A festive tribute: Vicksburg unveils first O’ Christmas Tree event this December

Published 5:55 pm Sunday, November 26, 2023

Mahala Roach, who was a Vicksburg resident, is credited for bringing the first Christmas tree to Mississippi in 1851. As a nod to Mrs. Roach’s spirit, another first will take place.

For two consecutive weekends in December, 12 historic homes in Vicksburg will be showcased during O’ Christmas Tree, an inaugural event, sponsored by Vicksburg Main Street and the Vicksburg Heritage Guild, as a fundraiser for the Vicksburg Main Street Façade Program.

Initiated by Joyce Clingan and Harley Caldwell, restaurant and bed and breakfast owners, the women thought the idea to have homeowners open their doors, some of whom will be inviting the public in for first time, would be a great way to not only raise money for the Vicksburg Main Street Façade Program. It would also be a great way to promote Vicksburg and entice visitors to the city where the first Christmas tree was erected in Mississippi and to stay for a visit.

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The O’ Christmas Tree event will run from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10 and includes first floor tours of the homes and beautifully themed Christmas trees. Tickets are $20 or $25 with a Vicksburg Trolley pass and are available at the Vicksburg Main Street office, Walnut Hills Restaurant, 1214 Adams St., or online at tickettailor.com/events/ochristmastree.

The schedule:

Saturday, Dec. 2

1 p.m. – 2011 Cherry St.

2 p.m. — 1 Cowan Place

3 p.m.— 2312 Cherry S.

Sunday, December 3

1 p.m. — 1325 Chambers St.

2 p.m. — 1419 Chambers St.

3 p.m. — 1414 Chambers St.

Saturday, December 9

1 p.m. — 1403 Chambers St.

2 p.m. — 1420 Chambers St.

3 p.m. — 1338 Chambers St.

Sunday, December 10

1 p.m. — 2501 Cherry St.

2 p.m. — 2308 Drummond St.

3 p.m. — 2506 Drummond St.

 

History of Mahala Roach

Born in 1825, Mrs. Roach was raised in Woodville. After marrying James Roach, the couple moved to Vicksburg in 1848.

Mrs. Roach had been a prominent citizen of the River City. And because she was educated and a “master of the written word,” – most of her diaries are part of the Southern Historical collection at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill – Vicksburg resident Martha Whitiker said, she would go to the courthouse and write out legal documents and people who couldn’t read would come to her house and have her read their mail or write letters for them.

Whitiker, who spent many hours reading over Mrs. Roach’s diaries when she was living in Chapel Hill while her husband Murry was in his medical residency, said Mrs. Roach was also admired.

“When I read her diaries, I was always impressed that if there was a wedding and she didn’t make it, people would stop by and see her on their way out of town. I mean, she was very well thought of,” Whitaker said.

From the diaries, Whitiker also deduced, Christmas had been a “big deal” for Mrs. Roach and that the notion to put a tree up probably came from her extensive reading.

“She said in her diaries that she remembered the old German stories and decided on Christmas Eve to make a tree,” Whitaker said.

However, in addition to learning about the Christmas tree from the German stories, Whitiker said she had another theory as to how Roach came about putting up a Christmas tree – and it involved a magazine.

“There was a very popular magazine called ‘Godey’s Lady’s Magazine,’” she said. And knowing Mrs. Roach’s status and literary leanings, Whitaker surmised Mrs. Roach received this magazine.

“And I found out that in the 1850 December edition, the year before (Mrs. Roach put up her Christmas tree),” there had been a Victorian couple – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, but not dressed in their regalia, who are pictured standing beside a table with a tabletop Christmas tree.

“So, I don’t think it’s a stretch (in thinking Mrs. Roach had the magazine’s photo in her memory),” Whitaker said. “I think it is very reasonable that she saw it and remembered the stories from Germany and just thought, ‘I’m going to do that’ and went outside and just plucked an evergreen and did a tabletop tree.”

 

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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