By Lora Abernathy
POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A new shirt, a new mug or a sweet tart were as fancy as Christmas gifts got in the 1770s.
Most presents were homemade and practical during this time, according to Barbara Kemper, the secretary and treasurer of the Fort Randolph Committee in Point Pleasant, W.Va. The organization annually hosts Christmas on the Frontier at Krodel Park at Fort Randolph. This year’s event is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5.
Approximately 20 re-enactors will engage with the public to show them how Americans’ ancestors in the 1770s would have celebrated Christmas during the event. They can see how people decorated their homes, what they ate, what games they played and what they gave as gifts.
“Christmas wasn’t about kids and getting gifts,” according to Craig Hesson, chairman of the committee. “If there was gift giving … the master of the house may give his servant something or anyone below his station, but you never gave the other direction. Kids didn’t really get Christmas gifts per se, maybe something small.”
The decorations were simple, too, made with pine, holly and perhaps a ribbon. Anything that was green during the winter months, Hesson said, was brought inside to brighten up the home.
Hesson said Christmas was about spending time with friends and family because everyone lived so far apart. There were balls, dinners, horse races, fox hunting and other competitions.
“It was about family and religion,” Hesson said. “Recognizing the Lord’s birth was really the focus.”
There will be several ongoing demonstrations held at the park. Cookies and hot cider will be served and the gift shop, The Trading Post, will be open. Members of the public can also make their own 18th-century decorations. There will be gatherings in the tavern to answer questions from the public.
The 1770s is an important time in history for the region because Fort Randolph was the western-most outpost in 1777, according to Kemper. The military fort was built in 1776 and burned in 1779. It was where the murder of Chief Cornstalk took place, an event that is re-enacted by the committee each year in May.
“We’d love to see people come out and share in our 18th-century traditions and history,” Hesson said.
For more information, contact Hesson at [email protected], 304-675-7933 or visit fortrandolph.org.
Lora is the editor of Salt magazine. Originally from West Virginia and a proud Marshall University graduate, she lives in Hillsboro, Ohio, with her husband, Gary, is mom to a Great Dane and Yellow Lab, and trains and competes in triathlons. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @AbernathyLora.