As Cheraw prepares for an old fashioned Christmas celebration this Saturday, filled with activities for the whole family, how about a glimpse into Cheraw’s Christmas past?
Excerpts from the Dec. 17, 1908 issue of the Cheraw Chronicle, available for public viewing at the Matheson Memorial Library on Huger Street in Cheraw, give one an idea of how different life in Chesterfield County was more than 100 years ago. But it may surprise you to find that one or two things, still happening here, have not changed all that much.
On Dec. 24, that year, the Sunday school “scholars” of St. David’s Episcopal Church invited the community to gather at Town Hall with a gift to “tie on the Christmas tree for the poor children of the Orphanage. After the tree has been decorated in this way, there will be carols and recitations.”
“Good Things to Eat” were advertised for sale that year at Walter’s Cash Store, especially ham. It was going for 15 cents a pound. Also on the Christmas list of must have foods were mince meat, Queen olives, Heinz’s pickles, cranberries, figs, cocoanut, raisins, currants, prunes, dates, Malaga grapes, bananas, oranges and walnuts.
Cheraw was looking forward to the opening of a new bank that Christmas, as well as the return of Madam Eldon, a clairvoyant and palm reader. According to that same issue in 1908, “Madam Eldon has rooms in the old bank building, Cheraw, office hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.”
A letter written to Madam Eldon was also printed. “Madam Eldon, Clairvoyant, Dear Friend: Your prediction of the San Francisco earthquake and your warning in regard to me carrying insurance on my property saved me great financial loss. All my property was destroyed by fire, but I have just received my insurance which is $58,000 through your wonderful advice. I enclose check for $500 as a reward. Without your advice I would be penniless today. Your most sincere friend, M. J. Sheppard.”
Men’s hats, made by the Melville of Broadway, New York, were advertised for that year for $2 and $3.
Wannamaker’s, which is still in business on Market Street in Cheraw, advertised “toys in abundance” and “dolls in great variety” in 1908. Some of the items listed can still be found there, buts others are not so popular anymore. Their list of Christmas gifts included solid gold brooches, brush and comb sets, necktie cases, shaving mirrors, fine pipes, cuff and collar boxes, sterling silverware, fine perfumery, coffee sets, and Waterman’s fountain pens.
In news unrelated to Christmas, local citizens, at that time, were concerned about the conditions of the county’s roads and planned to do something about it. An article headlined, Call For Good Roads Convention, reads: “On Thursday, the 7th day of January 1909, all the people of Chesterfield County who are interested in good roads are called upon to meet at the Court House at 10 o’clock, a.m.: The meeting will be known as a good roads convention. Our representatives want to get the views of all our people so they can be better prepared to make some much needed changes to our present road law. E.R. Knight, Co. Sup. for Chesterfield Co.”
Chesterfield County politicians are currently preparing a “wish list” for proposed projects through the Capital Sales Tax Project, which Chesterfield County Council has proposed to place on the ballot for 2014.
So, as you enjoy ChristmasFest, an event sponsored by the Town of Cheraw, take note of Cheraw’s long history. In addition to the day’s activities, you might even want to call the town’s cell phone tour, 843-865-3002, for other reminder’s of what life was like in Old Cheraw.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.