On the twelfth day of Christmas

Make text smaller Make text larger


  • UnaLee Thoenig was in charge of the kitchen, cooking as they did in the 1800s. 

  • Visitors were able to take a look at the various rooms in the Coursen Homestead on Twelfth Night. 

  • Books at the in the Coursen Homestead.  During research in advance of the Bicentennial, it was noted that the name "Fredon" may have been derived from the word "freedom."

  • Don Thoenig as the Twelfth Night Mistral.  (Photos by Laurie Gordon).

By Laurie Gordon

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...”

Most would finish this line with “Twelve drummers drumming,” but not at the Coursen Homestead. There, on Saturday, “twelve Keepers keeping” was better suited.

The Keepers of Coursen's Corners host Twelfth Night each year, when they dress in period clothing and regale tales of old, educating the community about what life was like in the 1800s. Don Thoenig, dressed in a top hat adorned with holly and old fashioned garb, and wandered around the homestead regaling those in attendance with songs. Though he added “We Three Kings of Orient Are” to his repertoire this year to commemorate the arrival of the three kings as the reason to celebrate Twelfth Night, the audience got a hoot out of his rendition of “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.”

“I look forward to being the mistral every year,” Thoenig said. “This celebration is a great way to show people what things were like in the olden days and they always seem to leave with a new appreciation.”

To underscore the importance of retaining history, Thoenig has created a coloring book detailing many of the rooms in the Coursen Homestead. He also makes upside-down cards each year which he sells to help raise funds to support the Keepers Coursen's Corners efforts. The cards appear to depict something when held one way, and yet appear as something completely different when turned upside down.

Thoenig's wife, UnaLee, is in charge of the kitchen, where the focal point is an enormous hearth from which cast iron pots over the fire, where cooking is done as it was in the 1800s.

“I found a cookbook online from 1851 so am using some of those recipes,” UnaLee Thoenig said. “The recipes are Dutch and that was the origin of the family that once lived here.”

The alluring aroma of several meat and vegetarian dishes wafted throughout the house from the kitchen as visitors toured the various rooms, all restored.

“This event and the others we do during the year bring something unique to the community,” said Ginny Richardson, who co-founded the Keepers of Coursen's Corners with the late Ginny Wask.

The Coursen House was built about 1805. It contained four rooms on the first floor with a chimney across the corner of two rooms. There were three bedrooms on the second floor. The kitchen, located on the southern end of the house, had a large bake oven to the right of the chimney. Isaac Coursen added a first-floor parlor and two additional bedrooms upstairs as the family grew.

The home stands next to Lodestar Park in Fredon. For information or to arrange a tour, contact Richardson at 973-579-1490 or visit the website https://coursenscorners.wixsite.com/coursenscorners.

Make text smaller Make text larger


Pool Rules


A day in the life of ambulance volunteers
By Meghan Byers
SPARTA — “It’s not like the TV shows,” Jeff Hookway said, standing in front of the two ambulances parked in the garage of the...

Read more »

Sophomore reps SHS at Poetry Out Loud
Sophomore Shea Holovacs represented Sparta High School at the Region 4 Poetry Out Loud competition on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, at the...
Read more »

Tree-cutting starts at Sparta Mountain
The next phase of forestry work in the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area started this week on 9.4 acres...

Read more »

Andover Township CERT
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP - Residents are stepping up to volunteer their time after spotting recent articles stating that Andover Township is starting an emergency response team composed...
Read more »


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Community Newspapers


Local News
459K motorists don't have spare tire
  • Feb 20, 2019
Business & Real Estate
Stunning home in Sussex Hills
  • Feb 20, 2019
Fly fishing lessons at Sparta VFW
  • Feb 20, 2019
Local News
Tree-cutting starts at Sparta Mountain
  • Feb 21, 2019


Find more about Weather in Sparta, NJ