Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Santa Claus Is My Grandfather!"

Art by Anne Marit Bergstrom, Dakota Drawings

Peanut, my 9 year old, believes in Santa Claus. And why wouldn’t he? His Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather, William John “Jock” Ferguson, was rumored to have deposited candy in the shoes left out by children in his neighborhood of Dumfries, Scotland, on Saint Nicholas’ Day.

His son, John Ferguson, was born on Christmas Day in 1838, and has a very interesting story.

At the age of 14, John embarked on a journey to America with his father, “Jock”, his mother and sister, both named Elizabeth. Sadly, Jock did not ever see American shores. He died during the journey, was sewn up into a gunny sack and was given a proper sea burial.

John, the same age as my oldest son, Bud, then took on the overwhelming responsibility of taking care of his mother (who was expecting another baby) and his sister. They landed in New Orleans and took a steamer to St. Louis. John found work on a Mississippi River steamer as a deck hand. At the outbreak of the Civil War, John served as a night watchman on the steamer, New Falls City, which operated between St. Louis and New Orleans. From there, he went to live in his grandfather’s home in south central Missouri.

John enlisted in the Missouri Militia in 1862 and served with them until he volunteered for the army. He joined the 3rd Missouri Cavalry at Rolla, Missouri, and was honorably discharged in 1865.

Following the war, John served as justice of the peace in a town in south central Missouri. He retired in 1938, just shy of his 100th birthday. “Squire” John, as he was affectionately known in his hometown, served as state commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).

John Ferguson died January, 1940, at the age of 101.

It is very interesting to know that “Squire” John was small in stature and had a long, flowing beard, and twinkling blue eyes that complemented his happy smile. He was known to have a very generous heart – just like his father, the man who delivered candy to children in his native Scotland home.

Perhaps Peanut’s interpretation of his Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather being Santa Claus isn’t too far off. His son carried on in his tradition. Now, whenever Peanut is asked if he believes in Santa Claus, he responds enthusiastically, “Yes, I do! He was my Grandfather!”

I am thrilled to know that Santa Claus will live forever as long as Peanut continues to tell this story.

No comments: