My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Friday, December 23, 2011

THURSDAY'S TREASURE - Turn-of-the-Century Christmas in the Horst Home, Mobile, Alabama

Vintage Christmas Postcard  ca. 1900

In my father's family research folders there are thousands of pages of notes, copies of records, letters from family and replies from officials. So it was a wonderful surprise to find a typewritten letter from Regina Lane (1893-1979), my first cousin, 3x removed. She had typed out a nine page "Horst Family Tree", writing as many names, dates and stories as she knew. On a page in the middle of the history is a story she titled "A Little Christmas Fable."

Mary Regina Altice was the oldest of three children born to Emma Elizabeth Horst (1865-1923) and Charles Monroe Altice (1864-1943). Her mother, Emma, was the the fifth of eight children born to Martin Horst (1830-1878) and Apollonia Weinschenk (1829-1908), my great-great-great-grandparents. [My great-great-grandfather was Charles Frederick Horst (1856-1912), Emma's older brother and Regina's uncle.]

Ladies Home Journal
December 1898
Regina married late in life, at age 43. On April 14, 1937, in Mobile, Alabama, she married Maurice Joseph Lane, an insurance man born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was 51 when they married. Regina and Maurice had a 3-month long honeymoon in Europe and lived in Newton, Massachusetts when they returned, a suburb of Boston. Their life together lasted only five short years; Maurice died November 1942. Regina moved back to her hometown of Mobile after his death. In her remaining years she became very involved in service to her church, St. Joseph's Catholic Church, as well as to the community. She was recognized by Pope Pius XII for her service when he awarded her the Pro-Ecclesia-et-Pontificise medal, the highest award that can be bestowed by the Pope to a non-clergy member. Regina died on June 17, 1979, at the age of 85.

In her story, Regina recounts what Christmas was like at her grandmother's home at the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century. Her grandparents were both immigrants from Germany, the culture that introduced Christmas trees to the American Christmas celebrations. Regina's grandfather had died fifteen years before she was born, but her grandmother along with her aunt Apollonia "Appie" (1870-1942) and cousin Apollonia Manson (1894-1972) still lived in the family home Martin Horst had built after the Civil War.

Here is her story. . .

A Christmas Fable
"Christmas Eve was a most thrilling and exciting time in the Horst family life. Grandma's beautiful mansion was gay with happy grandchildren. Twenty-three she had, of course some lived in Toronto, Canada, and some in Birmingham, who wouldn't be here for the festivities.
Liberty Head Half Eagle
$5.00 Gold Coin (1839-1908)
Each Christmas time Grandma bought the largest Christmas tree she could find. It always reached to the high ceiling and was decorated in garlands of cranberries, strung on long cords, and garlands of pop corn, and many, many exquisite colored glass ornaments and balls, and tiny candle holders, holding small red candles snapped on the branch ends, and all lighted, till we stood, awe struck at the glowing sight. At about dark the door bell rang, and there was Santa Claus tinkling a bell. He was our Aunt Anna and we never even dreamed it, for we all thought he was straight from the North Pole.

Liberty Head Quarter Eagle
$2.50 Gold Coin (1840-1907)
He came into the parlor and shook each one's hand and gave use each an envelope, with a gold $2.50 piece in it. My sister Zoe always got a $5.00 gold piece in hers because Grandma loved her very much. Then we all received stockings stuffed with oranges, apples, nuts, and small gifts. All the older members of the party had wine and fruit-cake, while we had our goodies of a different kind. There was singing and the children danced, and a good time was had by all, then drowsy and tired we thanked our dear Grandma and a merry good-night was wished to all." 
Vintage Postcard ca.1908

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