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It was once my good fortune to be invited to a country wedding ; not exactly a country wedding either, but a village wedding, in the goodly State of Indiana, which possessed [1] all the charms of the most complete rurality. There is so much natural generosity, and blunt open-heartedness amongst the hardy inhabitants of the woods, that to me, reared and confined in the crowd and bustle of city life, and tired of its formal etiquette and cold conventionalities, a visit or a frolic of description in the country, possessed charms of the first magnitude. Hence my delight may be easily imagined, upon receiving, whilst busily engaged in my daily avocation, a fancifully enveloped billet, the contents whereof read as follows :

“Mr. J. JENKINS--You are respectfully invited to be present at the wedding of Mr. Thomas Baily and Miss Susan Wilkins, which will take place to-morrow, (Wednesday) afternoon, at 3 o’clock, at the Jeffersonville Hotel. You are also invited to attend the wedding party to Charlestown, where the infair will be held, at half-past seven o’clock.

Respectfully, S.W.”

This pleasant invitation came from the bride, with whom I had been acquainted about a week, and which acquaintance happened whilst she was in the city, superintending the manufacture of her wedding “toggery.” I had no fear about making my way with the country people--for the bride was my only acquaintance--so I made instant preparations for departure ;

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and next day, at the appointed hour, I bade a short good-by to the bustling city of the Falls, and crossing the river, soon found myself at the hotel where the wedding was to take place. In the parlor were assembled a goodly number of robust damsels, in bandbox trim, preserving a tremulous silence, in anticipation of the “orful event.” In a short time, a bustle in the backroom announced something, and in marched bridegroom, bride, attendants, and minister, and took up their stand in the middle of the room.

Thomas Bailey, Esq., was a tremendous double-fisted, raw-boned young man, and tall enough to “lick salt” off the head of any man in the room. He appeared ill at ease in his new suit of glistening doe-skin ; notwithstanding which, a roguish leer on his bronzed countenance, as he exchanged glances with his friends, seemed to indicate his appreciation of the whole affair as a first-rate joke. The bride, however, from her little smattering of city manners, considered it her duty to look sad, in which she succeeded very creditably. But the ceremony once over, her smiles returned, and then commenced the kissing, shaking of hands, congratulations, &c., &c. In my enthusiasm, I seized the hand of the gigantic Tom, and received a squeeze that made my joints crackle. I resolved that from that time forward, I would salute him only at a distance. Refreshments were handed round, and then came preparations for departure. After a great amount of chaffering, pinning of ribbons and capes, adjusting of bonnets, etc., the “gals” announced themselves ready. The bridegroom went to the door, and gave a signal, and up came the “Jeffersonville and Charlestown United States Mail Coach,” as it was styled in the mail contract. In reality, however, it was nothing more than a very dilapidated, ancient-looking barouche, drawn by two horses, of that species known as “crow-baits.” The bride and two other young ladies were crammed into the back seat, whilst the bridegroom and his friend took the front seat, the former driving. And
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then, in regular succession, came five or six other vehicles of venerable appearance, into which the company were stowed, in all sorts of confusion. I had a light buggy, with one vacant seat, which, after an introduction for the purpose, was filled by a very comely country lass, I commenced the cultivation of her acquaintance as soon as the cavalcade got under way ; she was very shy at first, but gradually got over her bashfulness, and, barring her loud laughter, I found her a very charming companion.

The procession was now fairly started, and moved leisurely along ; for the distance to Charlestown being fifteen miles, the bridegroom regulated the speed, so as to reach the village about sunset. We had scarcely got out of sight of Jeffersonville when the bridegroom, who had evidently been under an unpleasant restraint of some kind, startled the whole conclave by a loud and prolonged “Whoo-o-o-pee!” which rang through the woods till echo sent it back again.

“Now, Tom, do behave--you’ll skyur the horses!” gently remonstrated the bride. But Tom, in his exuberance of spirits, heeded her not, and proceeded to sing, in a stentorian, but not unmusical voice,

“If I was back in old Virginny,
I’d lead a different life ;
I’d save my money, and buy a farm,
And take Susan for my wife!
Oh! carry me back to Old Virginny,
To Old Virginny’s shore!
Oh! carry my back to Old Virginny,
To Old Virginny’s shore!”

