Saturday, October 23, 2010

The History Of Pocomoke By Murray James (20)

CHAPTER XXIV. S ( ) C I A L A S P E C T ( C O NT] N U E D . ) Again, the dance was a favorite source of social enter- tainment in the early history of New Town. There were three classes of characters, which I shall describe, partici- pating in this amusement. First, the first citizens ot the town engaged in it. Sometimes it was the result of a wedding, a cotton picking, quilting, or it may have been a special dancing part v. I am not now describing the balls held at hotels where a gentleman and lady could enter by paying the entrance fee, but social dances held at private houses for amusement.

The host and hostess would pro- vide such - things as wines, liquors, candies, cake and tropical fruit to make the entertainment as enjoyable as possible. The invited guests would assemble after candle light. They were composed chiefly of single persons, but sometimes there would be a small sprinkling of married ones also. An expert fiddler would be engaged. All things being ready and the parties on the floor, the fiddler having his fiddle well tuned, would draw his bow at full length, when a feeling of exhilaration would go through the room like electricity. The parties now engaged in a four or eight-handed reel. Oh! what a tine time there was.

Formerly New Town. 157

 The cotillions, waltzing, capering, parties passing each other on the floor, crossing and around the room, cutting the pigeon wing, etc. After that reel was over the hat would be passed around to take a collection for the fiddler, for that was the way he was paid for his services. Then another party would be made up and after the dance the hat was passed around again, and so the night was spent till or near the break of day. When they would get weary and laint they would keep their spirits up by pouring spirits down. At such places of hilarity many a young lady's heart and hand has been wooed in marriage. Secondly.

The lower class of society in the country, both of men and women, would attend the holidays in New Town. On those occasions they assembled at the hotels and engaged in the dance, and some of the same order of men in New Town would participate with them. It would be a novel sight at the present day to see such a gathering ol men and women at a hotel engaged in a regular hoe down, such as was practiced then. Thirdly.

This class would be the colored people. They would assemble in town from all the surrounding country. They would construct booths on the hill or public square, in which they would have for sale cakes, candies, cider, beer and tropical fruits. They would have all sorts of jollity, boxing, wrestling, pitching quoits, dancing after the riddle and pattywhack. This word pattywhack of itself is unmeaning, hence I shall be under the necessity of explaining the process of the dance in this way.

The 15S History of Pocomoke City,

company would be in the open air on the hill. The leader in this amusement would pat with his hands and stamp with his foot while the rest would dance. The leader would use some outlandish expression in song, such as the following : "Juber up and Juber down, Juber all around de town. 7 ' And when they would reach the climax, he would sing- out with an extended voice ■ " Jump over double trouble Juber." Then such antics and gymnastics as the dancers would perform with their hands and feet, keeping time with the leader, as would be truly diverting to the reader could he behold such a performance now.

Another song which they would sing in their dances was : "Possum up de gum bush, Raccoon in de holler. Saddle on de gray marc, Martingil and collar." I have endeavored to spell their words as the}- would pronounce them, Late in the afternoon, they would be seen with their little bundle of cakes, getting ready to start for home. Thus the day closed with them.

The social aspect of New Town, now Pocomoke City, has undergone a change for the better. Whereas in the description already given of social life, in the early history of New Town, as contributing to the pleasures and passions of the animal, now it is seen in the improvement of the intellec-tual and religious part of man.

Formerly Nevj Town. 151)

Sociability seems to have .left the lower walks of our fallen nature and is aspiring to a higher sphere of our manhood, as may be seen in the following instances, namely : in the formation of literary and beneficial societies, in the mingling together in the pursuit of knowledge. Indeed, the free public school system, in the Pocomoke City High School, has contri- buted largely to, and has acted a very important part in the social status of Pocomoke City.

Here mind is pre- eminent, and the scholars who possess superior intellect are honored for their talent, and their society is appreciated whether they be rich or poor. Again, the various picnics and festivals gotten up for the promotion of education, churches, sabbath schools missionary and other benevolent societies, in which all have an interest, and all mingle.

