Wednesday, September 19, 2018

In the 1890s, Sunday Evenings Meant Going Back to Church; For Young People, Sundays Also Meant Courting

In the previous post, Sarah Eva Howe described the typical Sunday morning service at the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Carrollton in the early 1890s. She continued with stories about Sunday afternoons and evenings, a time when teens of all faiths found excuses and opportunities to "court."

I left off in the other book with Sunday afternoon. At this time we didn’t have “Young People’s Meeting,” as we called it, on Sunday night but on Tuesday night, so when the various meetings were over, we had two or three hours of lovely Sunday afternoon left, to spend in the Sabbath calm, the absolute stillness, broken only by a few buggies going by in the soft flaky dust. (Papa1 didn’t quite think these Sunday buggy rides were a good thing, but he didn’t condemn them too much, having had a fine horse himself when he was a boy.) 

We had a supper of salt rising bread made by Mama,2 apple sauce, jelly and “cold sliced meat” with good country butter, sometimes tea, and at 7:45 were on our way back to church, where the fearful and wonderful “central chandelier” was lighted. (If you saw "The Phantom of the Opera House," it was very much like the one that fell, and we were always afraid this one would.) It was beautiful — with a big glass reflector and about twenty small lamps and many crystals hanging from it. Its one drawback was the multitude of light bugs that came and buzzed around it all the time the service was going on — pretty bad, too, for those who sat under it! We still had that chandelier until almost 1903, when the church was again thoroughly remodeled and electric chandeliers were installed. I believe we had electric lights in the church before that, but the chandelier was still there — perhaps it was wired for lights, now I think of it. I don’t know what became of it finally.

The night service was about the same as the morning, almost but not quite all of the same members present. ... A lot of the boys and girls came together to church at night, as in
Off to Church 
Papa’s day, tho they sat rather far back. Still other boys waited at the back of the church, in bunches, and sat in chairs at the back, and stood at the side to “pick off the girls” as they came in and “escort them home.” I remember Juanita Coltrane ... was visiting then. She was the first “Southern girl” I suppose I ever saw — dark, and in lovely clothes, with a picture hat and plumes; she was at church with Pierce Winslow,3 and I thought I’d never seen anyone so pretty; when they said her name was Juanita I was entranced, it just fitted her. (She is now Mrs. Garrison and is about 70!)

[Sarah inserts some comments about the young people who attended the Catholic church.] The young mill girls and domestic workers, almost all of them Catholics, used to dress in their best, go to Young People’s service at their church at 3 o’clock, and then pair off (many of the marriages were thus arranged) and go down to see the mail boats come in. This was a breathtaking scene, about four on Sunday, and sometimes the up and down boats came in close together. 

Let me tell you that the young girls and boys of “Society” did little more of an exciting nature on Sundays; most of the marriages were fostered by long happy summer evenings either on one’s own porch or in the yard, in porch chairs under the trees, or in the newly fashionable “lawn swings” beginning to be seen — I believe about ’92 or ’93.

Of course a buggy on certain occasions was a must. Many young men had their own or used their father’s, or hired one for other occasions, “going in together,” two boys taking two girls, and dividing the cost.

The Rest of the Week
After Sunday with its many and varied activities, the week was well started. ... Tuesday night was “Young People’s Meeting” attended and enjoyed by everyone under forty (and even over if they wanted to attend, and they often did). Up to 1892, it was a branch of the Christian Endeavor, ... but when Papa found out about the Epworth League, he was one of the pioneers (with C.C. Stoll of Louisville) in getting it started in Kentucky and was state Vice President (in 1895 I think it was), going to all the district and state meetings and to the “international” meeting in Chattanooga in 1895. ... The young people, especially young married people, enjoyed it so much in the early days. ...

Our prayer meeting was Thursday night, and we were all there, Mama playing, as usual.  ... It was very interesting and a wonderful “break” in the week, an inspiration to those who came, and there was a pretty good crowd who did, even a good many young people — mostly those whose parents brought them!

In the meantime, there were day meetings at the church — the first Monday of the month,
Styles worn by women and girls cira 1892
the Ladies Missionary Society, with Miss Sue Browinski as president, and on another day in the month the Parsonage and Home Missionary Society, of which Aunt Lou Howe3 was president and ruling spirit. (Aunt Sallie Goslee Howe4 was secretary of this society). The W.C.T.U. met on still another day. ...

There were no Women’s Clubs [in Carrollton], but about 1891, I suppose, Mrs. Henry Winslow5 insisted on forming a very serious Chautauqua circle, which really studied the course assigned. Mrs. Atha Gullion,6 co-editor of the Democrat, with her husband, had a bookstore on “upper Main” near Fifth, and just under the Winslow & Winslow law offices and next to the Carrollton National Bank. Miss Hallie Masterson and her sister Miss Emma were two other interested members, and Mrs. John Cox.

In Ghent, though, there was a Woman’s Club being formed by Miss Caby Froman,7 Uncle Mack’s oldest sister. She was distressed by the rather sketchy morals of the young wives, at least of some of them, around Ghent (for they were considered a rather gay act!) and thought that if they had more to occupy their thoughts with than dress and food (they had so many negro servants living in the town, no white lady ever did much housework). There was not much travel, except on the boats, and not much community life in such a place; so she formed a literary society called the “H. & P. Literary Society." 


1 Robert James Howe (1855-1910)
2 Alice Ada Cost (1859-1939)
3 Pierce Godbey Winslow (1873-1948), brother of Louisiana Winslow, who married Sarah's uncle William Ficklin Howe in 1873
4 Sallie Goslee (1858-1934), who married Sarah's uncle Joseph Brown Howe in 1889
5 Lucy Ann Cooper (1863-1950), wife of Henry Moore Winslow (1850-1932)
6 Nancy Atha Hanks (1844-1932), wife of Edmund Asbury Gullion (1853-1923)
7 Caby M. Froman (1892-1974), daughter of state senator Hiram McMakin "Mac" Froman and Sarah's aunt Sarah Varena "Sallie Howe Froman.

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