The bride remonstrated no more, seeing it was useless, for Tom was in a perfect “blaze of glory,” and must give his feelings vent in some way. A very general and noisy hilarity pervaded
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the whole company, and the forest was vocal with the echoes of the coarse guffaws of the men, and the clear ringing laughter of the girls, diversified by an occasional faint scream,[2] as the wheels, owing to awkward driving, passed over some stump or stone in the road. The bridegroom, at regular intervals, would bellow forth his favorite--

“Oh! carry me back to Old Virginny,”

and then, turning his head, would open a brisk conversation with some one in one of the rear carriages. The slow driving did not exactly suit me, and as my travelling companion was quite sufficient to engage all my attention, I gave my horse to the lash, and dashed ahead of all the procession ; not so speedily, however, as to prevent me from hearing some one of the girls in the slow coaches remark, “Well, I think Ellen’s a-doin’ it up brown!” and from some one else, “There’ll be another weddin’ soon, I guess.” We dashed on regardless of these remarks, and soon left the rest of the company far out of sight and hearing.

Oh! I tell you it was delicious, that ride in the country, in early summer, when the birds warbled sweetest, and the fresh air of the woods expanded and invigorated the frame, rendering the heart doubly susceptible to the rustic charms of the merry damsel by my side! After we had got a good distance in advance, we halted for the procession to come up, and spent the time in picking mulberries. Presently, the approach of the [illegible] announced by the well known,

“Oh! carry me back!”

of the big bridegroom, ringing clear and musical through the woods. Then, getting into our buggy, we dashed on again, and halted as before, and so on, until my fair companion in

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formed me that we should stop until the procession came up, and then take our place in the rear, so as to enter the village in proper order.

Whilst waiting for the main body to come up with us, a deep black cloud [3] made its appearance in the firmament, and soon obscured the sun from sight. A summer thunderstorm was coming, and we had a very fair prospect of a ducking. So I just drove a little distance from the road, taking shelter under the trees, and made every preparation to meet the coming storm, which was soon upon us in all its fury. Heaven’s artillery thundered forth its fiercest salvos, and the rain decended in unbroken torrents for more than half an hour. The shelter of the trees, the cover of the buggy, and a good umbrella enabled my partner and I to escape with nothing more than a slight sprinkling. The cloud cleared off and the sun shone out once more ; but he was rapidly nearing the horizon, and there was yet no sign of the slow coaches. Impatience now began to possess me ; but just as Old Sol was sinking from sight, and leaving his last smile on the tops of the trees, the loud and clear voice of the stalwart Tom came echoing through the wood, bearing its usual burden--

“Oh! carry me back!”

and soon he hove in sight, at the head of his procession, in as boisterous a humor as ever. The carriages now presented a sadly begrimed and muddy appearance, as also did some of their male occupants.

“Halloo?” cried I, saluting the bridegroom, “what on earth kept you back so long? I’ve been waiting here an hour and a half, at least.”

“Well, you see,’, he replied, with his impertuberable good humor, we was gettin’ along purty fine, and didn’t mind the rain at all, till we got to the branch, about two miles back, whar you know the banks is mighty steep, and the ground all yaller
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clay. We all slid down hill mighty easy, but as for coming up this side, we couldn’t come it, no how, the clay was so rotten and slippery. It kept on a rainin’, and the branch begun to rise, and was soon up to the hubs of some of the carriages behind us. This won’t do, boys, says I ; we’d better take a ducking than be drownded, for the branch is risin’ mighty fast. So I just gathered Suse and jumped out, and the rest of the boys did the same to the gals that was with them, and we toted ‘em up hill in a roundabout way, and set ‘em down, and when we went back for the hosses and waggins, they had to come and no mistake!”

“Oh, carry me back to Old Virginny!
To Old Virginny’s shore!”

This adventure was food for much mirth, notwithstanding the ducking that most of the party caught. I took my place in the rear of the procession, which entered the village in stately order, at twilight. The population were all agog, and as we passed through the main street, every house disgorged its inhabitants, young and old, who stared to their heart’s content. We soon arrived at the bridegroom’s house, a comfortable looking mansion, in the outskirts of the village. The house was brilliantly lighted up with tallow candles, and every thing appeared to be ready. A general disembarkation now took place, Mrs. Bailey, senior, receiving the company with much good grace, and saluting her new daughter [4] with a hearty smack, as she was handed from the coach. Most of the company dispersed to their respective homes, in quest of dry garments, but soon returned, giving indications of a fierce determination to spend a jolly evening in some style.

The “infair,” or wedding supper, was all ready and waiting ; we were marshalled to our seats and a most sumptuous feast it was. It is useless to attempt a description of the edibles under
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which the long table groaned, but as the country air and afternoon ride had given me a ferocious appetite, I never enjoyed a feast more in my life. In the drinking line, besides tea and coffee, the table was ornamented with famous pitchers of new milk, buttermilk and lemonade. Nothing stronger, for teetotalism held sway in Charlestown. The supper finished, all hands returned to the front room--it could not well be called a parlor, for a heavenly looking bed, with a snow-white counterpane, stood in one corner, serving as a repository for the hats, bonnets, and other out-door gear of the company. At any rate, it answered the purpose of a parlor to the very evident satisfaction of the company, as they “paired off” to their seats, much to the admiration of a promiscuous crowd of idlers who collected about the open door and windows, but who were invisible in the Egyptian darkness that reigned without. The “merrie companie” were not long thus seated, before various remarks, tending to the same point, began to be audible, such as “room not big enough”--“take up the carpet”--“move the bed”--“who’s the fiddler?”--“must have a break-down,” &c. In the midst of this chattering, I was startled beyond measure, by not an “air from heaven,” but something more like a “blast from hell,” than e’er before smote mortal ear.

