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History of Benton Harbor and tales of village days. A combination of local historic events, interwoven with anecdotes of the times when Benton Harbor was a village. Together with a compilation of other records. James Pender. Pages 52-56.
This is a good excerpt replete with dance names, dance calls, dance locations, and fiddler names. There is certainly plenty of interest here.
"THERE was plenty of old-fashioned entertainment in Benton Harbor's village days. Dances and parties were frequently held in the homes, with an occasional public dance at Robbins' Hall. A few years later, the public dances were held in Conkey's Hall on Pipestone Street, and in Robinson's Hall on Sixth Street.
The waltz step was then almost unknown, and the more modern dances, the tango and the fox trot, had not as yet been imported from the land of the Zulus. The dances were what are now called the old-fashioned kind. The four-couple quadrille was the rage in dancing society, and this lively stepping and swinging exercise was varied occasionally with Money Musk and the Virginia Reel. These latter two dances were very popular with the swell set. A good Virginia Reel dancer was looked upon with envy, and was usually regarded as the star of the ball room.
The caller, or prompter of the quadrilles, was chief boss of the dance, with authority absolutely supreme. After the musicians had taken their positions and had finished tuning up the violins, the caller would announce:
"Take partners for a quadrille!"
Then there was a rush of couples on to the dancing floor.
"Bow to your partners.
"First two couples forward and back.
"Forward again and cross over.
"Swing partners to place.
"Swing your partners.
"Second two couples forward and back.
"Forward again and cross over.
" Forward again.
"Swing partners to place,
"Swing your partners.
"First two couples lead up to the right."
"Balance. "Four hands 'round."
And so forth, until all the figures of the quadrille had been gone through.
Quite often there was a caller who could put some real frills and thrills into his work. For instance, a prompter would occasionally direct the dancers as follows:
"All forward and give the right hand across.
"Balance half way around.
"Back with the left.
"Mind you keep your step in time.
"Swing right back.
"Don't be slack.
'All join hands and balance in a line."
It is almost needless to add that there was a great deal of extra amusement created by those who did clever jigs and break-downs in a dance of this kind.
The music at these dances was usually of good quality. Some of the musicians who played while young Benton Harbor danced were George and Charley Babcock, Pap Scott, colored barber, Dodge Reed, shoemaker (he played the clarinet). Fred Wurz and orchestra, of St. Joseph, were quite often engaged to play at the higher class entertainments.
George Babcock undoubtedly drew the bow across the bridge of his violin at more dances in the village of Benton Harbor than any other musician that can be named, with the possible exception of his brother Charles.
It was customary to give a dance occasionally at some country home, in the winter season. At these dances sleigh-riding parties would gather and make merry.
Public dances in the country were held frequently at Kayus Haid's ample home in Bainbridge. At one of these dances, where a large crowd had assembled, there was considerable confusion, owing to the lack of system, as to who was entitled to the floor. Mr. Haid, himself, thereupon took charge of arrangements and issued pasteboard numbers, which probably were the first dance tickets ever used in this region. It was while Kayus Haid was acting as floor manager that a certain young man created a great deal of laughter. As to Mr. Haid, no one from town ever did seem to know how to pronounce his name correctly. Some wags turned it around and called him "Hayus Caid," and others, "Kius Hite." The latter name-Kius Hite-was the term generally used. At this dance, one young man, having missed getting a ticket, hastened into the room and inquired:
"Highest Kite, when is it my turn to dance!"
Mr. Haid laughed as heartily as did all present on the dancing floor. The old-fashioned dances were pleasant social affairs.
At the parties of the lads and lassies, kissing games were popular. "Button, button, who's got the button?" was not a kissing game, and therefore it was not played so often as "blind man's buff," "drop the handkerchief," or "postoffice." The youngsters were frequently admonished by their elders to be careful and not play those kissing games. As a substitute, a new game was introduced. It was named "Albert Hawks," in honor of Mrs. Plummer's brother, who had recently arrived from the East. It was a dignified and pleasant pastime. The boys and girls learned to enjoy this game equally as well as the others. Among the comedians at these parties (and each boy tried to be exceedingly funny) there were some who were very clever."
A twentieth century history of Berrien County, Michigan. Orville W. Coolidge. Page 353.
This is just an interesting little description of a certain early settler in Berrien named Sumrill. To me, it sounds like he had everything he needed.
"At the time of his marriage his possessions consisted of a gun, a violin and five dollars in money. "
History of Berrien and Van Buren counties, Michigan. With ... biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers. Page 402.
Mr. John Condon seems to have been the consummate frontiersman.
