Find Christmas past at museum

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published December 11, 2013

ROCHESTER HILLS — When Bertha Van Hoosen was a girl in the 1800s, Christmas was a simple holiday of handmade gifts and decorations.

In her book “Petticoat Surgeon,” Van Hoosen wrote about making gifts for local children. 

“My ambition to give at least 10 presents to each child kept me working continually from one Christmas to the next,” the young Van Hoosen wrote. “My money was not sufficient to buy even one ‘store’ present, so I had to manufacture out of mere nothings 150 or 200 presents. Month after month, all the year ’round,­ I viewed everything through Santa Claus spectacles that I wore night and day. The ragbag was productive; worn-out stockings supplied bits of yarn; the creek bed was a treasury of shells, bits of broken glass and colored stones. My creative genius was restrained by only one thing — it must be possible to label the present and hang it on the tree.”

Van Hoosen’s spirit of Christmas past is alive and well at the Rochester Hills Museum, the former Van Hoosen family farm, where young Bertha grew up before beginning a celebrated career as an obstetrician, gynecologist and surgeon.

All are invited to celebrate an upcoming Old Fashioned Christmas event at the museum — offering holiday festivity in a historic setting.

Young and old are invited to see a train show at the museum dairy barn, take a hayride to the Van Hoosen farmhouse, view holiday performances and more.

“It is a very family-oriented event,” said Museum Supervisor Pat McKay. “Every building here gets into the mix.”

The Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm is a complex of historical buildings located in historic Stoney Creek Village. The museum celebrates five generations of the Taylor-Van Hoosen families and the lives of the family members.

Museum buildings include the 1840 Van Hoosen Farmhouse, the 1850 Red House, the 1927 Dairy Barn and the 1848 Schoolhouse. In addition, the museum is surrounded by 16 acres of gardens and grounds, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We will have different activities in each building,” said Danielle Ager, museum assistant. “The schoolhouse will have crafts, and everything is decorated.”

“We’ll have chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” McKay said. “We had to buy chestnut roasters. Chestnuts taste like a chewy potato.”

The Rochester Hills Museum is located at 1005 Van Hoosen Road, off Tienken, east of Rochester Road.

Attend Old Fashioned Christmas 1-4 p.m. Dec. 21. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 the day of the event, with discounts for museum members. Order tickets online at