August Imgard, of Wooster, was once widely credited as the first person to bring the Christmas tree to America.
Imgard was born in Bavaria, Germany before immigrating to America as a young adult. He began to miss winters in his homeland, where residents cut live evergreens to bring inside as a reminder of life in the dark, cold winters.
In 1847, Imgard cut down a blue spruce and brought it inside for the family to decorate.
The descriptions of what he decorated it with vary. Many versions claim he merely decorated with candy canes and scraps of ribbon, perhaps with a paper chain or a few candles. Others add that Imgard had the local tinsmith fashion a star to adorn the top of the tree.
According to the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, which covered a 1938 celebration in Cleveland honoring the late Imgard (with descendants present), the tree was much more fanciful.
"The first tree was raised in the Imgard home. It stood on a revolving platform and as the tree turned slowly, a hidden music box tinkled a Christmas melody. People came from miles around to see the first tree and the following year there were many trees. Ornaments were made of paper, festooned in long chains by the younger members of the pioneer community.
"Kuchen (similar to gingerbread) baked according to a recipe sent from Bavaria by Imgard's mother, hung upon the tree and served both as ornaments and tidbits. The cookies were colored with brown sugar and the family spent weeks baking them in quantities for the guests. Gilded nuts were other ornaments and inside the gilded shells were warm messages of greeting and little poems of love and life on the old frontier."
Imgard's daughter was present at the Cleveland ceremony and had provided the description of the tree, but had not yet been born when her father decorated the first tree. Regardless, the Christmas Tree in Wooster was a hit and soon the tradition spread across the town, the state, and country.
Imgard was hailed for nearly a century as the man who gave America the Christmas tree, until a German professor at the College of Wooster studied the claim and discovered that Imgard was indeed not the first.
Dr. Schreiber found evidence of other Christmas trees in America -- such as Cleveland and Buffalo -- well before Imgard's. Imgard, at least, remains honored as the first man to decorate a tree with candy canes, as well as the first in Wooster to decorate a tree.
Wooster pays homage to the man who brought them the Christmas tree by originally placing one in front of his tomb at the Wooster/Oak Hill Cemetery every Christmas, and now by decorating an evergreen which grows nearby.
More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.