Before the holiday season Little Rock merchants had made arrangements to get toys and special food items for the yuletide trade. But restrictions on the civilians use of the railroad between Little Rock and DevValls Bluff almost kept the freight from reaching Little Rock in time. The editor of the National Democrat, Dr. C. V. Meador, expressed sympathy for the children who would be disappointed the toys could not arrive before Christmas.
Since Meador was a merchant, he likely shared great sympathy also for the many businessmen who would suffer a financial loss. During the first week of December he rode to the Bluff to arrange transportation for the holiday freight which included “Kris Klingle” merchandise.
Christmas trees had become popular in America before the War, but this beloved symbol of the American family Christmas—the decorated Christmas tree—-came into its own during the Civil War period.
During the final Christmas of the conflict, some notable Richmond citizens put on a merry demeanor for a gathering of children at St. Paul’s Episcopal church. President Davis himself hosted the party with his wife Varina and children. An eleven year later wrote that they had been invited to see “a Christmas tree given to President Davis’ children.” She further wrote; “The tree was a lovely holly laden with homemade candles and dolls made out of hickory nuts and Canton flannel; then there were cotton and Canton flannel rabbit, dog and cats, and numerous other presents all home-made, as was everything on the supper table—-home-made coffee, tea, sugar and everything. I never saw anything that looked so pretty to me.”
Decades later Mrs. Davis recalled; “When we reached the basement of St. Paul’s church the tree burst into view like the realization of Aladdins’s subterranean orchard, and the children were awed by the grandeur.” Also her husband submitted to the cheerful holiday spirit: “The orphans sat mute with astonishment until the opening hymn and prayer and the last Amen had been said, and they at a signal warily and slowly gathered around the tree to receive from a lovely young girl their alloted present.
The President became so enthusiastic that he undertook to help with the distribution, but worked such wild confusion giving everything asked for into outstretched hands, that we called a halt, so he contented himself with unwinding one or two tots from a network of stringed popcorn in which they had become entangled and taking off all apples when he could when unobserved, and presenting them to smaller children….” (Kevin Rawlings, Christmas in the Civil War, Civil War Times, James P. Weeks, editor, December, 1998)