Holiday Family History: My 2nd Great Grandmother’s First Christmas Tree

Newspaper article describing the first Christmas tree my 2nd Great Grandmother had as a little girl.
Newspaper article describing the first Christmas tree my 2nd Great Grandmother had as a little girl.

Although I have a few holiday family history stories for Christmas, one has quickly become my favorite. The story involves my 2nd Great Grandmother, Anna Margaret “Maggie” (Leishman) Lapham (1875-1951), who wrote a letter to one of her nephews recalling her first Christmas Tree when she as about seven years old (so in about 1882) in pioneer Nebraska. Her nephew sent in the story and it was published in a local newspaper, the Wheeler County Independent.

The following is a transcription of the story from the article:

“It was when I was seven. We lived in Wheeler County then. The snow was about knee deep. I don’t know where I got the idea, if I heard someone talking about it, or if I saw a picture, but I had made up my mind that I was going to have a Christmas tree. Of course, there were no trees around there, but Christmas morning I bundled up and got the hatchet. Mother said, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘To find a Christmas tree.’ They laughed but let me go. I waded around in the snow until I found a nice big wild sunflower, one with lots of branches. I pulled the dead blossoms off and dug the snow away, chopped it down, and dragged it to the house. Mother wasn’t going to let me take it in, but father said, ‘Let her alone, let’s see what she has in her head.’ So I took it in, and in some way made it stand up. Then I got my treasure boxes. I always saved every bit of colored paper or tinfoil, and pictures, or cards and pieces of colored yarn. (Father did lots of knitting.) I made chickens, ducks, cats, rabbits, etc. out of pie dough, and baked them hard. I kept them in one box. With the paper and tinfoil, I wrapped the branches, then tied the yarn around the animals, etc., and tied them on the branches, also some pieces of candy, and some little doughnuts that mother had made for us kids, and some popcorn and the picture cards. Your father and uncle stood around and watched me, and made suggestions. They thought it was marvelous. Once in a while, we would stand back and look at it, and decide that something needed changing a little, then I would change it. We played with the thing all day, and I don’t know about the boys, but I got more enjoyment out it than any Christmas tree we ever had before or since. We never had toys or things like that when we were small. If we got an apple or an orange, and few pieces of candy, we were happy.”

I enjoy this story very much. Not only is it a cute story, but it adds a dimension to the life of my 2nd Great Grandmother that would be lost without it. I hope that you enjoy it, and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas

3 thoughts on “Holiday Family History: My 2nd Great Grandmother’s First Christmas Tree

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