An 1877 Christmas Story: Leadville’s Legacy of Giving
The Spirit of Christmas has always shined in the Cloud City, be it 2015 or in its early pioneer days. The following story was recorded in The Leadville Chronicle newspaper’s Christmas edition 1877.
The Sprague (boarding) House on Chestnut Street was the scene of a little incident on Christmas Eve that goes far towards illustrating the open handed generosity of the people who call the mountains of the great West their home. The time was eight o’clock and something like half a dozen persons were chatting out in the office when a little girl entered the room in a very modest child-like way, twirling an old faded baby stocking in her hands. She was but six or seven of age and stepping up to Mr. David Darnell, one of the proprietors, asked permission to hang the stocking on the book case so that Santa Claus would see it when he called. On being asked why she didn’t hang the stocking up in her mother’s room, she readily answered that Santa Claus would be in such a hurry that he might not take time to find the room.
The single faded hose was hung up by a nail on the side of the desk and the child went back in to the parlor. Inquiries were made into the circumstance by which the child was surrounded. And it was elicited that her mother was a widow woman in an almost impecunious condition awaiting means which would enable her to return to her old home in the East.
One gruff miner, with a heart as large as that of an ox, was touched by the. story. Brushing the moisture from his eyes, which he attributed to the severe cold, he arose from his chair by the stove, walked to the desk, and inspected the stocking. There were several holes in it and taking pins from the lapel of his coat, he mended the little faded stocking to the best of his ability. That task concluded, his hand went down into his pocket and out came a brand new silver dollar. Without a word he dropped the coin into the stocking and returned to his seat.
Another miner arose, went over to the desk, and placed another dollar in the stocking. A third man allowed that he would make a good Santa Claus and in went his dollar: The remainder of the crowd about the room were also affected by the touching appeal for aid, and in a few minutes the stocking had to be shaken down in order that it might be made to hold all the contributions. Some of the miners contributed to its fund several times and the result was that yesterday morning when the little girl took the stocking down she found upwards of 60 dollars resting snugly within.
The scene was a touching one and will not soon be forgotten by those present. Overjoyed at the handsome discovery she gave way to tears, child as she was, and clutching the precious stocking to her little breast she sobbed hysterically for a few moments and the hastened from the other room to her mother. The sum donated and hung in the stocking is sufficient to that that child and mother back to their former home, and the little one will be cheered on the wearisome journey by the constant thought that Santa Claus heard and rewarded her prayer for aid. And the great hearted men, who have made her so happy, have a conscious knowledge that their mites could not have been better placed.
May the spirit of this 1877 Leadville Christmas story remain in your heart throughout the season and the New Year!