Deck the Halls with Old West Stories


Who would hang old boots, hats and (gasp) even guns on a Christmas tree?  Ronald Reagan that’s who or at least his Presidential Library, and since I’m lucky enough to live but a few miles from it I decided to share a few of the  twenty-four Christmas trees on display–one for each decade beginning in the 1700s . Each tree celebrates the defining moments of America’s road to greatness and but I’m including only the trees that cover the Old West.



“Remember the Alamo” was the rallying cry for Texans fighting  for independence from Mexico.   The Indian Removal Act passed with strong support from President Jackson and the Cherokees were forced from Georgia to Oklahoma along the “Trail of Tears.”


 That’s not all that made this decade memorable; Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper and Samuel Colt patented his revolver.  But the thing that touched perhaps the most lives was the kindergarten movement that swept the country.




The last rendevous in Green River ends the mountain trapping era. The Mexican-American War was fought, bringing undisputed control over Texas and allowing the U.S. to annex portions of Arizona, California and New Mexico. Gold was discovered in California and the mad dash west began (Something for which we western historical writers will be forever grateful!)





Oil was drilled successfully for the first time and cotton was king.  Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War, and Levi Strauss manufactured heavyweight trousers for miners.  Gold is discovered in Colorado and it’s “Pikes Peak or Bust.”  Perhaps the greatest boon at the time to the American housewife was the invention of the Singer sewing machine.





The pony express made its inaugural run, carrying mail from St. Louis to Sacramento in only eleven days (which is about the time it takes now).


The Homestead Act of 1862, designed to promote westward expansion, changed America’s  political, economical and demographics forever.


 Abraham Lincoln became president, eleven states seceded the union and 650,000 soldiers died in the Civil War, including one-fifth of the south’s white male population.  The country mourned the assassination of a president, but the decade brought the abolishment of slavery, the Reconstruction Act of 1867 and new hope for the future.




 The end of the Civil War started the Railroad Boom and 56,000 miles of new track was laid.  


It was a decade of change and some handy inventions including the cash register, typewriter and electric light bulb made life a whole lot easier. 


 Charles Goodnight blazed the first cattle trail, driving 2000 longhorns from Texas to New Mexico and it was Custer’s Last Stand. The Red Cross was founded and Jesse James began his outlaw career. Yellowstone became the first national park and football and tennis were all the rage.





The cattle industry was still going strong but the last cattle drive ended at Dodge City.  Railroads and local packing houses made cattle drives a thing of the past.


With railroads came the need for standard time and more than a hundred times zones were compiled into four.


Jesse James was assassinated (as was President Garfield), Billy the Kid was brought to justice, Chief Sitting Bull surrendered and a showdown at the O.K. Corral was about to become a western legend.  




 With the invention of Barbed wire raising cattle has never been the same.


A resurgence of leisure time sweeps the nation and the Gay Nineties was in full swing.   Bicycles were the pre-ferred mode of travel and the Chicago World’s Fair introduced the public to the ferris wheel and Crackerjack.    And of course no birthday celebration was complete without a rousing rendition of  Mildred Mills new song,”Happy Birthday.”


 What family or American history can be found on your tree?


 Several Fillies are up for Best Western Romance of 2011 and a vote could earn you a $25 gift certificate. 

It’s fun, it’s easy and will take you less than ten seconds.

To vote click here:


 It’s not too late to order the New York Times and CBA Bestseller



 Coming March 2011 Margaret’s Exciting New Series Brides of Last Chance Ranch




+ posts

25 thoughts on “Deck the Halls with Old West Stories”

  1. Thanks for a history run down. For an Australian who is into reading western romance and only gets american history from the writers research incorporated into their books it is good to read and over view. I really enjoy reading from this website the authors research information from colts , condoms to wagon history.thank you!
    Ps I think one of the headings should be 1840 – 1850, not 1840 -1840

  2. I love,love those ordaments,,they are beautiful as well as the story that went with them,,,the only thing historical I have on my tree is the things my kids made in school an church,,an now the grandchildrens hang with them,,it brings back lots of memories an stories

  3. I have a couple of really old ornaments that were my paternal grandmothers. She died in 1967 at the age of 87. So she was born in 1880. Otherwise , I have ornaments my children made in school. I also have one decorated ball with my name on it that I received from my aunt Jacque when I was in 2nd grade.

  4. Rosheen, thank you for catching the heading error–it’s now fixed. Yes, a history run-down is good on occasion. It helps put things in perspective. I wish I could have shown all the trees–beautiful.

    Wishing you and your family happy holidays!

  5. Ohhhhhh Laurie, I’d love to see those old ornaments–what a treasure.

    If they’re glass ornaments they could have been imported from Germany by non other than F.W. Woolworth for his five and dime stores. He sold millions of them in the 1880-90s.

