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A letter to Santa Claus: An 1870 Christmas Story, the conclusion 

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By Steve Roush
HCP columnist

Ladies and gentlemen, in last week’s offering, we began a tale that was printed in the local newspaper 153 years ago.  
Little Maggie Dudley had never heard of Santa Claus until a group of schoolgirls were talking about how he brings them gifts each year. One said Santa had probably never visited Maggie’s home because they never put out their stockings. So Maggie, who lived with her “poor old grandma” in a “broken down cottage just outside the town,” decided she would hang her and her grandmother’s stocking on the door on Christmas Eve and wrote a letter to Santa Claus.  

As Maggie finishes her letter, let’s pick up the 1870 Christmas Story:  

She put the letter in a yellow envelope, which she found in a box, and directed it to Mr. Santa Claus. The postmaster found it the next day among the letters. 

He laughed as he read the name, and laid it on a shelf till he was at leisure. At night, he carried it home to his wife, and they read it together.  

“It would be too bad to have the poor child disappointed,” said the lady. “Do you know who she is?” 

“I have seen her,” said he, “and I know where they live.” 

So together they planned to give Maggie and her grandma a joyful surprise. 

Thursday night, Christmas Eve, when grandma was asleep, Maggie stole softly to the door and hung up the two stockings. It took her a long time to go to sleep, and then she dreamed that Santa Claus was in her stocking and could not get out.  

She was awake before light the next morning, and was dressed before grandma opened her eyes. Then she made the fire, and just as grandma began to hunt about for her stocking, she was ready to open the door. 

Would she be disappointed? 

Oh Joy! Joy! There hung both stockings, crowded full, and great bundles and small ones were tied on as thick as they could be! Maggie could scarcely carry them.  

“Grandma! Grandma!” she screamed; “see what Santa Claus brought!” 

And the old lady sat up in bed and held up both hands in astonishment. “Why, child,” said she, “Where did you get them?” 

“I hung ’em out,” explained the eager child, “and Santa Claus, you know – O, do look here!” And then such wonders were brought to light from those stockings and bundles! 

New dresses and aprons for Maggie, a hood and tippet, scarlet mitten, warm stockings and shoes, and a “real live doll,” as Maggie declared, while she hugged it. 

Grandma’s gifts were no less wonderful. She, too, had a new dress, and a cap, and a soft, thick shawl, while packages of tea, sugar, and other good things were not missing. 

Maggie never forgot that happy, happy Christmas. And years after, when grandma had gone to “keep Christmas in the sky,” and Maggie had lived with the kind friends who had given her those gifts, she loved to talk with them of her letter to Santa Claus. 

Well, there you have it, folks, “A letter to Santa Claus: An 1870 Christmas Story.” The ladies and gentlemen of Hillsborough and Highland County read that story when the newspaper came off the press more than a century and a half ago, and now we may read those festive words once again. 

Merry Christmas, everyone, and may God bless you all. 

Steve Roush is chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a board member of the Highland District Hospital Foundation, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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