The holiday season is upon us. It is a time of peace, love, and joy. This time of year is filled gift giving and feasting with friends and family. In Yellow Springs, this time of year is the time for the Christmas flour! What is the Christmas flour, you might ask? The Christmas Flour is a wonderful tradition that can be credited to Wheeling Gaunt. My last post on Wheeling Gaunt gave some insight into his life prior to coming to Yellow Springs and how he bequeathed a large portion of his estate to Wilberforce University. Gaunt also left nine acres of land to the Village of Yellow Springs with the stipulation that the rent collected on the property would be used each year to purchase flour for the needy widows, regardless of race, within the community. Today we know this parcel of land as Gaunt Park. The tradition of handing out bags of flour to local widows is often referred to as the Christmas Flour.
This year marks the one hundred and eighteenth anniversary of this generous tradition. According to Kelley Fox, in the Yellow Springs Public Works Department, one hundred and eighteen villagers benefited from Gaunt’s generosity this year. How ironic are those numbers? The total number of recipients was made up of one hundred four widows and fourteen widowers. The tradition has changed somewhat over the years. Today both flour and sugar are distributed to both widows and widowers. I believe that Mr. Gaunt would appreciate how this tradition has evolved over the years.
Below is an article published after the first Christmas Flour distribution occurred in 1894:
Published in the Yellow Springs Torch, December 28, 1894.
The Christmas Flour.
During the past week, the committee appointed for the purpose, distributed sixty-nine sacks of flour to the poor widows of the town under a provision in the will of the late Wheeling Gaunt, and twenty-three widows were selected as the most needy and deserving among the fifty or more who applied, and as there was just enough money for sixty-eight sacks of flour, it just lacked one sack of making three sacks each, so the committee bought an extra sack out of their own private funds in order to make an equal distribution. Many wealthy men have died in this community but none perhaps will be remembered so long and so gratefully as Mr. Gaunt. By setting aside a certain amount of his property the proceeds which goes to this widows’ fund to be distributed each Christmas, he has so fixed his generosity in the minds of the people that he will always be kindly remembered.
Over in Glen Forest Cemetery, the quiet city of our dead, stands a very pretty monument which marks the last resting place of this good man, but here in our village of living people, in the hearts of our citizens, is planted a monument of gratitude more lasting than the marble slab.