Category Archives: Christmas

Wordless Wednesday – Our 2013 Christmas Card

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You know I can’t go wordless!

I meant to post this around Christmas time, but things got hectic and I just didn’t.  But here it is now, our 2013 Christmas card – you know the cliche – better late than never.

2013 Christmas Card

I mailed out almost 100 christmas cards, and there were still several people I wanted to send one to, but I didn’t order any more as we mailed them out late anyway. So, if you didn’t get one – please forgive and save this one!

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Christmas Past to Christmas Present

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As I was decorating the house the other day for the Christmas holidays, for some reason I started thinking about what my ancestors would have been doing at Christmas time during the civil war.

Christmas Decorations 2013

I’m sure they didn’t string fancy garlands or lights and probably not every one put up a Christmas tree as the European custom of having a tree was just becoming popular.  If they did decorate a tree, I’m sure the decorations would have been handmade usually of stringed sugared fruits, ribbons, popcorn, pine cones, colored paper, silver foil and spun glass ornaments.

As I looked around guiltily at all of my decorations, I wondered did they decorate their houses? Did they sit with their families around a fire and sing songs?  Did they trade gifts and visit neighbors?

Not having any way to know what my ancestors did, I started thinking about my husband’s ancestors.  Then I remembered that we had a copy of my (now ex) husband’s great-grandfather, A.J. Smith’s diary that he wrote during the civil war.  My (now ex) father-in-law, Al Reynolds has the original diary in his possession.

This is A.J. at about the time he enlisted as a Pvt. in Co. K, 20th Regiment Arkansas Infantry, CSA on March 6, 1862 in Lafayette Co., Arkansas.

AJ Smith

So, I pulled the diary up and looked for dates around Christmas time and this is what he wrote (the year is 1863 from farther up in the diary):

“Dec 24th Ark troops and some others to the amount of 500 are parolled for exchange and put on the steamer New York and go to the Fortress Monroe and ly over till the evening of the 25th. On the night of the 25th ly in the mouth of James River.  On the morning of the 26th sail to City Point and wait for the Confederate Boat from Richmond till the morning of the 28th.”

We know from his diary and muster rolls that he was taken prisoner at Big Black on May 16, 1863 and imprisoned at Fort Delaware and then later at Point Lookout, where the parole he mentioned above took place.

I went back into the living room at this point and sat and looked at my tree.  A.J. was not sitting in a warm house around a tree with his family during the Christmas of 1863. However, I imagine being paroled from prison after seven months, was a pretty good Christmas gift.  I imagine he was sitting on that steamer on Christmas eve, glad to be on his way to freedom and thinking very much of his family at home, but was he even thinking about it being Christmas as he didn’t mention that in the diary?

I found a picture of the New York steamer, which you can view here.  I can’t imagine being stuffed in there with 499 other parolees.  I wonder what he was fed?  I’m sure it wasn’t anything like the meal we will eat on Christmas eve.  In fact, he was probably lucky if he got anything at all.

In doing a bit of research, I came across this entry, written in a diary on Christmas day 1863, by Sergeant John L. Hoster of Co. A., 148th NY, who was serving an extended period of non-combat duty in the Fort Norfolk, Virginia area.  He wrote:

“Cool but pleasant. Corpl. Spaid, Dick Bachman, the orderly and I had a splendid Christmas dinner today, consisting of roast goose, mashed potatoes, good gravy, bread and butter. The goose was bought in market yesterday by F. Spaid for $1.25, stuffed with crackers and oysters and roasted by Mrs. Duncan. We had it served up on a fine large platter, borrowed, bought or stolen for the occasion. Had a fine supper on the remains. Flag of truce ship, New York, came here today and took away a few prisoners to City Point. A schooner also came today with several new pontoons which were unloaded at the dock.”

Wait, what?

This dude is chomping down on a goose, from a platter probably stolen from some southern lady, while poor A.J. was getting taken away to City Point. Sgt. Hoster’s good fortune didn’t last long as it was only a matter of time before his own goose was cooked and the next Christmas he was sitting in a Confederate prison eating sweet potato soup and meal dumplings.

I am happy to report though that Sgt. Hoster did eventually return home to his family, as did A.J.

I don’t know what any of my ancestors were up to during the civil war at Christmas time. Of the eight great-grandfathers that I had during that time period, four of them fought during the war between the states.  One was shot in his head and survived, but suffered greatly for the rest of his life.

So, this Christmas I will remember what my ancestors, and my husband’s ancestors sacrificed so that we could end up here together, living a life of luxury compared to what A.J. was going through during 1863.  I’m thankful, and I don’t take it for granted and I know my husband doesn’t either.

