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Descendants of Union Mills’ Louis Shriver recite his 19th-century Christmas poem in new video

The Historical Society of Carroll County and Union Mills Homestead Foundation Inc. have produced a holiday video that features a poem written more than 130 years ago by Louis Edwin Shriver of Union Mills, recited by his descendants.

Shriver wrote the piece in 1886 for his nieces Winnie and Catherine Shriver, who found the poem on Christmas morning among their gifts and cherished it as a special letter from Santa Claus.

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Louis Edwin Shriver, who wrote the poem, "Christmas Eve 1886."
Louis Edwin Shriver, who wrote the poem, "Christmas Eve 1886." (Courtesy Union Mills Homestead collections)

“In this case, we already had the poem in our society’s files and we knew that the people out at Union Mills would have great contacts with the Shriver family,” said Kristen McMasters, the acting executive director of HSCC. “And we knew that we could get the editing for the video done and they could coordinate with the family members to recite the poem.”

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Maryland, society members and the cast remained socially distant by recording their segments individually with smart phones and provided the footage to the historical society for editing.

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The poem highlights Santa Claus and what he began to represent for children by 1886 for the Christmas holiday.

“This was a fun collaboration of something that is very Carroll County,” McMasters said.

Maryland families like the Shrivers, who descended from German immigrants, for generations had recognized Christmas with the Belsnickel and Kris Kindle traditions. But by the early 19th century Santa Claus became popular in the United States, emerging as a mixture of England’s Father Christmas and Holland, Belgium and Switzerland’s St. Nicolas.

This video rendition of Shriver’s poem includes members of the Shriver family, direct descendants of those who lived at Union Mills back in 1886, and members of the Union Mills community.

“Christmas Eve 1886″ is read by Helen Shriver Riley, former HSCC Board Chair and granddaughter of B.F. Shriver; Doug Klein, grandson of Winifred Shriver Klein, the Winnie to whom the poem is addressed; Jen Weidman Schoener, a great-granddaughter of Winifred Shriver Klein; Frank Shriver, grandson of B.F. Shriver; Mark Kennedy Shriver, son of R. Sargent Shriver, Jr.; Bill Jones, grandson of Jeanette Shriver Jones, one of the three other children mentioned in the poem; James M. Shriver, III, HSCC Board member and B.F. Shriver descendant; Jane S. Sewell, Homestead Foundation executive director; Sam Riley, foundation board president; Eve Klein, great-granddaughter of Winifred Shriver Klein; and Jane Sharpe, Union Mills area resident and long-time Homestead Foundation board member.

According to McMasters, the 7-minute video is a reminder that the poem is more than a century old and despite the uncertainty that lies ahead, what truly stands the test of time is love and hope.

“With all of the changes that we have seen in just one year in the world, I think this poem really reminds us what is really important,” McMasters said. “And that’s family and well wishes into the New Year.”

The video may be viewed on the historical society’s Facebook page , its website, www.hsccmd.org under blogs, or on YouTube.

Union Mills Homestead, home of Louis Edwin Shriver, who wrote the poem, "Christmas Eve 1886."
Union Mills Homestead, home of Louis Edwin Shriver, who wrote the poem, "Christmas Eve 1886." (Courtesy Union Mills Homestead collections)

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