Some readers, particularly those in Jefferson County, may be interested in Christmas events which occurred in Dandridge and White Pine many years ago. In both instances, the activities in those times were common for the holiday season, and at times were done in Cocke County, too.The first event was in Dandridge and it was reported in the Republican Banner, January 7, 1886:The night before Christmas the boys started the jubilee, and peal after peal of the many and loudly roaring firecrackers, proclaimed the news that they were celebrating Christmas eve. The stormy noise lasted until near about or somewhere close to midnight. The populace were just beginning to disappear into dreamland with bright and happy visions of the delightful presence of old Santa, when the young men broke the stillness and quietude of the night by long and loud discharges of double-barrel shotguns and seven-shooters. This frantic and fanatical racket continued throughout the night, with very few intermissions, thus confounding and disturbing the peaceful slumbers of our quiet inhabitants, and old Santa hearing the din of battle in the far distance, like Napoleon at Waterloo fled in great haste from the old village of Dandridge, situ-ated by the blue and transparent waters of the beautiful French Broad.On the morning of the 25th December (anno domini) 1885, Christmas dawned. The morning was quiet, and the floating elements seemed to be filled with rain, which cast a very gloomy and darkening aspect over the contemplated joys and amusements of the day. We were not per-mitted to behold the grandeur of the sun, as she rose in the eastern horizon or when she set beyond the distant clouds of the far West. We were not permitted to see the snow, so white and crystalized, laying all around us, nor even a reflection of the aurora borealis, reflected to the village of Dandridge. As the rifts of the morn advanced, the wind began to blow and kept increasing as the day advanced, until it finally blew all the fun out of the people, and now lies buried with the records of the past.Dandridge is an old town, in fact the second oldest in the state. It was a sedate, cultured place in 1885 and such a thing as happened seems so out-of-place. It was the county seat and had substantial homes, a variety of businesses, four churches and a fine academy. At that time, Dandridge was also a center of river commerce. When the water level was high enough, steamboats had been coming up the French Broad River from Knoxville for many years, hauling both raw materials, farm products, merchandise and passengers. The nearest railroads were 10 miles away at either Mossy Creek (Jefferson City) or White Pine, and road conditions at that time would not have made travel convenient or easy. It also would have been nice to have seen the French Broad as “blue and transparent;” in my 60+ years of memory, it has always been brownish green in color or just plain muddy.However, what happened that night might not have been as unusual for the citizens as it would be today. The practice of noisemaking at Christmastime with the likes of guns, firecrackers and bells is an old one, brought to Appalachia by the European settlers. It was sometimes referred to as “serenading.” There was also the practice of young people dressing in disguise, similar to Halloween, and going visiting through the neighborhood singing, doing pranks and having refreshments. (A lady told of doing this, which she called “santa clausing” in the Harned Chapel community of Cocke County in the 1920’s.)However, no doubt, there were unhappy citizens whose sleep had been interrupted, particularly parents who maybe had had to deal with scared and fretful children.The other event occurred in White Pine the next Christmas and was reported in the Republican Banner, December 30, 1886, under “White Pine News:”Christmas lively, boys and girls jolly, old folks looking on and furnishing “nickels” for candy, apples, firecrackers, and various other things for the pleasure of little folks.The Christmas entertainment came off last night [Christmas Eve], which was quite a pleasant affair. The following is part of the programme:1. “Duet” — organ 2. A varied exercise consisting of scripture readings interspersed with appropriate songs — by the school 3. “Babe in Bethlehem” — recitation by four little girls 4. “Glory to God” — anthem — by the Choir 5. “Having Fun and Doing Good” — donation party for the widow Gray — by “our boys” 6. “Having Fun Without Doing Good” — the boys who ate too much cake and pie and had to take “O such stuff worse than the ache” — comic 7. “The Widow Gray’s Story” by Miss Emma M_____ in the attire of a poor widow, a good representation but rather too handsome for an old widow. Quiet effective. 8. “Star of the East” — song — by the Choir 9. “I’ll Not Tell” — recitation by Misses Minnie and Maud. A nice poem splendidly rendered 10. “Hail Thou Desire of Nations” -song — by the Choir Benediction by Rev. P.H. Wagner(Had the writer known that this program would be of interest over a century later, he might have included the full names of all who participated.)White Pine, too, was a thriving community at that time. It was located on the North Carolina branch of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Charleston Railroad. The town was once known as “Dandridge Crossing” as the railroad crossed the main road from Dandridge to Greeneville and points north. The town also was quite proud of its school, Edwards Academy, which had been established in White Pine in 1883 by the United Brethren Church. It was probably at this school building where the folks gathered for the Christmas Entertainment in 1886.The report from Dandridge was written by “Diamond Dipper” and the one from White Pine by “Lancelot Eyrles.” For some reason, correspondents at that time used a pen name to sign their submissions. What they wrote usually covered local happenings. They may have mentioned a controversial issue or poked fun at an event, but nothing that could be considered slanderous or libelous enough to hide behind a pseudonym. There is no record as to who “Diamond Dipper” or “Lancelot Eyrles” might have been. No doubt, the folks in Dandridge and White Pine at that time knew.Over the years, Cocke County has had its share of writers with a pseudonym, such as W.W. Langhorne (“Laureolus”), Jakie Shults (“Razorback”), Dr. Isham Peck (“Sawbones”), Swan L. Burnett (“Corporal Holder”), Furman Maddron (“Old Beeswax”) and R.A. McNabb (“Griz”), plus some others whose identities are now unknown.In the old Morristown Gazette, there were correspondents who used pen names like “Flint,” “Will Wright Again,” “Clinch,” “Buzz-Saw,” “Woollff,” “Democrat,” “Nim Rod,” and “Bric-a-Brac.”Christmas programs are still a part of the holidays. Church and school groups are probably already practicing their presentations, but with the exception of an occasional firecracker, isn’t it wonderful that “serenading” is no longer a Christmas Eve tradition? As for the big bangs, they are now reserved for New Year’s Eve.

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