Kids’ letters to Santa delivered 106 years after written
BEVERLY, W.Va. (AP) — On a long winter’s night 106 years ago, four of Benjamin and Aletha Woodward’s five children wrote letters to Santa Claus and left them for him to discover in the mantle of a second-floor fireplace in their Beverly home.
The home, which served as Union Army Gen. George B. McClellan’s telegraph-equipped field headquarters following his 1861 victory at the Battle of Rich Mountain, is now one of three buildings that make up the Beverly Heritage Center, a regional museum documenting Randolph County’s past.
A few years ago, during a major renovation of the Beverly Heritage Center, the fireplace mantel was removed, and the four timeworn letters were found wedged behind it.
The longest and most intact “Dear Santa” letter, dated Dec. 25, 1912, is written in cursive by Page Woodward, then 8 years old. It lists her gift wishes for all members of her family:
“Will you please bring these things. For Reginald, a air rifle, a Boy Scout book, a sweater and two magazines, Country Gentleman and Farm Journal. For Ruby, black ribbon and pair of stockings. For Mabel, two pair of stockings. For Mamma, a book. For Papa, a hat. For Teddy, (the nickname for younger sister Henrietta, who was apparently too young to write a letter of her own) a game, doll and a lot of candy and nuts. For my self, a doll, leggings and lots of candy and nuts.”
On Dec. 1, the long-lost letters were presented to a Victorian Father Christmas during Beverly’s annual Old Fashioned Christmas celebration.
The 106-year-old Christmas letters and an exhibit telling the story of Page Woodward will be on display in the Beverly Heritage Center’s gallery through the end of December.
At the time of Page Woodward’s letter to Santa, her father served as warden of the Randolph County Jail, then located just around the corner from the Woodward home, according to Christopher Taylor, an Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps member working with the Beverly Heritage Center. Page’s mother, Aletha Woodward, cooked meals for the prisoners.
Although Elkins replaced Beverly as the county seat of Randolph County in 1899, a new county jail was not built in Elkins until shortly before 1920.
Page Woodward graduated from Elkins High School and went on to teach at Beverly School. She married, had one son and was active in the Beverly community until contracting tuberculosis in the late 1940s. She died in 1951 at the age of 46, according to Taylor, and is buried in Beverly Cemetery.
Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.