Home for Christmas?
Macculloch Hall Historical Museum counts among its collections a historic archive of the Macculloch-Miller family, founders and occupants of Macculloch Hall from 1810 through the 1940s. Among the family papers is a trove of letters from George (1775-1858) and Louisa Macculloch (1785-1863), pictured here, to their son, Francis (1801-1859). In the spirit of the holidays, we focus on the correspondence among mother, father and son during the month of December.
Christmas at the Macculloch’s, from the 1820s through the 1840s was ever busier and more populous, as George and Louisa’s grandchildren came to number nine. But in those years George found time to write letters to Francis who had settled in Salem, in South Jersey. At times, they included notes from Francis’s mother Louisa or his sister Mary Louisa (1804-1888).
On Christmas day in 1825, Louisa wrote that she had given a supper for “town and visiting lawyers,” and that Mary (recently married to Jacob Welch Miller) “has invited 86 people to her party.” Now “…every head of family invited must of course give her one.”
But in all the dozen Christmas letters in our archives, we read of longing for Francis to visit, or just to write, and sorrow that he hasn’t come to join them. Again on December 25, 1832 George bravely wrote to Francis, who had not yet married, sending Christmas wishes for “sober manly enjoyment…” and closing, “I am surrounded by a joyous band.”
In 1835, George had received the Christmas gift long wished for; Francis had married. George’s “annual Christmas letter” was sent with added blessings for the couple’s “wedded happiness.”
A letter dated in December, 1839 reveals that there was now a grandson to be even more joyful for. Louisa wrote to Francis, “You say we must hang Dear little Frank’s stocking with the other children’s, but the puzzle is what to put in it. He is too young for sugar plumbs (sic) or toys.”
Louisa continued that she had sent to Francis “…what I knew was indispensable in a Gentleman’s wardrobe…a strange present you will say for a lady to send a Gentleman, a pr. of Pantaloons.”
George continued for his wife, “Here your Mother is constrained, by pain & weakness, to stop. She has been for some time afflicted with Cough & pain in the breast…& at this moment wears a huge blister…” [a remedy of the time, to deliver heat to ease congestion.] “The earth has been invisible under snow for some weeks—All join in Love to Charlotte & yourself. Kiss little Francis for me…ever affectionately, Geo P Macculloch.”
We can only hope that, in those Decembers for which we find no letters, Francis had spent Christmas with the Maccullochs and Millers at “The Old House.”