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The Kings of Oak Springs, Episode 26, December Fourth Sunday 1876 Fell on Christmas Eve

Updated on September 11, 2019
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

They made a special Christmas Pudding

A spécial Christmas pudding
A spécial Christmas pudding | Source

Keith King thoroughly enjoyed the Fourth Sunday activities during his holiday visit

The Fourth Sunday social event was a long standing tradition in the Oak Creek valley, now Oak Creek Township, dating back to the first arrival of the founding families in 1833. Since the war, it seemed to have taken on renewed meaning for the returning families as well as for new arrivals. Pa and Ma King (Karl and Katherine) and their family had been able to attend each month since their arrival in the spring. December 1876 was no exception. And this month, they again had their oldest son, Keith, with them, as well as Kate, Kent and Karla. Keith had spent the fall semester at the new high school in Jefferson City. He had returned for the holiday break earlier in the week and looked forward to seeing his old friends again.

They were gathered this Sunday in the Oak Springs Community Building for warmth, as it was a cold December day. No snow, yet, but the bite was in the wind that whipped a bit, if you were out in it very long. One of the first young folks that Keith saw was actually his friend, Earl Rhodes. Earl was a year older and had qualified a year ahead of Keith at the Central School in Jefferson City. So, although they had attended the same school, and even two of the same classes, they had not really spent than much time together there. They were each staying with relatives in very structured home environments. Earl's uncle was an engineer with a shipping company on the Mississippi River. He ran his household like a very tight ship, so to speak. Keith's uncle, Mr. Walters, was a merchant. He also ran a very regimented life. Both young men benefited from the discipline, but it didn't leave much time for socializing, so they spent most of this day together talking about their experiences and school, and plans for the future.

WIth each of their children quickly gathering with their friends, Karl and Katherine fell into conversation with Lewis and Carolyn Truesdale and Daniel and Jane McDonald. Katherine reminded herself, in her mind, that Lewis and Jane were brother and sister, as they talked. They both demonstrated strong leadership characteristics, she also noted. They were talking about expanding the local school four more grades, through high school… in about 18 months. Jane was saying she would do whatever needed done to have her William be able to continue his education here, in the valley. Lewis mentioned that there was talk in the legislature of creating some kind of county school district system with a taxation base, but a firm plan had not yet been developed. He thought they might be able to qualify for some sort of "pilot program" status, with a state grant, if they got right to work on it. Karl and Katherine both expressed interest, which would allow Kate to stay here, and, perhaps, Keith would come back to finish his last two years, if it were to come about. They ended up all eating together to continue their discussions.

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They picked out a tree on the hillside

Father and son with their dog finding a Christmas tree
Father and son with their dog finding a Christmas tree | Source

The parents weren't the only ones talking about school plans

Kate and Charlotte, William and Vic, the classmates truly at the heart of their parents' discussion about getting a high school in town, had already picked up the possibility of getting a high school education without having to move out of town like Keith had to do it. William said that he had heard his mother and his Uncle Lewis talking about it, when they didn't think he was listened. He shared with his friends that he had heard his mother say, "I'll do anything to see that it happens." William stated his belief that any time his mother talked like that, something always did happen.

Kate said she had been listening closely to what Keith was saying about living with his uncle and aunt in Jefferson City. He was saying nice things, she said. However, she also heard some of the details about what he actually did, or had to do, that she said kind of scared her about going to live that kind of life. Charlotte said she agreed, and, she didn't even have relatives there to live with. Vic added that he had not yet heard his parents mention anything about a school here in town, but, there was no doubt in his mind that he would be expected to go to all four years of high school. In addition, he would almost certainly be expected to go to college, or at least to banking school, where ever that would be. His father had commented on his lack of that schooling, and had said he would be sure that Vic received the benefit of the best education he could get.

These four young people, again, were demonstrating that they were all four mature beyond their years. By having these kinds of discussions, at twelve years of age, just added to their maturity. Before long, they were each sharing when they would have their individual birthdays, which all happened to be coming up in the next few months. Even with Christmas being upon them, talk of their next birthday brought a special smile to each of their faces. Thirteen seemed to be a special number to each of them.

They had a Goose Dinner for Christmas

Christmas Goose Dinner
Christmas Goose Dinner | Source

Each family made their own plans for how they would each celebrate Christmas

This being Christmas eve, but no Sunday School yet organized (and no church in town), each family would continue, this year at least, doing their own set of activities, or not, for recognizing the Christmas spirit in their homes. Some would exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, some on Christmas morning. Some would have friends or family for special meals, again, some on Christmas eve, some of Christmas day… or both, in this case. Some would read the Christmas story in their family Bible, some would have the children act out the Nativity story, perhaps. Some families would not celebrate Christmas at all, for a variety of reasons. Some of the families were happy to talk about their plans during Fourth Sunday activities. Others kept their plans, and their ideas, to themselves. With the year end approaching, it was generally a joyous time, for all, however.

At the King family home, this year, Christmas eve would be with just their own family, celebrating Keith being with them. The children would take turns reading the Christmas story from the family Bible. Then, stockings would be hung, in expectations of apples, oranges, nuts, and a few pieces of candy being there in the morning. Saint Nick would be visiting, as they each still wanted to believe the story and the spirit of the Christmas season. Christmas day would have a special meal, highlighted this year by a large goose that had been especially prepared during the year for the occasion. Katherine had a special family tradition plum pudding that she and Kate had prepared, so that Kate could carry on the tradition in her family one day.

The family had earlier gone up the hill on the south side of their farm where there were a good selection of pine trees of the right size for a Christmas tree. They had chosen one, together, and brought it back down to the house to be set up in a bucket of water and decorated. Karl and Katherine had made the decision not to put candles on the trees, as folks did, because of the fire hazard. They did, however, have a box of a dozen or so handmade ornaments the each of the family member had made, over the years. They also had made popcorn garlands with which to encircle the tree to add brightness. Each child received one big and one small present along with the stocking on Christmas morning. Living on a farm, of course, after receiving their gifts, and checking their stockings, there were farm chores to be done. The Goose was cooking, and they could smell the promise of a fine dinner to be had add mid-day.

Note from the author

This is the twenty-sixth episode of this short story series, and the sixth of what is now Volume Two. The stories are set in the Ozarks Mountains setting of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga historical fiction. This Episode approached the end of calendar year 1876, following the time period (1833-1875) of the forthcoming “Founding of the Homeplace” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the link, below.

The first 20 episodes of this series have now been compiled into an eBook, titled:

"The Kings of Oak Springs: The Arrival Months in 1876 Vol 1." See the link, below, to get yours.

“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

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