Saturday, December 25, 2021

It was Santa Claus' Fault.

In the Eagle Creek precinct of Shawneetown, Illinois, the Christmas tradition was for parents to bring presents for their children to a party at the local church. Each present was labeled and hung on the Christmas tree then everyone would watch as the presents were distributed to the children. On Christmas Eve, 1889, chaos ensued when the tags fell off some of the presents and were replaced haphazardly. 

After a dozen or so presents were handed out, a farmer named Johnson grabbed a sled from one of the children and declared it was the present he had brought for his little boy. The sexton tried to explain the mix-up, but Johnson would not listen, and he rudely pushed the sexton aside. Several young men had been drinking heavily at the celebration, and one of them tried to snatch the sled back. When Johnson would not release it, another man hit him with a chair.

The room erupted into a free fight with chairs, clubs, knives, and pistols. Thomas Burroughs, the church Doorkeeper was dangerously stabbed in two places. A bullet struck Stout Colbert in the chin. Several others were wounded. At the height of the battle, it looked as though several combatants would be killed, but none of the wounds proved fatal. A Christmas miracle. 

“Fight at a Christmas Tree,” Helena Daily Herald, December 26, 1889.
“A Free Fight in a Church,” Boston Herald, December 26, 1889.
“It Was Santa Claus' Fault,” National Police Gazette, January 11, 1890.
“Wound Up om a Free Fight,” New York Herald, December 26, 1889.


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