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Mike Watson: Halloween a century ago

By Mike Watson. Adair County Historian

Halloween/Hollowe'en was celebrated enthusiastically over a century ago. Here are some excerpts gleaned from the first decade of the 1900s about Hollowe'en and how it played out in Adair County and Columbia a century ago"

"Hollowe'en comes on the 31st of October. It is all Saints' Day, the time of all other times when supernatural influences prevail. It is generally observed by young people in the large cities who engage in dancing and other kinds of amusement. In smaller towns the boys generally celebrate the day by removing gates, laying obstructions across sidewalks, etc. Here in Columbia, which is neither a city nor a small town, the girls meet, tell ghost stories and see all manner of visions. On this eventful day quite a number of young ladies were entertained by Miss Pauline Cabell. There were many frightful hobgobbling tales related, and ghosts of all sizes and colors put in their appearance. It was an occasion which at times brought both melancholy and happy reflections. At a late hour a delightful lunch was spread." (Adair County News, 7 November 1900)


Halloween Party at Hancock's Hotel

"Last Friday was 'All Saints Day' and the young men and young ladies of Columbia celebrated the event at Hancock's Hotel, the hours of gathering being from 9pm to 2am. A majority of the young people of the community were present, spending a most delightful time. The parlors were alive with happy voices, the music the latest and very much enjoyed.

"About 12 o'clock supper was announced, and by couples the entire assembly gathered around the tables in the spacious dining room. Three phantoms waited upon the tables, but their ghost-like appearances had no effect upon the appetites of those who were waiting to be served with the delicacies prepared for the occasion. No one could help enjoying the supper, several different courses being served, prepared in the most delicate manner.

"There were features introduced that gave the party somewhat the 'smack' of the 'finest turnout.' About twenty-five dollars was the price of the supper, and the young men were taxed according to the value of jewelry his girlfriend wore. There were rubies and diamonds on exhibition and the boys paid from one dollar to one seventy-five each.

"The cake-cutting was an interesting feature. Miss Lorena Pile got the ring, Miss Sallie Rey Marcum the money, Sam Nat Hancock, the button. The ring indicates that the winner will marry before next Halloween, the money will bring a wealthy husband, and the drawer of the button is to die an old bachelor." (Adair County News, 5 November 1902)

Spirits were quite numerous on Halloween, 1903

"Last Saturday night was Halloween, and from the number of signs, stepping blocks and gates removed in town, we judge the spirits were quite numerous and very industrious during the night." (4 November 1903)

"The boys celebrated Halloween here by placing obstructions at the doors of business houses, upsetting stile blocks, removing vehicles, etc." (2 November 1904)

1905 - All Hollowe'en Night

"Miss Trabue's Art Class will welcome everybody at Willow Glen Hollowe'en night, October 31. The spooks with their mystic rites will rule the hours. The Art Class will serve refreshments at 25 cents each. The money will be used to buy plaster casts for the studios in our two colleges." (18 October 1905)

"The young people of Columbia and vicinity will be royally entertained at 'Willow Glen' by Miss Tillie Trabue this (Tuesday) evening. The evening's entertainment will consist of a number or games appropriate to the evening and also a delightful luncheon will be served." (1 November 1905)

"'All Hollowe'en' at Willow Glen was a charming success...They used the beautiful richly tinted, redish-yellow pumpkins...to carve...using a lighted candle for the high lights of hair and features... A witch riding a broom stick guarded the dining room. Everyone said the refreshments were nice and satisfying...Quite a nice little sum was realized that will be a good beginning in fitting up the Studios in the Colleges." (8 November 1905)

[The "two colleges" referred to were, of course, Lindsey Wilson and Columbia Christian.] - Mike Watson

1906 - A Swell Reception
Given the Young Ladies of Columbia in Payment of a Halloween Wager
"Halloween evening a number of young ladies were to secrete themselves in some residence between Pea Ridge and the bridge; if the young men found them, a supper was to be given the boys, but if they were not discovered before the appointed hour, the boys were to be the hosts. Of course the young ladies were not discovered and as a result a supper was served at the Columbia hotel Monday evening... Those present: Messrs C.C. Pickett, M.E. Stults, Tim Cravens, F.P. Hill, A.S. Chewning, M. Rey Yarberry, E.T. Jeffries, John L. Walker, Fred Myers, Ray Montgomery, Geo. E. Wilson, H.T. Baker, John Shelton, Nat Walker, Pete Conover, G.P. Smythe, James Garnett, Robt. Todd, Bruce Montgomery, T.M. Wilson, of Cave City, Miss Dollie Bailey, of Texas, Misses Alice Walker, Myrtle Myers, Katie Murrell, Viola Frazer, Daut Marcum, Roonie Stults, Bess Rowe, Cordie Robinson. Nina Marcum, May Pickett, Lina Rosenfield, Jennye McFarland, Dimple Conover, Edna Robinson, Leeta Cartwright, Amanda Butler, Kate Walker, (and) Carrie B. Flowers." (7 November 1906)

In 1908, only Mr. Rollin Hurt suffered property damage Halloween
R "Saturday night was Halloween, but the boys were not as industrious as they were...We have heard of but one person who was put to inconvenience--Mr. Rollin Hurt. His front gate was so far removed from his premises that it could not be found up to Sunday afternoon. The removal of the gate left his yard open to any stock that might be passing, and of course that was somewhat vexing." (4 November 1908)

Compiled by Mike Watson, October 27, 2012


This story was posted on 2012-10-28 10:22:34
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