The horse-and-buggy days will return to the DeSoto County seat once more this Saturday when the Time Traveler hops in a carriage for a guided tour around the historic court square and along the city’s quiet streets, past homes and cemeteries where the county’s legendary founders lie sleeping under ancient magnolias and elms.
The tour, which will last from 1-3 p.m. this Saturday afternoon, is part of the “Town Square Dickens of a Christmas” celebration which is being presented by the City of Hernando in conjunction with the Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Open House and the DeSoto County Museum. Other related events will last until 5 p.m.
The tour, conducted by Chrissy’s Carriage Tours of Memphis and sponsored by the DeSoto County Museum, will recreate an atmosphere of the Victorian era during the holiday season.
Visitors will be able to enjoy the first Christmas Farmers Market complete with holiday wares. The Lion’s Club will have their famous pecans for sale and folks can stop by for a freshly brewed cup of coffee, hot cocoa or cider, prepared by Coffee Central Squared, as well as other tasty treats from local farmers market vendors.
Yours truly will be dressed in period clothing and talk about the Victorian era in the DeSoto County seat. Charles Dickens’ characters will be walking and singing in the local businesses and historic downtown to bring joy to the season, thanks to the DeSoto Family Theatre and Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Northwest Mississippi Community College and DeSoto County Career Tech West will delight visitors with Christmas food demonstrations, children will meet Santa Claus in the courthouse, make a Christmas ornament, decorate cookies and get a free children’s book from Excel By 5.
It seems Christmas time in DeSoto County has always been special.
Way back during the Victorian era in DeSoto County a set of Charles Dickens novels was being advertised in the local paper for $3. “Nothing has given the writings of Charles Dickens so strong a hold upon the parents as his excellent portrayal of children,” read an advertisement.
The front page of the “Press and Times,” forerunner to the DeSoto Times-Tribune, greeted readers with this cheerful message on Dec. 20, 1877:
“Swiftly now comes on Christmas day and merrily rings the sweet Christmas bells,” the paper proclaimed. “The stockings will soon be pulled down and emptied of their contents as the apples roll on the floor, popcorn scattered about, and the gingerbread men set up in soldier-like rows.”
This time of year a half a century ago, young boys were busy collecting money to buy Christmas presents by getting “five bucks a piece for a beaver tail,” according to the old Times-Promoter, the volumes of which are now part of the DeSoto County Museum collection and Pittman Family Newspaper Archive. The Sheriff would pay the children for the beaver skins and dispose of the pesky varmints.
News of the day could have been pulled from today’s headlines.
“Turks being outmatched by the Russians,” blared one headline on the front page of an 1877 edition.
It just goes to show that time doesn’t stand still and if you live long enough, you just might witness history repeating itself.
More than 143 years ago, B.F. Griffin of Hernando was offering a $50 reward for his stolen mule.
In local drugstores, Burnett’s Cocaine was being sold and was said to “give new life” to those who took it.
Railway riots in New York City cost the State of New York $206,000 to quell.
John Fennel of Horn Lake was advertising his services as an attorney, and unbeknownst to the people of DeSoto County, the dreaded yellow fever epidemic was less than a year away.
The bells would toll that season for another reason, other than the joyous peals of Christmas time.
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.