Hugh Webster Zavitz (1854 – 1943) was a member of Coldstream Preparative and Lobo Monthly Meeting. His diaries, held by the Canadian Quaker Archives and Library, detail his life in the community of Coldstream. Jane Zavitz Bond was given Hugh’s diaries by his son, Vincent Zavitz. Jane writes, “We are grateful for Hugh Webster’s care over many years, knowing that he jotted down the key events of the day. Surely there were omissions, but this is a valuable skeletal fossil record.”
Thanks to Hugh’s records, we have a glimpse into how he and his family spent over twenty-five Christmas days. He commented on his daily chores, the weather, the health of his family, and attending meetings.
Hugh’s Christmases consisted of chopping wood, threshing peas and oats, visiting family, husking corn, making soap, and splitting wood. He noted oyster suppers, turkey dinners, and plum pudding. Gifts were seldom mentioned, though he recorded receiving mittens, a lantern, and a generous present of $500 from his mother in 1895. As part of the First Day School committee, he also attended a philanthropic meeting on peace and arbitration in 1892, and in 1898 another philanthropic session on peace where “the subject of temperance also claimed a share of our attention.”
Hugh’s records can be read below.
1874 – Friday, December 25, 1874
Jonah was drawing saw logs to day he took down 24 logs today Father and I were choping some it was a very fine day for Christmas Mary Elizabeth was here yesterday and today.
1875 – Saturday, December 25
This has been a green Christmas as the snow is all gone except some drifts and the frost nearly all out of the ground Grand Mother is some better today.
1876 – Monday, December 25
Our folks all went over to uncle Samuels except Joah and I we were threshing peas and this evening us young folks were up to George Zavitz (except Jonah) and had a splendid good time uncle James arrived this evening.
1877 – Tuesday, December 25
We were threshing on the Haight place threshed 2 bush oats and Jonah was helping Samuel P. thresh this afternoon Willie and Phebe and a party of little folks here today which was very pleasant Charlie Vail is here this evening so ends a Merry Christmas.
1878 – Wednesday, December 25
Went to meeting and us young folks spent the afternoon and evening at Franks Eugene and Libbie Marion & Martha, Ella, Wellington, Laura were there also and had a very pleasant time.
1879 – Thursday, December 25
Amelia Mercy Jonah and I went up to uncle Elijahs this P.M. and spent the day and then spent the evening at Edmond Henrys. Dan was choping.
1880 – Saturday, December 25
Drew out two loads of wood this morning then we went over to Father’s. Uncle Merritt aunt Emily uncle James, Dellie & uncle Samuel’s there. Called on Lexie in the evening.
1882 – Monday, December 25
Carrie & Libbie washed. Husking corn. Edgar called with bills for the next lecture.
1884 – Thursday, December 25
Spent Christmas at Fathers. Uncle Zachariahs Tamer Daniel P. Emily and a cousin of theirs Kitty Shotwell were there also.
1885 – Friday, December 25
Colder and pleasant. I have been getting wood in the wood house, and spent a very pleasant Christtmas have been burning the big elm top that fell in the corn field in the summer.
1886 – Saturday, December 25
Spent Christmas at Fathers. Uncle Samuels and Melvin and Mercy there also and uncle Zacharia & Tamer. Spent a very pleasant day.
1887 – Sunday, December 25
Georgia went to meeting with Jonahs and our team. After meeting they came this way and we all went over to Fathers to an Oyster dinner uncle Samuels were there also. had a very pleasant time. Carrie went by covering her head to keep from the wind mild and snowing.
1888 – Tuesday, December 25
A rainy Christmas. We took Jonah & Emily over to Father’s Uncle Samuel’s there. Elma came home with us. Aunt Lexy brought over a present for each of us – mittens for self &c
1889 – 12-24 – 3 rd day
Helping prepare a Christmas tree to surprise the children. Libbie came this morning. Rainy. Joseph took all the children over to Walters. Walter called. After supper we had a nice little tree with presents on it for all. Frank came at night.
12-25 – 4 th day. Grand father and Grand mother and Walter Phebe & Rebecca here to dinner. Uncle John called in the P.M. We have spent a very pleasant Christmas. Weather quite mild.
1890 – Thursday, December 25
All spent Christmas at Fathers. Uncle Zachariah Tamer Thomas and Emily there also and we had a very pleasant time. Jonahs went over with us. I got 2 pairs of mittens and a lantern for my Christmas.
1891 – 12-25 Xmas. 6th day
All over to Fathers to dinner. Uncle Zachariah and family there and Annie McGilvery also, had a very pleasant time. warm and muddy.
1892 – 12-25 First day
Christmas, All but Carrie Vincent went to meeting. Father Mother and Phebe took dinner with us and we all but Carrie attended the Philanthropic meeting on Peace and Arbitration in the P.M. in place of the F.D.S. which was good. A very snowy stormy day.
1893 – 12-25
Christmas Father and Mother spent the day with us. Lexie & Annie took dinner with us. Father helped clean some more of the clover seed and started to run off the leach to make soap A warm pleasant day.
1894 – 12-25 3rd day
All went to Jonahs to spend Christmas Uncle Eli and Aunt Mary were there they came yesterday. Lexie and Annie were there also and Tommy Tompkins. We had a Christmas tree and got a good many presents. Uncle Zachariah & Tamer were there also. Colder today and a little snow flying but the ground is bare.
1895 — 12-25 4th day
All went to meeting Lexie going with us, and we all went to Jonahs to a Christmas dinner of turkey. Uncle Ambros Tamer and Katie Shotwell there also. Had a pleasant time. I went to the P.O. and got a letter for Carrie from Mother containing $500 Quite a Christmas present. Warm and pleasant no frost or snow.
1896 – 12-25 6th day
Splitting wood in the wood house and choring.
1897 – 12-25 7th day
Christmas All went over and spent the day at Fathers Lexie and Annie going along. Tamer did not come back with us, it has been pleasant to have her here with us. A pleasant day but miss the dear one who has passed on.
1898 – 12-25 First day
All went to meeting and in the P.M. attended the Philanthropic session on Peace. The subject of temperance also claimed a share of our attention.
1899 – 12-25 2nd day
All went out to Ceaf Cissons to spend Xmas The Bond and Cisson families well represented. about 30 there to eat turkey Plumb Pudding &c. Had a very nice time. went in the sleigh.
1900 – 12-25 3rd day
Christmas, Sarah Ethel and I went to Amos Wiltons to spend the day. About 30 there of their relatives and a pleasant time had turkey Edward & Bertha went the eve before
Hugh Webster Zavitz’s diaries are held at the Canadian Quaker Archives and Library. Sheila Harvard transcribed the diaries and Randy Saylor prepared them for posting.