Our Town 2016 NOV-DEC (Gainesville)

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Haile Holidays Historic Haile Homestead Celebrates Christmas the Old Fashioned Way W R IT TE N BY PEGGY M AC DON A LD


single surviving photograph from the late 19th century shows how the Haile family decked the halls of their 1856 home for Christmas. They used native plant materials to decorate the mantle in the family’s 6,200-square-foot heart pine and cypress house, named Kanapaha. “It’s just like we do it,” said Historic Haile Homestead President and Historian Karen Kirkman. According to the diary of Serena Haile, who wrote most of the more than 12,500 words that cover the Haile Homestead’s “talking walls,” the Haile family decorated the house on Christmas Eve. Serena and Thomas Evans Haile had 15 children together. “During the holidays, many of the children would come home and they would have big meals,” Kirkman 88 |



said. “Many of the boys would go out hunting, usually for birds.” On some occasions, none of the Haile children came home for the holidays. “She gets very lonely at the holidays when she doesn’t have a lot of family around,” Kirkman said. After co-writing a history of the Haile Homestead, “The Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation: An Illustrated History,” with Kevin McCarthy, Kirkman’s next book project is to publish Serena Haile’s diary. She got hooked on the history of the Haile family when she transcribed the writing on the walls after she started volunteering as a docent in 2001, shortly after the house first started to offer tours to the public. After finishing the walls, Kirkman transcribed Serena Haile’s diary. The Annual Homestead Holidays celebration

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