Friday, January 11, 2008

Pocahontas Pioneer Festivios

I've been working my way through Historical Sketches of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, by William T. Price, (Price Brothers, Publishers, 1901.) My borrowed a copy from the Hillsboro library, has a lenders' card that tells me it was a staple of high school homework in the 1960's. Many stories I've heard about the earliest European settlers here seem to have this book as their source.

Here's a quote from William T. Price, a minister and newspaper publisher, on Pocahontas County pioneer social customs.

...But the typical "husking" was prepared for with some elaborate preparation. The ears would be pulled from the stalks, husks and all, and placed in ricks. This "husking" usually came off on some moon lighted night....While the fathers and sons were thus laboriously but joyously disporting themselves at the corn ricks, the mothers and daughters were gathered at the house, some cooking, others busy at the "quilting." About to or 11 o'clock the "husking" and the "quilting" were suspended, supper served and then came the "hoe down," wherein heavy stumbling toes would be tripped to the notes of a screeching unruly violin, such fiddling was called "choking the goose," or when there was no fiddle in evidence some one only "patted Juba" about as distinctly as the trotting of a horse over a bridge.

As a rule pioneer festivitos were orderly, yet once in a while there would be a few persons at the huskings who prided themselves in being and doing ugly. Somewhere about the premises there was some body or some thing that they would speak of as "Black Betty." After a few clandestine visits to where "Black Betty" was, the consequences would be that colored Elizabeth with her songs, yellings and a few fights would get in her work, and thereupon a fisticuff or two would impart interest to the gathering, and make the occasion the talk of the neighborhood until some other exciting matter came around.

Black Betty here is a bottle of liquor, rather than some of the other usages--a flintlock, a prostitute, a dessert, or a paddywagon.

1 comment:

Sandra Wyman said...

Thanks for your comment on A Brief History of Western Art!

What a fascinating blof this is - I'll be back!