Merry Raids and Fillberbustering
Bonham Daily Favorite December 25, 1994
From the writings of some of Texas earliest citizens it seems that the celebrations of the Christmas season took on a more secular tone after the separation from Mexico. The Mexican Catholic influence seemingly stifled any but the more serious observations before the influx of the Anglo settlers shortly before and after the revolution.
Whether from the harshness of frontier living with its constant dangers, the threat of Indian hostilities, or the lack of a Yuletide tradition in former homes, settlers in the Red River Valley seemed to have paid little attention to the season. Records are skimpy and writings and reminiscences of these first settlers seldom contain more than a passing reference to the season.
Official records of government entities in the area often reflect that it was business as usual on Christmas Day with certain official offices open for and conducting normal activities. Commercial businesses themselves indicate that the day was no different than the other 364.
Some of the more traditional efforts must have been brought to the area by the many of British and German descent who were among the first residents but it is not until well after the Civil War that we find much attention being paid to the December dates.
By the time we reach the last quarter of the nineteenth century that we see Yuletide traditions firmly entrenched in the area. One interesting aspect of the celebrations mentioned by the local press make one think more of the pranks and capers of the Halloween scene than of Christmas.
Today we shall return to Bonham of 120 years ago and let a guest columnist describe the local Christmas season for us. In the December 21, 1872 issue of The North Texas Enterprise editor and publisher Tom Burnett sets the tone for us.
Before we visit our readers again the old year will have passed away and the new year have entered upon the scene. Christmas, that gay and good time to both old and young with its multiplicity of pleasures and pastimes, its frolics and foibles, feast and fun, tricks and troubles will have come again. The "boys" will have their usual allotment of merry raids and fillerbusterings, muffling the church bells, unhinging gates, turning sign boards topsy-turvy, putting buggies to roost on the housetops, putting fences across the highways, bobbing horses, and spiriting away "bee-gums" to the confines of Bois d'Arc Bottoms.
The nimble footed devotees of the agile goddess Terpsichore will meet in the dance and trip away the merry hours in light fantastic reels and cotillions. Multiplied thousands of little stockings will be hung up to chairs, bedposts, and chimney corners to receive the rich dainties of good old Mr. Santa Claus and little curly heads will again be happy. Around the fireside the old folks will discuss the degeneracy of the times and talk of Merry Christmases of long ago.
Printers will be turned loose to have a holiday and editors will lay down their quills and scissors and go out to discuss railroads and fatted gobblers of their friends.
The preceding are the surface thoughts of the subjects before us. There are other and more serious reflections to be entertained upon the departure of the old year."
Christmas presents have changed greatly in the last 100 plus year or perhaps our tastes have changed from the incessant bombardment of today's media extolling the newest flashing, smoking, beeping, toy that every American child has a right to demand under his Christmas tree.
In 1880 J.W. Peeler offered suggestions to the people of Bonham and Fannin County for gifts. He advertised that in stock he had 1000 dolls, 100 toilet sets and vases, 1 carload of photograph albums, pearl and shell card cases (when the calling card was still demanded) all in the latest styles, Majolica wear too numerous to mention, 500 celluloid Bibles and Testaments, accordians and violins, a great variety of Chinese work boxes, 50 smoking sets, the Aldine autograph album, and the largest line of holiday books ever seen in one store."
In 1888 Pierce and Dyer on the north side of the square advertised that this year Santa Claus' headquarters was in their store to be found in one of their three well stocked departments .
"We have an elegant stock of jewelry and silverware, if you want a watch or ring or anything in jewelry or silverwear, at such prices that you will wonder where we stole them.
In our book department we have taken special pains to lay before you a better stock of holiday books than heretofore and invite your inspection of the same. We have Bibles, dictionaries, poems, novels, histories, story books, picture books, Christmas cards 5 to 35 cents, picture blocks, building blocks, puzzles, maps, games of all kinds, autograph albums, picture albums, frames, misses plush dressing cases, shaving sets, jewel cases, work boxes, work baskets, fine library stands, lamps, plaques, panels, perfume cases, perfumes in cut glass bottles, dolls, carriages, toy dishes, tools and chests, hobby horses, toy guns and pistols, Christmas candles to put on trees. Santa Claus can be seen at our store because this is his headquarters .
SO, FROM THE PAST AND FROM THE PRESENT A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM BOIS D ' ARC SKETCHES.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas