On a recent visit to historical Brattonsville in McConnells, I had the opportunity to learn about a Southern-style backcountry Christmas during the time of the American Revolution.
Historic Brattonsville is part of a group of Culture and Heritage Museums in York. Also, included in the group is the McCelvey Center, the Museum of York County and the Main Street Children’s Museum in Old Town Rock Hill.
William Bratton moved to York County in 1766. In the Revolutionary War, he was a patriot, and started with the rank of captain and rose to the rank of colonel. After the War, Bratton would hold various public positions, including state Representative and state Senator.
In 1776, Bratton built a one-room log home that was added to over time to meet the needs of a growing family.
Celebrating Christmas during the 18th and 19th centuries could be thought of as right or wrong depending on which side you were on. This period was for sure met with much change and growth of identity.
It was not odd to hear the minister say, wait a minute this is not biblical, and church people should not partake.
Traditionally the end of the year had been a time of celebrating the harvest, so the addition of a big Christmas celebration was a challenge to the standard way of doing things.
While Martha, Col. Bratton’s wife, was not big on the idea of Christmas, she did like a good party and would invite guests for fellowship.
While some people were not pleased with the evolution of the blending in of new Christmas activities, it was not such a challenge for everyone.
The idea of a joyful celebration of life with good food and seasonal greenery with a bit of dancing would eventually start to take hold and by the 1870s it had become an accepted part of general society.
Dr. John Simpson Bratton, one of many children of William and Martha Bratton, built the Homestead House between 1823-26. The 12-room antebellum mansion, which is among other historic buildings on the property, is certainly a focal point of the now 755-acre Historic Brattonsville site.
During my visit, I met many skilled costumed interpreters. One lady was making biscuits, and I asked her the secret to making a perfect biscuit.
“A lot of love and do not overwork the dough,” she said, “just don’t overwork it and it will be just fine.”
I was glad to hear it -- that’s one thing that has not changed over the past 200 years.
I also had a chance to visit with Father Christmas. He explained to me that his job was not easy at the time of the American Revolution. A lot of walking was involved. He did share a few secrets that made his travel a bit more tolerable. But I don’t think I am supposed to talk about that. It was also interesting that his primary color was green, not red.
As the sun went down, I listened to live period music by candlelight. I sat and enjoyed the sounds of the past and the smell of freshly made wax candles. It was as if for a moment, I had traveled back in time -- I felt the nip in the air, I could hear the people nearby enjoying the flames from a fire pit with crackling wood.
Yes, things have changed, but people still have the incredible capacity to come together and celebrate life with smiles, hugs, laughter and a solemn gratitude for the opportunity to do so.
Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas.” The weekly show is in its seventh year of syndication and can be seen in the Greenville, Spartanburg viewing market on WLOS ABC 5 a.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays at WMYA My 40. Visit www.lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.