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One gift, lasting tradition

Photo courtesy Mark Forman.1 / 2
James Linsley spins the top during Christmas 1964 in this photograph from the Oshkosh (Wis.) Daily Northwestern.2 / 2

A man who lived in Morris at the turn of the 20th century began a tradition of touching simplicity that has endured for 140 years and spans generations of his family.

David Linsley, in 1868, received a modest, brass top for Christmas, his one and only gift. His love for his top led him to begin a tradition of spinning the top each Christmas eve.

The tradition began when the family lived in Red Wing and continued when they moved to Morris in 1876. It continues today among his descendants who live in Washington state.

The family even made a short video tribute to the tradition titled "One Present -- The Christmas Top," which can be viewed on YouTube at:

One of David Linsley's descendants, Lucy Jeanne, wrote of the tradition:

"As people all over the country consider the implications of scaling back their holiday shopping this year, they might be interested to learn about a little boy, born during the Civil War, whose love for one simple present has lasted more than a century and is still being celebrated today.

"In Deer Park Wash., this Christmas, a six-generation family tradition marked its 140th anniversary. The small brass top David Linsley received as his only present when he was six years old has been spun on Christmas Eves since 1868.

"The tradition began in Red Wing, where Dolph Linsley bought the spinning top for his young son. It was David's only present that year. He treasured the new toy so much that he began a personal tradition of spinning it every year on Christmas Eve. This year, the Forman family -- descendants of David Linsley - celebrated the 140th anniversary of the Christmas top.

"When David died in 1937, his son, James Linsley, continued his father's annual holiday ritual. The top went to James' daughter Ruth Linsley Forman in 1974. Since Ruth passed in 2004, her husband of 60 years, Robert Forman, continues spinning the top on Christmas Eve at family gatherings with children and grandchildren.

"The top is tarnished and dented with age now, but still reflects the fine craftsmanship of another generation. The spinning Christmas top is featured in, "One Present" posted on YouTube.

"There have been only two years when the top did not spin on Christmas Eve. David's family was completing their move to Litchfield, on Christmas Eve in 1904. David and his hired man unloaded three teams of horses and a pair of mules in the winter darkness. Driving their stock through Litchfield's main street, the mules woke the village with their braying, but the top was still in transit, packed deep in one of the wagons. The other time was in 1959, when James and Martha traveled to Rockford, Ill., for a holiday visit with the Formans and forgot to pack the top."