52. Christmas at Oak View Farm_Civil War

Now we are in what would have been the living room, or parlor, of the Main House. The Williams family built this house around 1855. They would have lived in this house during the Civil War, which was fought from 1861 to 1865.

In May 1861 North Carolina became the tenth southern state to secede from the Union and join the Confederate States of America. Although he was a slaveholder, Benton Williams did not support the Confederacy during the Civil War. Three of his sons, Clinton, Napoleon, and John Quincy, later claimed to belong to a pro-Union organization called the Red Strings, while the fourth son, Cicero, served in the Confederate Army beginning in 1862. By war’s end the other sons were also forced to join.

Christmas became a major holiday during the Civil War era, and the U.S. Government proclaimed it an official holiday in 1870. The 1860s were a very difficult time for Americans since many families were separated from each other as fathers, husbands, brothers and sons were off fighting in the war. Each of the Williams’ four sons was away at least one Christmas during the Civil War, and we know nothing specifically about Oak View’s enslaved community during the war.

Once again there is no Christmas tree, because it was still uncommon at this time to have trees in individual homes in the South. Instead, a large community tree might be erected in front of a church, school, or courthouse and serve as the community tree. People would send gifts, like those seen here, to be hung on the tree’s branches, and on Christmas Day the whole community might gather to celebrate and exchange gifts by the tree.

Notice that there is no candy on display as a gift. During the Civil War, sugar shortages made candy very expensive. A pound of candy might cost as much as $8, which would be equal to about $100 in today’s money. Most families could not afford such a luxury. Christmas dinner might also be lean since turkeys and other meat products were hard to come by during the war.

Please walk to the other side of this room and enter the number ‘53’ to continue.