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Yuletide in Knox County

"The holidays passed off at this place very enjoyably considering the hard times," the editor
of the Niobrara Pioneer observed late in December, 1874. Pioneering in Nebraska in the
1870s was difficult at best; grasshopper depredations and the "Panic of '73" made things
doubly rough.

The bachelor proprietor of the paper skimped along with other Niobrarans. His little sheet, 4
columns by 4 or 8 pages, viewed the poverty of the times with good humor. Early in
December he wrote, "Times are hard, but even the poorest have a notion to purchase for the
holidays, if it be but a small article to present their friends. The notorious Santa Claus
generally is looking to the wants of the little ones. And let us suggest that when the jolly old
fellow makes his purchases to select such as are actually needed and not go to any outlay for
trifles."

As the season progressed, the Pioneer chronicled other events: "On Christmas eve there was
a private party at Mr. Westerman's, proprietor of the general store." And on New Year's Eve
saloonkeeper Frank Janousek "amused his friends with lager beer, and late in the evening
they amused him with shouts of laughter, bonfires before his saloon, shooting firearms, and
going home on a shutter."

At the Santee Reservation, where both the Congregationalists and the U. S. government
operated schools, "Christmas passed off with more than the usual eclat. Three large trees for
each of the schools, with accompanying presents for the children as well as some for the
older, and a large amount of handshaking seemed to put all in good humor."

Nearby at Creighton, family celebrations were the rule, save for a neighborhood party given
by Mrs. Leighton and her brothers. New Year's Eve was considerably more festive. George
Bosse, proprietor of the Creighton Hotel was "mein host." "Quite a party attended, and all
danced to good music and partook of the sumptuous repast served up by Madam Bosse."

On New Year's Day, Mr. and Mrs. B. Davis threw a community party "with grand success as
far as they could make it" in spite of disagreeable weather. After reporting these holiday
happenings, the Pioneer editor himself went on a "holiday spree," which consisted mainly of
smoking a gift box of cigars in peace while skipping one edition of the paper.

1875 brought with it an immense improvement in circumstances for Knox Countians. The
Pioneer published this Yuletide greeting: "A Merry Xmas to you all. A year ago it was not
quite as easy to be merry. Hard times were staring us in the face and some, instead of
wishing for presents, cried for bread. But times have changed. A bountiful harvest has
blessed the farmer, a good trade has helped the merchant, and the consequence is that we
shall all cry as did the Shepherds who watched their flocks by night, 'Glad tidings and great
joy, peace on earth, good will toward Men.'"

 

 

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Last updated 14 September 2005

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