Although the different churches may in one sense be considered distinct commu- nities, yet when contemplated in their great work oi doing good they are one grand whole, emulating each other in elevating society and promoting the social and religious bearing of Pocomoke City. Again the improvement of the musical talent, by the young folks, has contributed largely to social life in Pocomoke City. Whereas instead •of listening to the old timey songs, in the days of yore, by uncultivated voices, now it is simply fascinating to listen to the select pieces of music as sung either in the choir, .at concerts, or in social gatherings by those who have cultivated voices, and who are well educated in the science

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of music. The query may be agitated, what has produced such a change in the social condition? Answer. It may be the increase of the population, a higher grade of schooling and the influence of the churches.

Formerly New Town. 161 CHAPTER XXV. MORAL ASPECT.

The moral aspect of New Town in its early history. Although there were some good and holy people in New Town, whose lives stood out as burning and shining lights, and although the gospel was making successful attacks on the fortifications of sin and wickedness, and winning" many jewels from the rank ;md file of sinners, and presenting them as trophies to the Saviour of men ; yet the morals of the people, as a whole were compara- tively at a low ebb. In order to see more clearly the debased state of morals, I will give you some few specifi- cations for illustration, for instance : the habit of drunken- ness, though it was always condemned by the good and true, yet it was winked at, and the votaries of the practice moved along in society as though nothing very serious had hapened.

Again, the habit of swearing was very common. When men would meet in New Town, on Saturdays, on business or for social interview, for that was the public day, he that could swear the keenest, sharpest oaths, attracted the greatest attention, especially from the boys.

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If there was a fray on hand, lie that could use the most awful asseverations and foul-mouth imprecations as though he were commissioned from the bottomless pit, serpent like to infect his poison, was the greatest man of the crowd. Again, gambling was much in vogue, gambling socially and for money, and many were the times that men would lengthen out the midnight taper till the dawn of coming day, using all their ingenuity to get each others money.

Again conjuration, fortune-telling, witchcraft and super- stition were all 'believed to be as true as preaching, by the lowest class of society. But while conjuration and witchcraft have long since disappeared from society, fortune-telling and superstition have lingered longer, and there may be some of the old folks now living, particularly among the fair sex, who have had their fortunes told by the cutting of cards or the grounds of a coffee cup, in order to learn who their future husbands would be.

Perhaps there may be some of those already spoken of who have showed the new moon a piece ot silver in order to have good luck that moon, or who believed in sowing certain seeds on certain states of the moon as sure, only then of vegetating, or who have their pork butchered on the increase of the moon in order for it to swell, believing if the moon is on the decrease the pork would shrink. But these practices, to some extent, have gone into the shades and the people have already learned that the only road to success in any enterprise is application ; that the diligent hand maketh rich, while laziness and idleness paves the way to poverty and ruin.


The temperance cause as a distinct organization was unknown in the early history of New Town. The only thing- bordering on temperance was the denunciations against drunkenness from the sacred desk, which declared that " drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Notwithstanding this first out-beaming ol the temperance cause from the pulpit, professed Christians would some- times be seen with flushed cheeks and tongues unbridled, as the result of the too frequent use of the glass. Indeed, the habit of drinking spirituous liquors, with the exception of a very few. was quite common in families, in social gatherings and in business life.

In all these relations the social glass was indulged in freely. I have already stated in another part of this history that to be successful in merchandising it was considered absolutely necessary to sell liquor. Hence all who engaged in the sale oi goods, without an exception, sold spirituous liquors. In view of this state of things it cannot be wondered at that there should be drunkards and a plenty of them too.

While the vender would fatten upon his ill-gotten gains, 164 History of Pocomoke City, his victims with their families and children would be left destitute, in want and clothed in rags, and sometimes it was the case that the wives and little ones would be sitting over a lew coals of fire contemplating their wretched condition, with scarcely a ray of hope for the future, with no refuge to fly to except to Him who heareth in secret.

Oh ! how many broken-hearted wives have poured forth their bitter cries for help in His Almighty ear and told their tale of sorrow and inquired of Him, " How long, O Lord, how long shall this state of things last?" Well, their prayers have been answered, but not in stopping the vender from his wholesale ruin of men, women and chil- dren ; not in restoring to her former condition of happiness rand joy that mother who was being murdered by piece meal; not in restoring to hope and cheerfulness the forlorn condition of the little children.

