Christmas is a time for spending with family and friends, but lots of people in Montana in the 1800s ended up spending Christmas away from their families. Miners, and lumberjacks, and railroad workers all ended up spending many Christmases in camps scattered across the unpopulated plains and mountains of Montana.
It may seem bleak but, in Christmastime in Montana, Dave Walter records Christmas celebrations from all sorts of camps and the like, and some of them didn’t seem half bad. In 1882, August Anderson was was working on the railroad outside of Glendive when Christmas came around. Anderson and two of his friends (whose names, no joke, were Sam Samuelson, and Andrew Andrewson) dug out a small cave in a bank and built a little room. They used powder cans to build a chimney (which seems dangerous – I mean, presumably they they were empty, but still, residue, or something). They bought five gallons of cognac and brewed a punch “that was nectar to the Swedes.” They spent all Christmas eve serving punch. Two or three people would come into the cave and have a drink, and then move along so that two or three more could file in. Anderson and Andrewson, and Samuelson served the entire camp. They had punch and sang Christmas songs and generally had a marvelous time. Anderson said that he had “never spent a more pleasant Christmas.