How did the settlers in Lee’s Creek, come together to bring Christmas even though their situation started out very bleak?
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CHRISTMAS Comes to Lee’s Creek
IT WAS summer when the settlers arrived at Lee’s Creek and pitched their tents along its wooded banks—the summer of 1887. The morning after the pioneers arrived, it snowed, giving this covered wagon party from Cache Valley a greeting to Canada they never forgot.
In the tents where the immigrants huddled around campfires to keep themselves warm, there was talk of home—home in the mountains.
“Mom, you said we would be home tonight,” whimpered four-year-old Wilford Woolf, and there were tears in his questioning eyes.
“My dear, we are home. This will be home from now on,” said the mother bravely.
But Wilford was puzzled. “But Mom, if this is home where are all the houses?”
He had looked around in wonder as had his mother and all the mothers in President Card’s party who had left Logan two months before for the north—North to the Prairies—to found a new settlement for the Saints.
Wilford looked out of the tent. “Mom, it’s snowing!” he cried, and not without delight added: “It’ll soon be Christmas, I guess. Will we have Santa Claus here, Mom?”
Mom said there would be a Santa Claus and gifts, too, and a big Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. And Wilford was laughing as he ventured outside into this new, strange world where it snowed in June and which was to be home from now on.
And the mother pondered these things and tucked that thought of Christmas close to her heart. It remained there as the summer waned and autumn brought the first harvest and the quiet change from green to gold and yellow and brown in the brush along Lee’s Creek.
THEN came the snow and at night the haunting call of the geese flying south. And the mother thought of her old home—home in the mountains. And she wondered if someone in the colony besides herself would think of Christmas.
Someone besides herself did think of Christmas. Of course, she would think of Christmas; she thought of everything. Yes, “Aunt Zina” one day invited all the mothers to her home, no children allowed. That looked mighty suspicious with Christmas so close.
Other secret gatherings were held. “Aunt Zina,” wife of the beloved President Card and daughter of President Brigham Young called it a Sewing Club, and it was. Out of scrap bags brought with them from Utah, these mothers and their older girls extracted an amazing variety of things—bits of silk, satin, and plush, thread, beads, buttons, and what not. Sewing machines they had none, but the women did have thimbles and needles, pins and scissors, and they were all expert sewers, especially “Aunt Zina” who directed the work.
It was fun for these enthusiastic allies of Santa Claus as they fashioned clever workbags; rag dolls with bodies made of flour sacks and stuffed with wool; bright balls for the boys and other playthings all tucked neatly away for the festive season. Christmas stockings were made of mosquito netting which the Saints had also brought with them. In the summer it had been useful in the homes, now it was to serve another and more colorful purpose. Along with the toys the women soon had homemade candy, a few nuts, and one lone orange gathered together for the great day, their first Christmas in Canada.
CAME Christmas, and the towering community tree brought from the mountains by a group of the fathers was ablaze with gifts and decorations. There were even some Christmas candles twinkling in the traditional manner among the branches. The tree was in President Card’s hospitable home, and around it the children danced in surprise and joy, receiving their gifts from Santa Claus.
The grown-ups came in later to enjoy the festivities with their children and to exchange Christmas greetings and best wishes for the New Year! “Merry Christmas!” chimed the kiddies as they kissed their mothers and fathers, and Christmas carols were sung.
Then in the individual homes Christmas feasts were served, just as Sister Woolf had assured Wilford they would be. And they were feasts indeed! Delicious, baked prairie chicken and pheasants were an appropriate substitute for turkey. The wild fowl and dressing, vegetables grown in the pioneer gardens that summer, cakes, and steamed puddings made from dried fruits—these bounties of the land were enjoyed to the full that first Christmas on Lee’s Creek.
That night the immigrants held their first dance, also at the Card home. The one-man orchestra consisted of Brother La Grande Robinson with his mouth organ. But he wasn’t to be denied his fun, for he danced with the belles of the ball as he played rollicking old tunes on his harmonica.
It was near midnight when Brother Robinson put his mouth organ in his pocket, and President Card closed the happy Christmas party with prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing that filled every heart with gladness as parents joined their children in little log cabins in the new village on Lee’s Creek.