"On the north side of the swamp the first settlement was made by Nathan Williams and his son-in-law, John Condon, who came to Almena in the summer of 1836, and made a clearing on section 12. In the following year they crossed the swamp, and making a location on section 4, lived there until 1865, when they, with their families, moved to Iowa. Condon was equally noted as a farmer, fiddler, hunter, and trapper. He owned an exceedingly well-trained wolf-dog, and the State, county, and town bounty aggregating $30 on each wolf-scalp, Condon gathered first and last a bountiful harvest of dollars from that source."
A history of Van Buren County, Michigan a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests. Oran W. Rowland. Pages 340-341.
Something about this passage sounds generic and sets off warning lights in my brain that it might be a copied passage used in a variety of histories like Paul Gifford pointed out in a previous excerpt, but I have no real evidence to say it is.
I really enjoy descriptions of the use of sleighs in winter time.
"We must not think that they or their children were without the means of enjoying themselves in those primitive days. Think of a load of fifteen or twenty young people piled into the box of a double sleigh, half filled with bright, clean straw, and drawn by a yoke of oxen, going for miles through the crisp winter air to a spelling school, or a debating school-the two were quite generally combined-and returning in the "wee sma hours" of the morning, making the forests ring with their merry shouts, laughter and songs. Be honest now, you grandfathers and grandmotherswasn't it pure and unadulterated fun? And wouldn't you like to try it just once more before you shuffle off this mortal coil? I would.
And in the summer time there were parties and country dances at which we all gathered. We didn't have any orchestra, not even a violinist; only just a fiddler; and how he could play "Money Musk" and the two or three other tunes that he knew! No written score for him. He didn't play "by note"-not he; his fiddle and his bow and a piece of "rosin" were all he needed, and he could and would play from early in the evening until daylight in the morning. And the way he could "call off" was simply delightful. We can hear him yet: "All join hands and circle to the left;" "right and left all;" "change partners;" "grand right and left," and so on throughout the quadrille-we called them cotillons-and every girl and boy was sorry when the end of the figure was reached and the call came "seat your partners;" and every one was ready for the floor for the next. dance. And we did not dance on waxed floors in elegantly furnished ball rooms, but in private houses. It was no uncommon thing for a. merry party of girls and boys to take possession, uninvited, and pull up the home-made carpets, if any such thing there happened to be, and proceed with the festivities."
Portrait and biographical record of Kalamazoo, Allegan and Van Buren counties, Michigan, containing biographical sketches of ... citizens ... governors of the state, and ... presidents of the United States. Page 772.
Firstly, an income of $500 around the 1850s is good in any type of business. Secondly, is it coincidence that he was able to buy out his employer with $500 down?
"HANNIBAL M. MARSHALL, a dealer in I ) general merchandise at Lawrence, VanBuren County,was born at Antwerp, Jefferson County, N. Y., on February 22, 1835. He is a son of Nelson and Elvira (Gibbs) Marshall, both natives of New York. The father was of Scotch, and the mother of German, ancestry. The year our subject was born, they moved to Oakland County, Mich., and lived there three years when they bought land that had been entered by our subject's maternal grandfather, Dexter Gibbs, in Lawrence Township. Our subject's brother, Jerome B., still owns a part of the original one hundred aad sixty acres. Hannibal is the oldest in a family of four children, all still living, the others being Jerome B., Isabelle, Walbridge and Adelaide. Our subject received a good education at Lawrence, walking to and from school a distance of two miles. He commenced teaching before he was twenty. He was so successful with his school two winters that he was offered the same place again. Being somewhat of a natural musician, he used to play the violin at parties, at which he earned over $500. He went into the sawmill business after teaching, and followed that for two years and, in 1859, began to clerk for Dr. Rowe. After clerking about six months, on December 31, 1859, the store was burned and soon after our subject bought out the Doctor and began the business for himself, paying $500 and giving a mortgage for $1,300. In this business he has been very prosperous and in 1874 erected a large brick store of three stories, known as the Marshall Building. In 1875, he built his present fine residence, which is of the most modern architecture. October 11, 1860, is the date on which Mr. Marshall took as his wife Dorleski L. Goodenough, a daughter of David and Laura (Tryon) Goodenough. She was born in Cattaraugus County, N. Y., October 25, 1834. By this union two sons have been born: Charles C., who is married and clerks for his father, and Clarence H., who resides in Denver, Col. Mr. Marshall is a Republican in politics and cast his first vote for John C. Fremont and has served on the Board of Trustees and been Clerk and Treasurer of Lawrence. He was elected County Clerk in 1876, and served one term, when he found he could not afford to leave his business. He has also been delegate to County and State Conventions and took part in the convention which nominated Gen. Alger for Governor. The Masonic order matriculated him in 1874 and he is a member of the Chapter and Council."