nearly 300 years, until smithy Charles Stanley's death in 1909.
By September of 1930, the Cotswold Cottage was rebuilt on Michigan soil, ready to teach American visitors of European life lived more than four hundred years before.
Meanwhile, inside Cotswold...
|A Red Cross helper helps with the Christmas celebration for the
American servicemen station in England inside
Cotswold Cottage in the 1940s.
Next door we have the Giddings House, another favorite:
Christmas, at this time colonial period in American history, had stiff competition with New Years, often due to the fact that many folks in New England didn't celebrate Christmas. And it's a New Year celebration that is shown inside the Giddings house during Holiday Nights.
Moving up along the road...on the opposite side...
|According to sources at the Benson Ford Research Center,
there is a strong probability that this cabin was built by William’s
maternal grandparents, William and Jane Holmes,
in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1789.
Meanwhile, inside the cabin on this Christmas Day:
Besides the oat cakes, which she is preparing
to cook here, roast rabbit, stewed pears
and Turnbridge pudding were also on the menu.
What Henry Ford replicated here was what many pioneer country schools looked like during the time of William Holmes McGuffey, and, due to the fact that the McGuffey Readers of the 19th century influenced so many of the era that Ford built this school in full honor of McGuffey.
George Washington Carver was well-known for his experiments with the peanut, sweet potatoes, soybeans. and pecans, and he advocated and taught crop rotation which helped the poor farmers, who previously farmed only cotton, to grow a variety of crops. In doing this, Carver vastly improved the economy of the southern states.
The Logan County Court House was where Abraham Lincoln once practiced law before running for President.
The Town Hall is a replication Ford had erected as part of his Village Green.
Across the street from this area we find the Adams House:
|The birthplace of George Matthew Adams (born in 1878), this house has been closed
for nearly ten years. I've been told of plans to revitalize it into more of an 1840s
house - the era in which it was built - but I am waiting for that to happen.
As it was presented as a house from the 1870s, we can imagine the Adams' household on Christmas Day...
|...with all of the necessary holiday preparations, for friends and
family will soon be coming by, walking through the snow or,
perhaps, by horse and carriage.
|The Adams Christmas Tree in the family parlor.
Note the Noah's Ark beneath it - a very popular religious toy
of the 19th century.
Next to the Adams House as they are inside Greenfield Village we have the Chapman House, originally built in 1860 in the same city that Greenfield Village is in - Dearborn.
Here is the home of a former school teacher who once taught at the Scotch
Settlement School, John Chapman.
Imagine admiring your teacher so much that you have his house restored for
future generations to see and learn from!
|A small token of Christmas in the home of Mr. Chapman.
Heading over to Smiths Creek Depot, we also find Christmas Day celebrations occurring, for this was also the stationmaster's home for he and his family, and is typical of country railroad stations in the mid-19th century.
|The Smiths Creek Depot was originally built around 1858-59 in Smiths Creek,
Michigan near Port Huron. A young Thomas Edison worked as a news and candy "butcher" on the train ride from Port Huron to Detroit and back.
As a "butcher," during this mid-19th century era, Edison was a vendor of sorts, and would sell candy, hot dogs, etc., while aboard the train. It was during one such trip, in 1863, that an angry conductor threw young Tom off the train at this particular Smiths Creek depot when the boy accidentally set the baggage car on fire while conducting a chemical experiment using phosphorus.
|A small table-top Christmas Tree is all decorated for an 1860s Christmas inside the depot.
A replicated 19th century printing shop is closed after spending weeks...
|The print Shop
|...Thomas Nast Santa prints from the 1880s.
Near the print shop we have the Spofford Saw Mill:
|In the Liberty Craftworks area, all is calm, all is bright.
Next we have what could be the most popular historic structure inside Greenfield Village, the birthplace of Harvey Firestone:
As we head toward the farm we notice a sort of horse shelter:
|These horses are well-cared for, and the farmers are there, whether open or close
to the public or if there is inclement weather. Or even if it's Christmas Day.
|Perhaps the sheep get a little extra to eat on this holiday?
According to the legend, Christ's birth occurred at exactly midnight. Inside the stable, the animals watched in wonder as the newborn babe was lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. Suddenly, God gave the animals voices and immediately they began to praise Him for the miracle they had just seen.
|In the barn they're all saying, "Where's my present?
Do we get extra fodder today?"
Meanwhile, inside Firestone...
And with their chores complete, let the Firestone Christmas celebration begin!
|The Firestones celebrating Christmas by play carols on the pump organ.
~I took these photo inside the house about twenty years ago when
Firestone Farm House used to be decorated for Christmas~
|The dining room table is all set for Christmas dinner.
|A blazing fire in the sitting room hearth as stockings were hung by the chimney with care.
|Another late 19th or early 20th century "Merry Christmas" poster hanging in town.
Tom took this next photo a few Christmas's ago:
|A merry sight indeed!
A heartfelt thanks to Mr. Kemper for taking the time to walk around the empty Village to snap a few wonderful pictures. In fact, unless otherwise noted, all outdoor pictures here came from his camera. Looking at these scenes certainly gives me the feeling that I was there as well, walking through the snow, nary a sound to be heard as all the celebrants of the past were locked up tight inside these old homes, celebrating this Christmas Day.
|I agree with Tom when he wrote about how sad a Christmas Tree lot stand looked
on Christmas Day...