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.'”

Santee Sioux Police Station, Santee Mission, 1904/07. This shows the Santee Sioux Police Station located at the Santee Sioux Mission in Knox County, Nebraska.

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