Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's in 1830

Our guest today is author Donna Winters!

An 1830 New Year’s Celebration

As we approach the New Year, I wondered how the characters of my recent release, Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal, would have celebrated in 1830. The hero’s family lived in the canal village of Brockport, New York, about twenty miles west of Rochester. The heroine lived on a wheat farm a few miles north of the village. A little research brought to light a variety of possibilities for these two families.

Greetings of the day. 

New Year’s Day was not a formally declared holiday like Thanksgiving and Independence Day, but “happy new year” greetings were commonly exchanged, in contrast to Christmas, which was purposely ignored by those of Puritan roots. (See my article on Early American Christmas Traditions at )

Work, as usual. 

For many, New Year’s Day of 1830, which fell on a Friday, would have been a normal work day. Out on the farm, my eighteen-year-old heroine, Lucina, attended to chores such as feeding the cow, pigs, chickens, and draft horses; milking and gathering eggs; cooking and sewing. School would have been in session but her younger siblings, being a rather illiterate lot, were not attending the country school.

A time for reflection and prayer. 

For my twenty-four-year-old hero, Ezra, New Year ’s Day in the village would certainly have included the exchange of holiday greetings with family, and those he met in the village. Businesses would have been operating, but his Congregational Church may also have been open for services calling on parishioners to spend some time in solemn self-examination and prayer.

Debt reckoning. 

For some, New Year’s Day marked a new start economically. Ezra’s father may have paid his town and village taxes on New Year’s Day, cleared up debts owed to merchants on Main Street, and collected tuition due him by students attending his private academy.


Because of the ban on Christmas observed by many, gift-exchange emerged as a common practice at New Year’s. Books were very common as gifts, and Ezra’s father, being a scholarly sort, probably purchased a copy of The Young Woman’s Guide for his daughters and The Young Man’s Guide for his sons. His wife may have received a copy of The Token, a yearly Boston publication which was a collection of stories, essays, and engraved illustrations.

Out on the farm, where only Papa could read, gifts would have tended toward the practical, the necessary, or the occasionally fancy. Papa could carve wood, and might have produced a small figurine or two for his daughters. Mama may have applied her domestic skills to the production of knitted mufflers, socks, mittens, or hats for her children and Papa. The gift-giving tended more toward the children so it’s doubtful the youngsters would have given gifts to their parents.

A time for socializing. 

Although daytime activities closely resembled those of any other workday, the evening was clearly a time to celebrate. Ezra and other young men and women of the village may have attended a party, a dance, or gone for a sleigh ride. His parents probably called on friends or entertained those who came to call. Similarly, out on the farm, Papa may have hitched up the team for a sleigh ride to the neighbor’s for an evening of hot cider and speculation on next year’s wheat crop.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the New Year, I wish you health, happiness, good cheer, safety, and peace-of-mind through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Donna adopted Michigan as her home state in 1971 when she moved from a small town outside of Rochester, New York. She began penning novels in 1982 while working full time for an electronics firm in Grand Rapids.
She resigned from her job in 1984 following a contract offer for her first book. Since then, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Zondervan Publishing House, Guideposts, and Bigwater Publishing have published her novels. Her husband, Fred, a former American History teacher, shares her enthusiasm for history. Together, they visit historical sites, restored villages, museums, and lake ports, purchasing books and reference materials for use in Donna’s research.
Donna has written fifteen historical romances for her Great Lakes Romances® series. Recently, she turned her attention to her hometown on the Erie Canal and produced an historical novel, Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal, which released as a paperback in June 2012, and has now been offered in Kindle format for 99 cents.

You can find all of Donna’s book and contact information at her blog:

Here’s a little about Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal

Dreams of floating on the Erie Canal have flowed through Lucina Willcox’s mind since childhood. Yet once her family has purchased their boat and begins their journey, they meet with one challenge after another. An encounter with a towpath rattlesnake threatens her brother’s life. A thief attempts to break in and steal precious cargo. Heavy rain causes a breach and drains the canal of water. Lucina comforts herself with thoughts of Ezra Lockwood, her handsome childhood friend, and discovers a longing to be with him that she just can’t ignore. Can she have a future with Ezra and still hold onto her canalling dream?

Ezra Lockwood’s one goal in life is to build and captain his own canal boat, but two years into the construction of his freight hauler, funds run short. With his goal temporarily stalled, and Lucina Willcox back in his life, his priorities begin to change. Can he have both his dreams — his own boat, and Lucina as his bride?

1 comment:

Great Lakes Romances said...

Thanks for allowing me the privilege of ringing out the old year and bringing in the new with a reflection on times in the distant past here at Novel Pastimes.
Donna Winters