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An Old-Fashioned Chilliwack Christmas with Isaac Kipp and His Family

In the late 1890s, Isaac Kipp (1839-1921), the acknowledged “Father of Chilliwack“,and his wife Mary (1839-1931), lived on Kipp Lane in a house that still stands today at 45360 Hodgins Ave.

This circa 1890 image facing south from Hodgins Avenue (nee Kipp Lane) shows the family home of Isaac and Mary Kipp where the Knight family and their children regularly enjoyed old-fashioned Chilliwack Christmases (including the one of 1895 described in the story) Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum and Archives Collection, Photo Number PP500747

The Kipps' oldest of 10 children was Jennie Knight (1866-1953), and she and her husband William Knight (1851-1928) had lived in Popcum since 1883. The Knights started a tradition of every year coming into Chilliwack with their children to spend Christmas week at the Kipps. If there was heavy snow about, the Knights would use a horse drawn cutter instead of a buggy to make the 18 km journey.

William Knight (1851-1928) and Jennie Knight (1866 - 1953) taken in Victoria in 1883 on their honeymoon. Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum and Archives Collection, Photo Number PP502201

In this far simpler time, prior to automobiles, electricity, and telephones, travelling to spend time with family for Christmas in early Chilliwack was a most special event.

On December 24, 1895, the Chilliwack Valley was deep in snow, and William Knight had the cutter ready to go. It was well packed, with rag dolls that had been specially made for their little girls and other gifts hidden beneath the seat. The cookies, Mount Cheam cranberries, and mince pies, were safely stored on the floor. With Jenny holding her newborn daughter, Evelyn, carefully in her arms, and the other children chatting excitedly in the back, off they went.

This is an image of a horse-drawn cutter similar to the one the Knight family used on December 24, 1895, to travel from Popcum to spend Christmas with Isaac and Mary Kipp. Image Credit:

The trip into Chilliwack took most of the morning, but at last the Knights arrived at the Kipps' big house. After the initial visiting was over, Jenny and her mother Mary, started preparing for the family Christmas.

Isaac Kipp had secured the biggest Christmas tree he could find, nearly reaching the top of the high ceiling living room.

That Christmas Eve, the three generations enjoyed decorating the tree with strings of popcorn and cranberries, homemade candles, and red apples.

After everyone enjoyed Jenny‘s tub fried donuts and the small Christmas candles and little metal clips were lit, the children went to bed looking forward to the arrival of Santa Claus and all the festivities in store the next day.

Christmas morning finally arrived and the Knight children (along with numerous cousins also staying at the house) rose early to open their stockings.

Their grandfather, Isaac Kipp, then spent much of the morning carefully distributing presents to his many grandchildren. They were delighted with the homemade mittens, dresses, scarves, the rag dolls, a wagon, wooden toys, and shiny story books.

After the children enjoyed playing with their toys, it was time for the girls to help set the two tables (one for the adults, one for the kids) for the 25 guests. As the big clock sounded 2:00 PM, dinner was announced.

The men began carving the two turkeys. It was a great Christmas feast, including turkey, ham, chicken, vegetables, mince pies, plum pudding, donuts, nuts, raisins, apples, Christmas cake, and even some rare Mandarin oranges.

When the big dinner was over, all agreed it had been another special family Christmas. The children then went to play in the barn or with their toys, the men dozed, and the women washed up. Such was a typical Christmas for one family in Chilliwack in a different era long ago.


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