Sudbury’s First Christmas
Florence Howey

Florence Howey when she first came to Sudbury in 1883.

The winter of 1883 was very cold and stormy and there was a lot of snow by Christmas according to Florence Howey one of Greater Sudbury’s first residents. Florence Howey was the wife of Dr. William Howey, who had been hired by the CPR to treat men who were constructing the railway and run the hospital which had been built. The railway had arrived in November of that year and so Sudbury’s first residents had access to more products, especially food, arriving on a train instead of having to rely on what could be brought north with a horse and wagon.

Mrs. Howey decided that they would have a party for the first Christmas in Sudbury’s existence. Most of the railway workers, which made up the greatest part of our population at the time, had gone home for Christmas to be with their families so invitations were sent out to nine who weren’t able to leave. Most of the party were men who had stayed over winter to maintain stores and offices for the railway but there was one little boy, Billy Thompson, who with his father had been unable to return to their family and a young woman, Miss Horrigan, who Mrs. Howey said was the only girl available.

Guests helped decorate the Howey’s four room log home, which was dubbed “Pill Hill” and was located right at the corner of Elm and Lorne Streets today close to where the log hospital had been built.

The Howeys and their guests celebrated with a Christmas turkey and all the traditional fixings while crowded around a table in the little house. “All were in good spirits” wrote Mrs. Howey, “although we were a little bunch of strangers gathered from every direction, away back in the wilderness, hundreds of miles from any of our kin or friends.” They sang Auld Lang Syne before the guests left for the night agreeing that they had a very Merry Christmas indeed.

Dr. William Howey

Dr. William Howey standing in front of their home, where they celebrated Sudbury’s first Christmas, with twin moose that they were given as a gift.

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