By Mick Woodcock

Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday in 1873 in Prescott; the day dawned clear and cool. The snow of the previous week remained only on the hills, and the Weekly Arizona Miner reported that the streets were drying and navigable.

The previous weeks had seen the pages of the Weekly Arizona Miner carrying news of proposed events and advocating for others. As examples: “Prescott Sabbath School people are talking of making a Christmas tree, for the children. Go ahead. We will assist.” and “Christmas Eve would be a good time for a big dance and supper, to which the managers might summons Gen. Crook, who, owing to a retiring disposition, has never yet been in Prescott four hours, or seen one-fourth of its people. Let us be jovial, as the year is kicking the bucket.” Both were in the December 5, 1873, edition of the newspaper.

As the month progressed, plans firmed up. Two events were noted in the December 19th edition of the newspaper. “A grand ball will be given at the Court House, Christmas Eve, by the Silsbee Bro’s. Tickets, including supper, $10.” “The boys at Fort Whipple, will give a public entertainment on Christmas Eve, comprising theatrical performance, ball and supper. Tickets $3.”

While there was no lack of general merchandise stores in town, there was little Christmas advertising. Kelly & Stephens was an exception.  “Messrs. Kelly & Stephens have just received a fine assortment of toys and fancy goods suitable for presents to young and old folks.” The advertisement ran in the December 19th newspaper, which also carried a Nifty Saloon ad. An advertisement for clothing appeared for C. P. Head, a prominent local merchant, but not until the December 26th edition.

Food was a major topic in the Weekly Arizona Miner leading up to Christmas. Although reported in the December 26th newspaper, the original articles appeared in earlier daily editions. “Messrs. Hall, Rodgers and others from Chino Valley, came in Saturday with various kinds of produce.” “Sol. And Al. Jackson and party are expected to arrive in town Tuesday night or Wednesday, with a wagon load of ducks, geese, quail and fish, from the Verde, all good food for Christmas.” “P. McAteer brought in a load of turkeys on Sunday, which went off like hot cakes.” For those interested in Christmas baking, eggs were selling for $1.50 a dozen, butter for $1.25 per pound and milk for 80 cents a gallon. 

The January 2, 1874, edition of the Arizona Weekly Miner reported the events of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The performance, ball and supper at Fort Whipple were hailed a success. Although the Sabbath School apparently failed to have a Christmas tree for the local children, those at the Fort had one of their own. The ball at the Courthouse was noted as a “creditable affair” and the various private parties were well attended, including one given by the young bachelors of the community.

To show the true Christmas spirit in town, a gift was given to the local school teacher. “By way of showing their appreciation of Miss Kelly, our Prescott schoolmarm, the citizens made up the sum of $112, which was enclosed by Co. C. P. Head to Gen. Crook with the request that he would present the same to Miss Kelly, Christmas morning, which he did.” This would be over $2500 in today’s dollars.

Although there was an altercation in which the town night watchman was shot in the side, he was not seriously injured. The celebration was largely peaceful and orderly despite the newspaper noting that “an unusual amount of intoxicating liquor was drank.”


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