Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Bartley's Golden Wedding, 1888

Dixon and Rebecca Smith Bartley, my great-great-grandparents, celebrated their Golden Anniversary on this day, July 10, in the year 1888.  On July 20, the Butler County Record published an article, Golden Wedding, which shed some light on the celebration itself.   The contents of the article give reason to marvel.

Dixon and Rebecca lived in Bruin, in the house pictured to the right (though this photograph dates from the early 1900s).  Many of the people who came to celebrate traveled east from North Washington, a small town about 6 miles west of Bruin.  Traveling by horse and buggy, the drive would have taken between half an hour and an hour.

The 250 people who arrived to celebrate with Dixon and Rebecca "dined sumptuously under an arched canopy alongside the farm house."  After the meal the Bruin cornet band "discoursed some excellent music," then two of the organizers and three ministers spoke.  Gifts were presented to the Bartleys, there was more music, and "the young men played a game of base ball."  Many remained for supper and a party.  Does this not sound like a whirlwind day for a man in his late 70s and a woman in her late 60s?

I've been thinking about this celebration since I received the newspaper article and to commemorate their anniversary I'm sharing some thoughts and bits of information I've found.

The Horses
If each buggy carried four people and was pulled by only one horse, there would have been more than 60 horses.   Likely, some of the buggies had two horses.  Where did the horses stay during the day?  Were they kept harnessed?  Were they tethered to a very long hitching post or a line of trees where they had shade?  Were the horses unharnessed and put to pasture?   And what about water for the horses?

The Vehicles
The guests came either by horse-pulled transportation or walked.  As I researched horse-drawn vehicles I realized there are many, many different kinds: buggies, dogcarts, chaises, phaetons, wagons....  Some carried two people, some carried four or more.  Which vehicles were there that day?  Did any look similar to the one at right?

The Food
In 2011, making a meal for 250 people sounds like daunting work to me.  How did they manage in 1888, especially considering that there was not one meal but two for the day?!  Who prepared the food and how much time did it take?  Was it prepared days in advance?  Certainly they were using wood stoves in the heat of summer, and refrigeration would have been limited or non-existent.  What foods were served?  Did they roast an animal on a spit?  Was it a potluck and everyone brought something?  Was the food prepared in advance or in the Bartley's kitchen?   How many women worked on that meal?!  How did they manage the clean up afterward?  There were no paper plates or plastic utensils in those days, no pre-prepared, heat-and-serve meals to make things easier.

The Canopy
Looking at the photo of the house I try to imagine which side of the house had the canopy.  How large was it?  How many men were needed to put it up?  And when was it put up?  Who took it down, and when?  Who owned it?

I'm interested in knowing what the ladies' dresses looked like.  From the little research I did I believe they wore narrow waists with bustles in the back.   A few examples can be seen at Patterns of the State Historical Society of Wisconson.  I will do more research on this.

The Organizers
The article tells me that J. W. Orr was chairman and H. S. Daubenspeck was secretary of "the meeting."   Clearly this was a party which took some planning and preparation.   How far in advance did they begin? How many people participated in the organization?  How was the party announced and how were invitations sent?

The Speakers
Living in Parker Township, Butler County in 1880 were two men who could have been J. W. Orr:  Joseph W. Orr, a carpenter who was born in 1851; and James W. Orr, a grocer, born in 1843 in Ireland.  Both were married with children.  It's impossible to tell which man it was without further research, and maybe not even then.   (But wouldn't you guess it was the grocer?)

H. S. Daubenspeck was the secretary.  According to Dixon's will in April, 1900, Henry Daubenspeck lived on the east side of Dixon toward Fairview.  In the 1880 and 1900 censuses, Henry S. Daubenspeck lived in Parker Township (where Fairview is located) with his wife Maria.  He was born in March 1843, and in 1888 still had several daughters living at home.

Rev. Fidler and Rev. Hazlett, both of North Washington, spoke.  I was unable to find them in the 1880 census.   Further research my uncover them.  Rev. Decker also spoke.  The 1880 census tells me he was I. D. Decker, minister, born in 1846 in New Jersey.  The census gives no indication which church he was affiliated with.

