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100 Years Ago: Reminiscing about the 1870's

Nostalgia isn't a new invention. From the 1915 Adair County News, Melvin White reminisces about Party games, Sunday courting rituals, and Columbia, "a mighty emporium"

By Jim

The rambling, loquacious, and pungently humorous letters of native son Melvin White frequently appeared in the Adair County News during the first quarter or so of the last century. In one such missive, dated December 28, 1915 and published in the paper eight days later, he reminisced about life and customs in Adair County in the middle to late 1870's.

Wrote the ever-witty Mr. White:
As I am a giddy youngster of fifty-eight wheat harvests, the young people of the present will think we had rather fantastic styles of parties and means of enjoyment. When the Christmas season drew nigh, we met to have play parties. The games were Snap, Jennie Put the Kettle On, Steal Partners, Quaker Pan, Old Sister Phoebe, Imitation, etc. Such occasions I always gave my presence and moral support, but was a perennial wall flower...At seventeen years of age, I was five feet in height and weighed 135 pounds...Long Hungry Tom Taylor, Bascom Garnett and Lucien Hurt were the society leaders, and I was relegated to the society of other freaks...

The boys and girls had no buggies; but either hoofed it or rode horseback. Every boy and girl could ride well, was interesting to watch young swains maneuver for position at close of preaching service, at Zion and Tabor. Not one out of ten had the nerve to walk up to a young lady and ask for her company before she was mounted. They would wait till she had been helped up, as it was called, and then charge in full tilt. Sometimes a half dozen would select the same damsel, and she showed by management of her pony which was the preferred suitor. When the favorite landed, the disappointed would gallop on by, as if they had no idea of even speaking to the girl.

At that time the town of Columbia was picturesque but by no means beautiful. One institution was the town cow -- knock-kneed and mournful of countenance--another was a score of town hogs that had rainbow back and snouts as long as hand spikes. But as I had never been any where but to Mr. James Conover's mill and "Hard Scratch," Columbia in my estimation, was a mighty emporium of trade and enterprise.
Note: It was in this self-same letter that Mr. White took to task with white-hot vengeance the puritanical "snuffling hypocrites" who damned the fiddle as the instrument of the devil. That cauldron doth bubble and boil over here: JIM: Melvin White Buys a Fiddle and Shames the Hypocrites

This story was posted on 2015-12-31 08:58:51
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