But their prayers have been answered in another way. Time rolled on and brought its changes. The vender with his victims have passed away to a future reckoning, and to that tribunal whose decisions are in righteousness. If I could, I would call the vender back and inquire of him who they are that accuse him before the throne, for their name is legion. There was no material change in society upon the subject of temperance until 1835, when the Rev. Mr. Dorsey of the Baltimore conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church came down here and lectured upon that subject, and organized a temperance society. That society only forbade the use of spirituous

Formerly New Town. 165

liquors as a beverage. Up to this time all the stores sold spirituous liquors. The first one to break ground and give up the sale of it was Rev. John D. Long who was at that time but a youth not having arrived to his majority. He had but recently joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and listening to the lecture became convinced that the sale of it was wrong and determined to give up the practice forthwith.

It is true that Mr. Long sold goods at the ferry, now the bridge, on the identical spot where the phospate factory now stands, but I associate him, in this instance, with New Town, because he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church here, because his associations were here, and because he was identified with the temperance movement in New Town.

He was telling a veteran Methodist of his determination to quit selling liquor, when the old soldier said to him "Brother Long if it is wTong for you to sell it, it is wrong for me to distil it." Forthwith they abandoned the manufacture and sale of it. The temperance cause now began to be agitated in New Town. In 1836, Wm. Townsend opened the first store for the sale of goods, without spirituous liquors, in new Town.

After awhile the old Washingtonian club of reformed drunkards, which was organized in the City of Baltimore, began to create a stir in favor of temperance. Some of their number came down here and lectured. Thus the temperance cause progressed until the organization of the Sons of Temperance, in 1847. The Sons of Temperance

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was also a beneficial society, it prospered for a while and seemed to be well adapted to the circumstances of the times. During its palmy days, the society built a fine temperance hall, which at present is owned by C. C. Lloyd, Esq., and has been occupied by him, as a drug store, for several years past.

The upper story was in one entire room, and was occupied by the society. The lower room was fitted for store purposes, and was first occupied by Irving Merrill, Esq., who sold goods on strictly temper- ance principles. The society had placed in the gable end of the building a marble slab, with the iollowing carved upon it : " New Town Division, Number 43, Sons of Tem- perance, instituted March 29th, 1847 ; ' which still exists as a monument of the prosperity of the temperance cause at that day. This society existed, however, but a few years, when it was dissolved and the beautiful temple was sold, and went into other hands. In 1870, another temperance society was organized in New Town, with the name of Good Templars.

This society was also of short duration, it existed about two years, when it also became extinct. From 1872 to 1881, there has been no regular temper- ance society in New Town, now Pocomoke City. During 1 88 1, a society was organized in the place, in support of Local Option Reform, and the friends of temperance are mustering their forces for victory. But while temperance societies have been organized and dissolved, it only shows that the war. for the extirpation of spirituous liquors, in

Formerly New Town. 167

Pocomoke City, has been going on without any com- promise. The churches also have kept up the war cry and are pressing hard upon this demon ot de- struction, and they are forcing him, by the power of the Gospel, to surrender. If the question should be asked by a stranger, what are the signs of complete victory for the cause of temperance in Pocomoke City ? This question will be answered in the following way : whereas, in 1836, every store in New Town sold spirituous liquors, now in 1882, there are thirty-two business houses in Pocomoke City, and not one of them sells it except the apothecaries who sell it as a medicine.

So thorough has been the revolution in society, upon the subject of temperance, that I might venture the prediction that there is no one who could, now, succeed in merchandising, in Pocomoke City, who would also sell liquor. It is true that there are two places in Pocomoke City where spirituous liquors are sold as a beverage, one is a saloon the other is the hotel bar, but the friends of temperance, I am apprehensive, will not cease their efforts until these places will be so restricted by legislation that it will not pay to sell it.

NEXT: 168 History of Pocomoke City, CHAPTER XXVII. SCHOOLS.

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jmmb said...

As usual with all the other chapters.....That was EXCELLANT!

Anonymous said...

Yep, liquor, cigarettes and cheap women...I would have fit right in. Actually, some of those people were related to me! I learned from the best.

The Public Eye said...

I'm glad to know someone reads this, I was beginning to wonder if I should keep post this

Anonymous said...

I've got a lot of ancestors and relatives buried in that cemetery next to Stevenson's Pond and almost everyone of them has an "interesting" past. Like the one who lived where Winters Quarter Drive is now and trained his horse to take him home every night because he was in his cups (and I don't mean stirrups).