    Have a merry Christmas.

  6. What a perfect way for a presidential library to honor both Christmas and our history.

    We have two trees up in our house. One is the big old family tree with everything from handmade elementary school ornaments to antiques and newer things that have memories attached. The other tree is rustic. The ornaments are made of wood and reflect mountain living. It’s got a touch of history, in a rugged kind of way.

  7. Our tree is filled with ornaments from vacations, family and friends.. I do have my mother’s antique glass ones way up high… out of reach of little hands..

  8. Hi Victoria,

    Yes, I agree. It’s a perfect way to honor history and Christmas. I can’t imagine the work that went into the display. They had to find hundreds of miniatures.

    Your trees sound beautiful.

    Merry Christmas!

  9. I forgot to share my tree. The branches are made from horseshoes and it sits on a metal map of Texas. The star on top is a Texas Ranger badge and every ornament depicts the old west. My favorites are cowboy Santa and the sheriff. If you pull the sheriff’s string he raises his arm and points his gun.

  10. I love all those western ornaments. How fun! My husband and kids have given me a few similar ornaments that grace our tree at home. I have two different cowboy boots, a leather hat, and a cowboy outfit with vest, chaps, boots and hat but no actually cowboy. Hmm…Do you think there’s a naked cowboy ornament running around somewhere?

  11. Margaret,
    I love Christmas trees, and ornaments, and I have a ton of them–everything from my first ornaments I made in kindergarten to the ones I’ve bought my own kids through the years and am keeping until they get settled somewhere. I love my tree because it is so sentimental. I’ve never had the urge to get rid of all the “old stuff” and do a theme tree–my niece did that one year and it about broke my sister’s heart–she got rid of all the “old” ornaments my sis had saved for her and kept from years past and did a tree in blue and silver–bought all new ornaments, garland, lights and it was all blue and silver. That’s not what I like–I like my tree with the memories. My parents both passed away about 4 years ago, and from the estate sale, I saved out a couple of little foil and pipe cleaner angels that we’d always had on our tree for years growing up. Those two angels will always mean the world to me, because I can remember looking at them through the eyes of a child. This was a very interesting post, as always, and I loved learning about the trees there at the RR Library. My mom was a huge RR fan. This is a great way to showcase history!
    Cheryl P.

  12. Cheryl, themed trees were real popular a few years back, but it seems that people are going back to traditional.

    Trees were more personal before commercial ornaments became available in the 1880s. Pioneers had to make do with whatever was around the house.

    Thanks for sharing and have a merry, merry Christmas.

  13. Love the historic ornaments, Margaret.
    What an amazing tree. But I’d really like to see a photo of yours. It sounds amazing.h
    I am still waiting for my little granddaughter to come and help me with my tree, lots more fun than doing it alone. So I’m still treeless.
    But do put me down for the naked cowboy if you find one.

  14. Beautiful pictures, Margaret! I hope to get to the library but looks like I’m running out of time. Our tree theme has changed markedly over the years. 37 years ago, as newlyweds, we picked red gingham. A few pieces remain. But I’ve gone to a red and gold theme, with cardinal birds. A few of the kids’ childhood creations till appear, but most I’ve passed on to their own household trees. Merry Christmas!

  15. Beautiful pictures, Margaret! I hope to get to the library but looks like I’m running out of time. Our tree theme has changed markedly over the years. 37 years ago, as newlyweds, we picked red gingham. A few pieces remain. But I’ve gone to a red and gold theme, with cardinal birds. A few of the kids’ childhood creations till appear, but most I’ve passed on to their own household trees. Merry Christmas!

  16. Elizabeth, maybe I’ll post a photo of my tree on Sunday, if it won’t interfere with anyone’s post.

    Have fun with your little granddaughter. I’m waiting for mine. They’re spending the night so that tomorrow we can have tea with Mrs. Claus.

  17. I Love Christmas trees and the only one I have this year is the beautiful pine tree in front of my house with lights on it. We will not be home on Christmas so I chose not to put one up. I so love old ornaments and have one that my aunt made for my brother and I when we were very small over 60 years ago.

  18. Connie, My neighbor across the street has an outside tree that has to be at least fifty feet high. They use a crane to decorate it and it’s beautiful. The star shines in my bedroom and I love it.

    I’m sure you must treasure those old ornaments.What a great family heirloom.

    Have a merry Christmas.

  19. Our tree is basically a collection of ornaments my sister and I made over the years. Along with ornaments we picked out each year to add to the tree. Some years mom would let us pick the ornaments others she would pick for us.

  20. The ornaments are just beautiful. I have bird ornaments that clip on the branches of the tree. They are about 40 years old.

Comments are closed.