Monday, December 12, 2011

Homer Thomas

Homer Thomas was eight years old when he came with his family to Montana Territory from Illinois. It was almost Christmas when Homer wrote a letter to his grandmother. “I am glad you didn’t come with us,” he wrote, “you could not have stood it; [the trip] was mighty hard.” Homer described Virginia City as a poor place where the miners dressed in old, dirty, and ragged clothes. He wished especially for apples and cider, something not found in Montana. Homer’s longing for Illinois comes through as he wrote, “I expect this will be a great country someday, but I don’t care for that, just as soon as I can get enough gold, I bet you I am coming back.” But Homer did not return to Illinois. He followed his father in the milling and feed business and later was a founder of the mining camp of Monarch. But that 1864 Christmas letter to his Grandma, preserved in the Montana Historical Society archives, has a nostalgia unusual for an eight-year-old. “Well, Grandmother,” he wrote toward the end of his letter, “ it is pretty near Christmas time and I do not expect to get many things this year, for it is not like home, because old Santa Claus does not come out here to give children things, because he thinks all the children too smart to come to this old place. Well I can do without any nice toys this year, but I want you to save me some nice things so I can have them when I come back home.” But the years passed and Homer Thomas stayed in Montana. Illinois faded to become a childhood memory.

P.S. Not all children were so skeptical about Christmastime in Montana.
P.P.S More letters home

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