Fayette County Historical Society recalls Christmas through the years with “Yesterday’s Traditions, Today’s Celebrations,’’ open noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 15 at Abel Colley Tavern and Museum in Menallen Township.
From the nation’s early days to contemporary times, the exhibit shows how Christmas has been celebrated, including an emphasis on turn-of-the 20th century immigrants.
“Our theme for 2019 is the legacy of life in the patch – the diverse ethnic background of all the immigrants who came here and how they managed to live together side by side, to work together and succeed,’’ said Jo Lofstead, of Masontown, historical society secretary, noting this theme was also featured in other exhibits this year. “They kept their own identities and own customs but yet they also built community.’’
This can be seen upstairs where a Christmas tree holds ornaments with greetings in different languages and a holiday table is set for a Christmas Eve dinner. Display sheets relate Slovak, Italian and Irish holiday traditions.
Christmas in Fayette County can include snow so the historical society set up a winter scene with a snowman and frozen pond as a young girl puts on her skates while a family goes caroling.
Christmas shopping is recalled with a display of holiday jewelry sold at a company store, and Toyland in local department stores. Photographs of Uniontown’s S.S. Kresege an Metzler’s hang on the wall.
And what would Christmas be without trains? A model railroad is set up, recalling not just a toy but that trains hauled coal mined by immigrants.
Nearby, a display called “Two Sad Christmases’’ remembers two mining disasters: Naomi on Dec. 1, 1907 and Robena’s Frosty Run Shaft on Dec. 6, 1962.
“Even though Frosty Run happened in Greene County, of the 37 miners killed, 30 were from Fayette County,’’ explained Dennis Ballas, of German Township, whose uncle died there. “And Naomi is outside Belle Vernon.’’
“Those were years when Christmas didn’t exist for those families,’’ noted Connie Sagosky, of Masontown.
Examining other periods, an upstairs bedroom recalls the life of German Township-born Ashbel F. Hill, who lost a leg at Antietam during the Civil War. After his discharge, Hill worked for San Francisco and Philadelphia newspapers before the Genius of Liberty in Uniontown. Hill also wrote several books, including “Our Boys,’’ about war from a soldier’s perspective.
A display shows Hill and his wife, Mary, decorating their 1870 Christmas tree while photographs of the actual couple are nearby. Mary Tichner, of South Union Township, noted the room shows off Civil War-themed memorabilia.
The upstairs includes a bit of whimsy with Santa Claus in a living room dedicated to “Swooshy, The Christmas Squirrel,’’ title character of a children’s book by local resident Andrew Stepanik Sr. Nearby, an elf is making toys in Santa’s workshop.
The downstairs is set up as a National Road tavern with evergreen sprays, pine cones and homemade decorations. Lofstead noted that’s a nod to Christmas celebrations in the nation’s earliest years.
“What we recognize as Christmas didn’t become popular until Queen Victoria’s era when she and Prince Albert were pictured standing in front of a decorated Christmas tree,’’ said Lofstead.
The Blythe Room, containing local portraits painted by 19th century artist David Blythe, recalls pre-Civil War era while the entranceway is dedicated to a Victorian Christmas with toys that include a model of the home of Uniontown founder Henry Beeson.
The exhibit was created by Ballas, Tichner, Sagosky, Lofstead, Christine and Tom Buckelew, of Uniontown; Dorothy Grukowski, of German Township; and Connie Kikta, of North Union Township. Admission is $5, adult; $3, student, under 12, free.
Christine Buckelew, historical society president, noted Searights Tollhouse, located one mile east of the tavern on Route 40, is also decorated for Christmas and open noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 15. Santa and Mrs. Claus will appear Dec. 7 and 8. Admission: $2.
More information is available at www.fayettehistoricalsociety.org.