A Christmas Letter from 1884 Miles City
Posted by Shelley Horsley Cruz (+8) 9 years ago
A Christmas Letter
From Cynthia Fulsom Weymouth Burg (my great grandmother)
To her sister Olivia in Chicago

Miles City, Montana Territory
December 25, 1884

My dear Lily,

No doubt you have worried about us, having heard of the great blizzard in mid-December. It was indeed a trial for our friends beyond the city, but for us it was a thrilling spectacle. There was hard work for Charles and his strong Indian helper for several days ---clearing paths around the house, and carrying in wood enough to keep the stoves going day and night.

I kept the oven in my fine new range busy with my Christmas baking. In September I put down a large crock of mincemeat. The order for currants, walnuts, tart apples, fine white sugar, cinnamon, whole nutmegs and suet; and those vital ingredients, French cognac and Spanish Sherry, was not the easiest Charles ever filled. Yet it was all collected in due time. I made the usual twelve pies for our neighbors and four for us. Ernestine begged to be allowed to go with Papa to deliver them. She's a thoughtful little one and she delights people with her dignified manner and sometimes amazing vocabulary----for a not quite four year old sprite!

Weeks after her recovery from diphtheria she was quite withdrawn----but now that her rich brown hair has grown back, curling so prettily around her face, she loves to put on her white bonnet with ermine tips and the beautiful red velvet coat from "Aunt Lily back East" and go a-calling. Before the blizzard she took one of my new canaries to Father Kupman, and since he was making communion wafers, he allowed her to "help".

You cannot imagine how elegant our parlor is now. The new French wallpaper Charles awaited so anxiously arrived, after five long months, in late October. It is a delicate shell pink with gold stars twinkling over it. (In our bedroom it is blue with silver stars.) The Aubusson carpet is cream with roses. My mahogany what-not displays your photograph, and the handsome likeness of the Queen, as well as the shells and butterflies from long-ago days by the sea.

This fall I employed some long evenings sewing a replica of Ernestine's christening dress---lace insertions and all-- for the baby doll Charles ordered from St. Louis. He burned the midnight oil several nights before Christmas covering walnuts with gold and silver foil he so sedulously collects from cigar boxes. He also popped corn and made sparkling white balls of it with boiled sugar syrup. When the little pine tree was all attired in gold and silver and white, he took down the precious box of Berlin memories----exquisitely delicate gold paper stars and the papier-mache angel and voila! The loveliest Christmas tree in the world.

It was indeed a cold Christmas Eve---"In dark December- the owl for all his feathers was a'cold". I went to bed early, aching a bit as you do dear, with our family
Rheumatism-- but Charles sat up the whole night to keep the fires burning.

At six in the morning of Christmas Day the temperature outside was still forty degrees below zero. But in our snug new house all was warm and bright. Ernestine was difficult to restrain in her eagerness to see what St. Nicholas had wrought in the parlor. We had our breakfast of creamed codfish and hot biscuits and steaming hot chocolate. Then at last Papa threw open the parlor door and we three sang "Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum." Ernestine, in her red merino wool robe, stood in rapt silence a moment--then danced toward the tree to touch a silvered walnut- The doll was swept up in her arms- and she turned to her own little chair- to see the greatest surprise of all-- It was a gleaming white deer skin costume just to fit a little girl, all embroidered in sky-blue crystal beads-- a gift of Charles's Indian friends!

O my dear Sister, who can describe the look of a little girl on a magical Christmas morn of deepest cold and snow---warm and safe in her own snug parlor? In that moment I was very near to Vermont in our Bethel home with Mama and Papa, you and Dan and Mary and Annie----

With dearest love to you, Lily, and our hearts' warmest wishes for your happiness in 1885-

Your devoted sister,


[This message has been edited by Shelley Horsley Cruz (12/5/2014)]
Posted by David Schott (+19051) 9 years ago
Cool letter, Shelley. Thanks for sharing.

Makes me wonder if Ernestine's "amazing" vocabulary included any words she overheard Papa saying.

And creamed codfish for breakfast... doesn't that sound scrumptious?
Posted by Jeri Dalbec (+3260) 9 years ago
Thank you for sharing. It is so fun to read about those times. I do have to admit that I could not fathom creamed Cod Fish. Oh dear.
Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15595) 9 years ago
Cool letter! Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+18761) 9 years ago
You people are philistines. Creamed codfish is delicious.

Hmmmm.....I do have a box of salt cod in the back of my refrigerator. I would bet dollars to donuts that I am the only miles citian or former miles citian reading these forums who can say such a thing.

Mincemeat pie sounds worse. I remember mincemeat when I was a kid, never a fan of it.

And, yes, very cool letter. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Perelandra (+28) 9 years ago
Lovely! Thanks for sharing. I love the beautiful picture of friendship in the buckskin beaded dress. Any idea where the home was located?
Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+586) 9 years ago
Thank you. That was very nice of you to post.
Posted by Amorette Allison (+12826) 9 years ago
I'll stick to Christmas Eve leftovers, thank you. I'd rather have plain old porridge than steamed codfish although, who knows, it may be tasty.

Thanks for posting this letter. It is a delight.
Posted by Dr Mac (+77) 9 years ago
This reminds us all of the importance of sharing our holiday memories with our friends and relatives. Letter writing and thank you notes seem to be a lost art.

Also not a fan of mincemeat, but love holiday cookie baking and sharing with neighbors and friends. I usually make 12 different kinds of cookies and/or candies and put them into several cases of 12 Mason jars to share with friends and family -- the 12 Jars of Christmas!! Hope all of us have a joyous Christmas and remember our less fortunate friends and neighbors.
Posted by Shelley Horsley Cruz (+8) 8 years ago
Thank you all for your comments! I don't know where the house was located, but I am quite sure my grandmother told me that it was a log home.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!
Posted by Shelley Horsley Cruz (+8) 8 years ago
Enjoy your codfish!
It is funny about mincemeat..... I think I actually like it better than those dense dark fruitcakes! They both were a part of my childhood christmas memories...... and then again there was plum pudding with hard sauce. ( I just ate the hard sauce until I couldn't stand any more sugar in my system!)

Thank you for your comments... I am so glad you enjoyed the letter! All that I have from Cynthia besides the letter is her eyeglasses in a case..
Posted by Bart Freese (+926) 8 years ago
That is a great letter. Thank you for posting and Merry Christmas.
Posted by Jim Birkholz (+186) 8 years ago
The only mention of this family that I could find in the Hoopes book, was about the daughter:
"Burg, Mary Ernestine: Yellowstone Journal, 26Apr1884, One of the 'little folk' about town, birthday party, three years old.

I've collected some raw info from the interwebs and it is temporarily parked on a wiki page that I started for Charles Burg. I'll try to edit the material down in the next week.