Chatham & Sleepy Hollow, New York
On September 21, 1897, the New York Sun ran an inconspicuous little editorial which appeared below a bicycle advertisement. It was entitled Is There A Santa Claus?, and it has gone on to become one of the most famous editorials ever written. The first sentence of the second paragraph, which reads “Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus”, has become one of the most popular holiday quotes of all time. The editorial, and the story behind it, have become part of Christmas culture in America, and the two individuals involved, Virginia O’Hanlon and Francis Church, immortalized forever as an American holiday institution.
Frances Church was a prominent news writer with a long and distinguished journalistic history. He had been a correspondant during the American Civil War, and had founded several newspapers with his brother William. After receiving a letter from eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon, he made a magnificent and deeply philosophical reply that boldly declared, without a doubt, that there was a Santa Claus. The letter was received with great acclaim, and became an overnight sensation. In the century since its first printing, Church’s letter has become the most re-published editorial of all time.
Both Virginia’s letter and Church’s reply are heartwarming reminders of an age that is now gone. Virginia’s touching words to the New York Sun demanded the truth about Santa Claus, because “if it is written in the Sun it must be so”. Church’s bold reply, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” has become, to many people, the definitive answer for all time. Although it is not known if the two ever met, there names will be inextricably linked forever by this sentimental exchange. Virginia O’Hanlon is buried in the Chatham Rural Cemetery in the town of Chatham just outside of Albany, about a hundred miles north of New York City. Francis Church is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, about twenty-five miles north of New York City.
Chatham Rural Cemetery is an open site. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is a major landmark, with a number of famous interments, including assorted Carnegies, Astors, Helmsleys, Chryslers and Washington Irving. It is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30am-4:30pm. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.chathamnewyork.us (official website of the Town of Chatham); http://sleepyhollowcemetery.org (official website of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery)