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The days leading up to Christmas 1887 included plays, weddings

As was noted Friday, those wishing for a white Christmas in Newton 125 years ago were not disappointed when a blizzard raged in the city’s general vicinity for two days within a week of the holiday. But, the holiday season was much more subdued than it had been the year before.

The Methodists had been holding a series of revival meetings during the holiday season. These services were still in progress on account of “increasing interest.” The Methodist Episcopal Church was located where First Lutheran Church is now. 

This church’s new edifice, built by James Eastman and others, had been dedicated in November 1886.  Rev. Ira O. Kemble was appointed to the Newton charge at the conference held in Newton Sept. 7-12.

Other churches in town during this time were the Presbyterian (whose Christmas tree was planned for Dec. 27), Baptist (now the parking lot south of Fareway), St. Stephen’s Episcopal (whose longtime rector, Rev. J. Evans Ryan, was going to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Des Moines Jan. 1), German Methodist Episcopal (now the County Annex Building), United Presbyterian, and St. John’s Roman Catholic (where Maytag Plant 1 heat treat and rubber department (building 19) later was).

Also getting ready to make their annual rounds was the mysterious midnight organization known as the RECAs, the 1880s equivalent of Newton’s St. Nick’s Christmas Club.  Much of their benevolence was for the relief of the city’s “colored” families, most of which resided in “North Newton.”

Arthur J. Wright, manager of Lister’s Opera House, newly constructed in 1885, had booked Heywood’s Mastodons, a minstrel troupe, for Christmas Eve.  (Prices:  25, 35, and 50 cents.) This followed on the heels of Marion Abbott in “Only a Farmer’s Daughter” (“No, no, a million times no!”) Dec. 20 (one night only!). 

An unnamed performer, billed only as “La Petite Beauty” and regarded as “The greatest living child actress,” appeared as Little Nellie in that play.

Germond L. Cross, the proprietor of the new Windsor House (formerly the Star Hotel), announced that dinner would be served there on Christmas Day. He promised “you will find Fowls of the air, Fish of the sea, and Beasts of the forest” at his festive board.  Editor Robinson encouraged readers of the Journal to “go and christen the Windsor.”

This was located at approximately 120 N. 2nd Ave. E.

Mrs. Bicknell, a widow, also had a card in the paper for her Newton House. On Dec. 19, Mr. and Mrs. D.J. Eberhart, with their young sons, Willie and Frank, left for Naperville, Ill., to spend the holidays with Eberhart’s parents, Rev. and Mrs. Levi Eberhart.  A highlight of that family reunion was the Christmas marriage of Dave Eberhart’s sister, Phena, who had been a bridesmaid at his own wedding to Miss Ella Vaughan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Vaughan, in 1878.  Eberhart operated grain elevators in Newton and in Metz.

Another Christmas wedding was that of Frank Rinehart, 23, a Jasper County native, to Miss Susan Young, of Leon, at Syracuse, Kan. The son of Mr. and Mrs. James S. Rinehart, he had been a student at Northern Indiana Normal School (now Valparaiso University) in 1880-81, and was admitted to the bar of Kansas in 1886. 

His mother and brother, Ora, of Mound Prairie Township, made the trip to Kansas for the wedding. Rinehart was to become one of the founders of the Daily News.

Robinson pronounced the crop of marriage licenses taken out for holiday week “good.”  No less than a dozen matrimonial permits were issued in the county.

One local wedding of note was that of Dr. John L. Pifer, physician and surgeon, whose office was above Rea & Vaughan’s store, and Miss Ida C. Little, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William T. Little.  They were married Dec. 21 at the residence of the bride’s parents.  Rev. C. P. Reynolds, of Toledo, former pastor of the Newton M. E. Church, did the job.

A number of other marriages were reported in the pages of the Journal.  Young love was alive and flourishing in Newton this Christmastime.

“CHRISTMAS. — Before the next issue of the JOURNAL, Christmas of ’87 will have come and gone,” Ralph Robinson wrote in his paper Dec. 21.  “That each and all of our readers are so situated ‘in body, mind and estate’ as to fully and heartily enjoy the festivities of the season, - and that none will forget that ‘the poor ye have with you always’ — is our sincere wish.”

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