Bay County Crier Newsletter - 1981
Bay County Historical Society
Pioneer Christmas With McCormick Family
The old Tromble "Center House" will rest placidly on the opposite bank of the Saginaw River this Yule season. It is preserved with all its traditions and haunting memories of past festivities for future Bay City generations to show what a real pioneer Christmas on the river was like. The house sits calmly for historical tales to be woven and once again to be the scene of merriment, children and lights of those early Christmases.
The custom most dear to the McCormicks, who were staunch Scotch Presbyterians, was the joyous occassion of Christmas. The holiday season with special adopted Schottish traditions began to fill the house long before arrival of Father Christmas.
By the Christmas of 1846, all of the McCormick children lived in the massive house on the river with their parents and participated in the seasonal preparations. Potatoes, corn, squash, apples and pumpkins, which were now raised on the primises, had been harvested long before ice covered the fields.
On the day before Christmas, the produce was brought up from the root cellar to be transformed into those delicacies and succulent desserts that the holiday demanded. These aromas filled the house and heat generated from the baking steamed the windows, which had to be constantly wiped clear to watch family hunters who were out trying their luck with wild turkeys.
Venison was already on the spit and eggs were almost whipped for the French eggnog toast to Sally, the third McCormick daughter, and Medor Tromble, who were betrothed for a wedding set for the spring.
Hidden in the attics were some surprises from Father Christmas for the young ones. Peppermint sticks, hair ribbons, and tiny pocket knives that came all the way from Detroit would be found on Christmas morning beside knitted mittens and lilac scented soaps there were made in the early autumn.
McCormick relatives, who then populated the prairies beyond the river, would be welcomed to the Christmas day feast. After supper, chewing tobacco and brandy would always circulate among the men while the women congregated around the small pump organ that Mrs. McCormick brought all the way from Albany. She furnished the music while the rest united in songs.
This was not simply a secular holiday to the Presbyterian McCormicks and the French Catholic Trombles. These families remembered the season for the many religious festivities. Even if traveling Father Richard could not make his way through the snow and forest infested with wolves and "pagan Indians" to celebrate Mass or offer prayers, the devoted always rejoiced in the Christ child's birth.
The lonely old house sitting without a foundation on the west bank of the Saginaw River will display no merry lights nor a wreath on its door this year. It will slumber and recoup its energies for future Christmas festivities there.