At least three of these men were younger than the Bartleys and possibly the other two ministers were also.  I can imagine them with an attitude of respect and deference when interacting with the Bartleys.

The Cornet Band
I did not find a photograph of the Bruin Cornet Band so I don't know its size or what other instruments were played.  If you'd like to see an 1886 cornet band, go to Cornet Bands of the USA and scroll down to the second photo.  Did all cornet bands have uniforms for their members to wear?   I wish I knew what music the band played and whether people sang along with some of the songs.

Other Thoughts
Rebecca and Dixon's daughter, Elvira Bartley Gerner, was surely at this celebration.  She was 7 months pregnant with my grandmother, Beulah, her 11th child.  She may have helped with the food but chances are she was also keeping tabs on her other 10 children, ages 15 to 2 years.

I especially appreciated the thoughts of some of the speakers at the celebration.  Mr. Orr spoke of the "kindly feeling which prompted friends to meet together, showing the regard they had for those they came to greet."  Rev. Fidler "spoke of the time when such a meeting was considered a waste of time, and hoped that the time spent on this occasion would make all happier and better."  Rev. Hazlett referred to the event as "a great family home gathering."  H. S. Daubenspeck referred to Dixon and Rebecca as "good citizens and kind neighbors."  He "warned the young folks to be careful in choosing partners for life, and not allow themselves to be deceived by outward appearances, which were not as lasting as true love."

I wish I could have been there, even if only to observe.   It sounds like such a grand event.

Happy, Happy Anniversary, Gramma and Grampa Bartley. I wish you continued blessings on this special day.
Photograph of carriage drawing taken from American Horse-Drawn Vehicles: Being a Collection of Two Hundred and Eighteen Pictures Showing One Hundred and Eighty-Three American Vehicles (and Parts Thereof) All Reproduced From Fashion Plates of the Builders or from Little-Known Original Photographs by Jack D. Rittenhouse, Bonanza Books, New York, 1948, p. 12 (spring wagon).


  1. It sounds wonderful! I love the way you found out about who was involved and about their lives. What a great house to have a gathering. I bet your great grandmother had raised those kids so they looked out for each other. I hope so anyway with 10. Hope the 15 year old was a girl.

  2. Kristen, thank you for your comments. Yes, the 15-year-old was a daughter and I'm sure she was a great help in watching out for her siblings. In all, my g-grandmother had 16 children. Surprisingly, her oldest didn't marry until 2 years after her youngest was born so she was around to help for a while. Thanks for visiting.

  3. What a great find to have an article like that and then the picture of the house too. I think one of the most interesting things about genealogy/family history is filling in the kinds of details you investigated - it makes the lives of our ancestors much more interesting.

  4. I love your thoughts and bits of information Nancy, as I was reading your story some of those things popped into my mind, especially the cooking for so many people...EEK!. By the way is the man on the left side of the photo mowing the yard? It looks like an old push mower :)

  5. Someone's gotta say it so it might as well be me. Where did all of these people go to use the bathroom ? Now that I got that out of the way, I really enjoyed reading this. My grandparents lived in Parker and then Bruin and I always enjoy reading about the old days and seeing photos like the one in this article. Thanks.

    1. Hi, Jo. It's strange that I didn't think of bathroom facilities when imagining 250 people at Dixon and Rebecca's farm. They had many children and it's possible that their outhouse had several seats. It's also possible that they had two outhouses. And, of course, the men -- well, there were plenty of fields not too far from the house. As far as t.p., perhaps they'd been saving Sears & Roebuck catalogs for a while. Thanks for visiting and leaving comments.

  6. Am I the only one that looks at a crowd like that and imagines what the "facilities" were to accomodate the needs of everyone ? Sorry, just had to say it. I really enjoyed reading about this and seeing the picture. My grandparents lived in Parker and then Bruin later on when Florida didn't please them.

    1. I assume they used the outhouse if it was the days before indoor toilets. Maybe they had more than one for a day like this.

    2. I agree, Kristin, an outhouse for sure. I don't think there was indoor plumbing in rural Pennsylvania at this time. I don't suppose it would have taken too long for a couple of men to build a 2 or 3 hole outhouse, even if used for only a day. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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