Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Comes: Take a Look at Some Presidents With December Birthdays
The poet A. E. Houseman penned
sentiments I feel when I realize how rapidly December descends upon us
near Time hovers at the end of 2005.
night is freezing fast.
winterfalls of old
with me from the past.” (-A.
E. Housman, 1859-1936)
This name of the last month of
year actually gets its name from the Latin word “decem” which means
November, October, and September, the three preceding months, December
misnamed for the Latin words meaning numbers tenth, ninth, eighth and
because these months held these positions in the Roman calendar until
months of January and February were added in the seventh century B.C.
Roman Emperor Numa Pompilius. Emperor Julius Ceasar revised the Roman
again in 46 B.C. His calendar had 365 and 1/4 days and was known as the
Calendar until Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 ordered the system we know now
“leap year” with an extra day coming every four years in the second
February. We live and work, therefore, according to the Gregorian
rarely do we consider the old meaning of the word “December” as
the Latin word meaning tenth.
One of my favorite columns in
newspaper to which I subscribe is “Today in History.” If your newspaper
this syndicated column, perhaps you, as I, delight in seeing the list
important events and births that happened in December. As Poet Housman
“And winterfalls of old/Are with me from the past.”
With December dawning the day
this issue of
published, let’s look at a few significant dates in Decembers past.
Fifty years ago, on December 1, 1955,
Rosa Parks a black
seamstress in Montgomery,
Ala., refused to give up
her bus seat to a
white man. Her stance has been noted as one of the significant events
Civil Rights Movement that spurred bus boycotts, marches and voting
for her race. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from
Clinton and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. She died October 24, 2005.
Born Rosa Louise
McCauley, she lived in fear as a child, heard the Klu Klux Klan ride
demonstrate in her neighborhood in Pine Level, Alabama, saw them burn
and perform lynchings. She was the first woman in America
who was chosen for the
honor of lying in state in the rotunda of the nation’s capitol at her
honor usually reserved for presidents.
Three United States
Presidents thus far
had December birthdays. Martin Van Buren was born December 5, 1782 in Kinderhook, N.Y.
The eighth president of our country, he was the first chief executive
born an American citizen after the United States became an
nation. His term of service was from March 4, 1837 through March 3, 1841. Van
Buren died in his hometown of
Kinderhook on July
The seventeenth president of the
Andrew Johnson, was born December 29, 1808 in Raleigh, N.C.
He had a rugged childhood.
His father, a handyman at a tavern, died when Andrew was 3. His mother
take in washing to care for her children. Andrew did not go to school
child, and was apprenticed early to a tailor where he learned the trade
also how to read. At age 16 he left Raleigh
and went to Greenville,
Tenn., and set up his own
tailor’s shop. At
18, he married 16-year-old Eliza McCardle. She was much better educated
Andrew, and taught him how to write and to read better. He began to
walk to a
school that would let him participate in student debates. His quick
booming voice, and familiarity with current events on which the teams
made him a champion debater and prepared him for his career in
politics. He was
first on the town council, then mayor, next congressman, at age 45
governor of Tennessee,
following which he was elected for two terms to the U.S. Senate.
remained in Congress at the outbreak of the Civil War, and in 1864, he
nominated from the “Union” Party as Vice-President for Abraham
term. No one foresaw Johnson becoming president, but when President
assassinated, Andrew Johnson became president, serving from April 15, 1865
through March 3, 1869.
and the strong impetus on punishing the rebelling south made Johnson’s
of trials and troubles. In fact, Congress tried to impeach him, but by
Johnson remained as president. The seventeenth president, with the
“Tennessee Tailor,” died July 31, 1875 in Carter Station, Tenn.
The next president with a
was Woodrow Wilson, twenty-eighth president, born December 29, 1856 in Staunton, Va.
Son and grandson of Presbyterian ministers, at one time his father’s
church in Augusta,
was turned into a hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers. Educated
College, the College of New Jersey
and later at Princeton, he received a
in law and for a short time practiced law in Atlanta, Ga.
He received a Doctor of Philosophy degree from John Hopkins
teach. He became president of Princeton University
in 1902. In
1910 he was elected governor of New Jersey and in 1912 was elected
president of the United
His term of service was from March 4, 1913 through March 3, 1921. When he was
reelected to a second term in 1916, his slogan
had been: “Wilson
kept us out of war.” But when German warships began to sink American
the Atlantic, Wilson asked Congress to declare war
Following the Armistice in 1918, Wilson
worked hard on his famous “Fourteen Points” peace plan and for the
establishment of the League of Nations.
However, because the U.S. Senate would never vote to join the League of Nations, Wilson’s
dream of America
becoming a leading member was not realized. He was married first to
of Rome, Ga.,
who died during his first term in 1914. They had three daughters. He
Edith Bolling Galt in December 1915. When Wilson
suffered a massive stroke on October 2, 1919, his wife Edith read government
reports, shielded him from
visitors and relayed his decisions. He finished out his second term as
invalid and died quietly in Washington
Rosa Parks, Civil Rights
Presidents had December birthdays, as well as a host of other notable
But the month reminds us more of the birthday of Emmanuel, God with us,
we celebrate on December 25, although the exact date of His birth has
in the mists of time. The fight is on to call the season only “Happy
and omit any mention of Christmas, which means “birthday of Christ.” My
that we all remember the “reason for the season,” and as December comes
prepare hearts to celebrate the best birthday of all time.
Jones; published Dec. 1, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail email@example.com;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708
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