When Holyoke Took No Notice of Christmas

by Laurel | December 24th, 2011

23 December 1923

No Recognition of Occasion found in Local Paper of 1849

Plan to Name the Town Cosopolis

Hampden, Fumopolis and Spindletown Also Were Urged as Names for New Town in 1849

On December 22, 1849 and exactly a week previous to that the Hampden Freeman, the weekly paper in “Ireland Parish” as Holyoke was then called, issues a four-page sheet as usual. This was a precursor to the Holyoke Transcript, an ancestor perhaps it might be called. The surprising thing about those issues of December 15 and December 22 is that there is not a word about Christmas either in the reading matter or in the advertisements! Not an advertisement of Christmas presents, not a notice about an observance or celebration of Christmas! For the Hampden Freeman, Christmas did not exist in Ireland Parish or Ireland Depot. For the advertisers Christmas did not exist. In other words, about 75 years ago Christmas was not upon the map. And still more surprising bu comparison is that early in February of the following year there were advertisements of valentines for February 14 and notices to some extent of St. Valentine’s day being observed.

But why the omission of Christmas? Was it then considered in poor form to observe Christmas in New England? Surely we have stories of Christmas gatherings and Christmas events that even antedate the year of our Lord 1849. But as one reads the papers of today, full of Christmas plans and full of Christmas advertising, the contrast with the newspapers and the apparent indifference of the newspaper public comes as no little shock. One would hardly believe that 75 years ago Christmas was made so little of in a New England town. The absence of Christmas advertising is no less remarkable than the fact that not a single advertisement of goods, either eatable or wearable carries a single price. This must have been the day for bargaining. Endless lists of good but no prices.

Holyoke Was To Be Hampden

Browsing through these old newspapers always results in the finding of novel and generally unknown facts. On December 29, 74 years ago, a meeting was held at the “school building on Chestnut Street” at which it was voted in favor of the dividing of West Springfield and that the new or Holyoke part be known as Hampden. Warren Chapin presided and it seems that some desired the new town to bear the somewhat remarkable name Cosopolis; others thought that Fumopolis might do and still others suggested the somewhat appropriate name of Spindletown on account of the canals then in the works to make the new town a cotton manufacturing city. The suggestions were cast aside; and the petition that went to the General Court as for the “new city” to be known as Hampden. They went down with a petition to that effect and they came back with a charter for Holyoke. Who can explain the change?

In the same issue is the news of the formation of the “Trinity Church” the first Episcopal church in Holyoke. S. K. Hutchinson and J. L. Moffatt were the wardens and the first rector then and there chosen was Rev. Henry W. Adams of Springfield. The first meetings of the new church were held in a commodious apartment in the passenger station of the Connecticut River railroad.

Looking over the advertisements one finds several of “camphene or burning fluid.” Camphene was a highly volatile liquid and a camphene lamp has three small round wicks as a rule. Once in a while they can be found in an old Holyoke attic today. This was the day before cheap kerosene and early kerosene days were not exactly safe. Even later when kerosene got to be reasonably safe, sharpers used to sell colored sand, as a “preventative: against accidents. Of course it could not and did not prevent accidents but scores bought it just the same — as they buy other equally foolish things today.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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