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A Pioneer Christmas
in Lower Saginaw (Bay City).
  • Written by Eurdine Ringwelski in 1981.
  • Source: "Bay County Crier" newsletter published by the Bay County Historical Society.
  • Transcribed February 2004.
  • Story about the James McCormick family and the Center House which was built in 1835 by brothers, Joseph and Medor Tromble. This was the "first framed house" in Lower Saginaw (now Bay City). The McCormicks purchased the house from the Trombleys in 1841.

    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.

    Related Pages & Notes

    Tromble' Centre House
    In 1981, the Trombley House was moved from its original location on 24th and Water streets. It was towed by barge across the Saginaw River to its new home in Veterans Memorial Park.
    Related Pages: Pictorials/
    {Trombley House}
    McCormick, James
    McCormick, James J.
    McCormick, Sarah R.
    McCormick, Wm.R.
    Writings/Trombley House
    Guillette First Twins
    100th Anniversary
    Land Transactions
    People Referenced
    Father Richard
    McCormick, Sally
    Tromble, Medor
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Christmas day feast
    Detroit, MI
    French Catholic
    French eggnog
    Pioneer Christmas
    Pump organ
    Root cellar
    Saginaw River
    Scotch Presbyterians
    Scottish traditions
    Wild turkeys
    Internet Resources
    None at this time.
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.