Sunday, December 22, 2013

Joseph Green and the Christmas Rose

The Christmas Rose (Helleborus Niger)
from Wikipedia Commons
by Archenzo Moggio (Lecco)

Throughout the year I look for family history stories which apply to Christmas. I found one for this year, but I must warn you, it is a little sad. In my research in British newspapers this year I came across a story about my three times great grandfather, Joseph Green. Now, to clarify, this is the great grandfather of my maternal grandfather, William Sanderson, and not one of the Greens related to my maternal grandmother, Alice Sanderson, nee Saunders.

A little background: Joseph Green was born about 1819 in March, Cambridgeshire, England, the son of Joseph Green and Ann Banes. He was baptised on August 2, 1819 at the Church of St. Wendreda. He married Mary Pepper, nee Smart, also known as the “widow Pepper” on December 23, 1841, the same year her first husband died. She had two small children, Jonathan, 5, and Elizabeth Ann, 4, from her first marriage. Mary was born about 1815 in Downham Market, Norfolk, and was the daughter of John Smart and Elizabeth Wanford. Joseph and Mary (see, already a Christmas connection) went on to have at least five children together, including Joseph, (my great great grandfather), Susannah, Ann, Joanna, and Grace.

The Joseph Green of our story had a few different occupations during his life, including operating an alehouse, and being a “carter” far away in Lancashire, possibly for a coal mine or a quarry. He also had a farm, more of a smallholding, of about sixteen acres, on Whittle End Road in March. Some of the newspaper stories I have found which seem to apply to him, may also apply to his father, Joseph Green, who was also a farmer of a smallholding in March, of about ten acres. Unfortunately, Joseph Green the elder met his end at the age of seventy-one due to falling off a “load of peas” in August of 1862.

from Cambridge Independent Press, August 23, 1862
accessed via Find My Past
So, one of the Joseph Greens grew a plant called Helleborus Niger in his garden, a plant which was also known as the Christmas Rose. There is a legend that it got its name because it sprouted out of the snow from the tears of a young girl who had no gifts to give the Christ child in Bethlehem. Apparently, it has been a favourite among cottage gardeners because it continues to flower in the midst of winter. It is also poisonous. I found the following article in The Cambridge Independent Press, dated December 29, 1860:

The “Tuesday last” of that week referred to in the article would have been Christmas Day. So, to recap:  Joseph and Mary may have awakened on Christmas morning in 1860 to find that several of their precious sheep had died from eating the Christmas roses in their garden. Where were the shepherds when they needed them?

1 comment:

Susan J Barclay said...

Lovely story, Sherry. Thank you for sharing it. I used to have helleborus in my garden, but I didn't think it was poisonous. Perhaps it wasn't helleborus niger. Anyway, no harm done in my garden.
I also enjoyed the newspaper clipping about the accidental death of Joseph Green senior.
Look forward to reading many of your other posts.
Susan in Oz