My son, Pvt. Cole is currently at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma completing his AIT training.  We get the privilege of Skyping. If you don’t know what that is, it’s where you both log on to Skype either on a phone or computer and we can chat while a webcam sends video, to the person on the other end. This is what my screen looks like when we are talking.

Skyping with Justin

I can only imagine that A.J.’s mother would have wished for a letter or some word that A.J. was still alive and was being released and would be on his way home soon.  He had already been sent home once deathly ill to recover at his parents house, only to then be later captured.

His father, Robert Burnett Smith was off fighting in an Alabama regiment and so I imagine his mother, Sarah Yates Smith lived in constant fear for her husband and son. She also had, two other sons fighting; John Calvin Smith and Joel Benjamin Smith.  She wasn’t lucky like I am to be able to sit here at my computer and see a smiling face from hundreds of miles away, with just a few clicks on a phone.

Have you thought about what your ancestors were doing during Christmas way back when, and how drastically different it is from what we do now at Christmas time?

I’m thinking maybe we should cook a goose in honor of A.J. this Christmas and share that story with the kids! :)

Just an Old Dress…

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I hope you have all had a wonderful New Years and that your Christmas was merry and bright.  Mine sure was.

I would love to post pictures, but guess what?

I did not take a single picture of our big family gathering.

I know, right?  Completely an epic fail!!

After everyone left and I realized we didn’t take our usual pictures, I was devastated.  How could I, the family genealogy freak, forget to take pictures?  Well, for once I just enjoyed myself and didn’t worry about the stuff I was supposed to do, I just did what I wanted to.  It was great in a way, on the other hand, I sure wish I had some pictures from the night.

Other than that it was a lovely time and now since I have delivered my last gift, I would like to share with you what I made for my siblings and some cousins.

A while back while I was in Texarkana, my cousin Nedra gave each cousin at a cousin’s party a dress that had belonged to my great-grandmother, Mollie Davis Harris.  Which meant she gave my Dad the dress and then I talked him into giving it to me.  Thanks Dad!

Then on another trip, she had found an old suitcase of my grandfather’s and inside was my grandmother’s square dancing dress.  She gave it to me.

When my Aunt Jane passed away I asked my Uncle Charlie to save me one of her shirts and he did, so I got her shirt.

Then on yet another trip, Nedra found another box of Mollie’s dresses while cleaning and she graciously gave me them to me.

I had great plans to make a quilt but the fabrics were so old and stained, I mean my great-grandmother Mollie, she worked in these dresses, so I had to come up with something different.

I took all the dresses to my mother-in-laws house and we had great fun putting them on a form and I took a picture of each dress.  I wanted a good picture before I cut them up.

Here are the dresses and shirts:

My Ancestors Dresses

Then I saw an idea on Pinterest where a girl had made a flower on canvas out of scrapbook paper.  I decided to do this with the fabric from the dresses.

For four weeks I would get the dresses ready to cut, and I just couldn’t do it.

Finally, the weekend before Christmas I decided I had better suck it up and get busy or these gifts would not get done.  Cutting those dresses was one of the hardest things I have ever done and I don’t even know why.

Then I spent two complete days and nights sitting at the kitchen counter cutting and pasting these flowers together.

Making the Flower

This my friends is the finished product of my Ancestor’s clothing.  These will always be near and dear to my heart!

All the Canvas'

I had originally wanted to make the ones that I made for my brothers a fish, but I thought that ended up looking too childish, so my son Michael ended up with that, he loves it, and it is proudly hung in his bedroom.  Everyone just ended up with a flower, boy or girl.

Here is a close up of the fish.

The Fish

And here is a close up of one of the flowers.

Dress Flower

I fully intend to make more for some of my other cousins, I still have plenty of material left.

So, when you look at your ancestors old clothing and think there is nothing else to be done with them, think again people!!!

These flowers will go a long way and now all of us can share in the dresses.



It’s A Blizzard!

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We are having a white Christmas and us Southern girls just aren’t used to this.

I mean, I just wore flip-flops yesterday!

I opened up the garage and the snow blew in and blew my dress up.

Ok, not really.

I haven’t worn a dress since I wore pigtail’s and that was a looonng time ago.

It did blow through my sweat pants though.

White Christmas

Here is another shot from the garage:

White Christmas

And here is another shot of the yard from the garage in the rare moment that the wind wasn’t blowing the flakes into the garage:

White Christmas

Here is a shot from the back yard:

White Christmas

And I can’t leave the front yard out:


I think it’s great you can’t see all the weeds in that flower bed.  :)

I can’t see my brother’s house across the street and I sure can’t see Mom and Dad’s next door.  I’ll take better pictures tomorrow when it’s daylight.

Merry White Christmas from Arkansas!


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Merry Christmas!

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2012 Silent NIght Christmas Card

Merry Christmas from our house to yours. I hope you have all had as great a Christmas as I have had.


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