In the 1860s, a giant sequoia in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains was named the General Grant Tree after General Ulysses S. Grant. The President sent a letter to Lucretia Baker who in 1867 claimed to have named the tree in his honor and had forwarded some branches to him.
As Christmas approaches, my family looks forward to their annual opportunity to be hailed as “The Great Pickle Finder.” This American tradition of hanging a blown glass pickle ornament on the family Christmas tree became popular at the end of the nineteenth century and a favorite one in my family for generations. Originally imported from the Lauscha region of Germany (renowned for its blown glass), ornaments of glass in the shapes of fruits and vegetables found their way into many U.S. homes of the period. How the pickle specifically became a favorite, however, is a compelling story with a setting of Christmas in 1864. It has an additional intriguing element bringing the founder of this tradition into a shared experience with Grant Cottage’s first caretaker – one that would profoundly affect both men. The story begins at the infamous Confederate prison camp (Camp Sumter) at Andersonville, Georgia.
In the spring of 1885 as an ailing Ulysses Grant sat at Drexel Cottage on Mt. McGregor contemplating his legacy, he received many heartwarming letters of support. Though the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, VA had occurred 20 years before it was fresh in his mind since he had just written about it for his memoirs.