“Ah! thur they ar--I know’d they’d be hyur!” said my partner of the buggy, with whom I happened to be singled off on this occasion.

“What!” said I, having recovered from my shock--for the blast had not yet ended--“do you have shiverees in this little place?”

“It’s the Charlestown amatoor brass band,” said she, not appearing to comprehend my remark about shiverees ; “they’re all young men belonging hyur, and hav’n’t been practisin’ more’n three months ; they’re a playin’ ‘Love Not,’ now--listen!”
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Miss Ellen appeared so proud of this band, and so elated at the “suranade” that politeness compelled me to turn an attentive ear towards the darkness, from which proceeded a chaotic confusion of sounds that might have tested less refined nerves than mine. A great wrangling amongst bugles, cornets, &c., was discernible, but the great feature of the band was the trombone. It was perfectly deafening, and it appeared as if the blower’s object was to drown every other sound, in which he nearly succeeded. I never heard half the noise from that noisy instrument before, and began to feel some curiosity to see this tremendous performer, for the darkness without engulphed everything. “Love Not” being ended, “Yankee Doodle” was next assailed, and treated very roughly. During this last infliction, Tom Bailey, Esq., made his appearance with a load of chairs, which he ranged in a straight line from the front to the back door ; then disappearing, entered with more, until the row was completed. The band having finished up “Yankee Doodle,” Tom stood in the door, and called out in his happiest style:

“Gentlemen, walk in and have something--thur’s plenty room for you, and plenty chicken fixins on hand!”

Then arose a contest between the “amatoors” as to who should enter first. Each one feeling conscious of having surpassed himself in the “suranade,” felt a certain modesty in first entering such a blaze of beauty and tallow candles.

“Bill, go in fust ; you know more of the gals than any of us,” said one voice, just above a whisper. “No, I’ll be dang’d if I do ; lead on yourself,” answered Bill. A slight scuffleing was heard in the darkness near the door, as of some one endeavoring to push another forward, which of course was resisted. “Now, Bill, do lead on,” whispered another voice, “you’re the best drest, and I think oughter go fust.” “I tell you again, I shan’t do nothin’ of the kind ; why the d--l don’t you ax John Perkins? He’s leader, and its his place to go fust.”
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This appeared to settle the dispute, for in another moment Mr. Perkins entered, hat in hand, took his seat in the first chair all confusion and perspiration. After him came his trusty followers, all having a very heated and bashful appearance ; each one taking the first vacant seat, laying his instrument across his lap, and depositing his hat on the floor behind his chair. As they entered my curiosity heightened, and was gratified finally by the entrance of the trombone man, who came last of all, and stumbled sadly over his companions’ feet in making his way to the farthest chair. They were in truth a motley crowd, both in manner and costume, but the trombone man was the “feature.” Scarcely less in size than the bridegroom, his instrument, which he laid softly on the bed, was little more than a penny-trumpet in his hands ; and as he sat cross-legged--by this means betraying the total absence of socks from his red legs--fanning himself with his straw hat, and grinning recognitions around the room, he formed a picture worthy of the best effort of any aspiring painter.

Again our worthy host made his appearance, with a respectable sized platter in each hand, on which were lemonade, sweet cake, raisins, and candy kisses, to which our friends, the musicians, did ample justice. By this time the “ice had melted,” and several of the corps betrayed an unmistakable desire for conversation ; and whilst “putting away” the good things, compliments poured upon them thick and fast, with accompanying requests that they would play nearly every tune under the sun before they left. Of course, they promised to gratify each request. One young gentleman in a corner requested “Soapsuds over the fence,” emitted a horse-laugh, and relapsed into profound silence. The good things having entirely disappeared, and the candy-kiss verses duly handed over to and circulated among the girls, Mr. Perkins rose to his feet and said:

“Gentlemen and ladies, I hope you’ll excuse us, but we must be a-goin’. We wish you all a very good night, and hope you’ll
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have lots of fun.” Saying which, he ducked his head, and disappeared backward into the darkness. The corps followed his example with military precision—each one marching straight to the door, wheeling round, bobbing his head, and backing out of sight.

“Rec’lect, now, Hail Columby!” cried a fat damsel ; in yellow curls and pink ribbons. “You said you’d play ‘Love Not’ again--now mind you do,” added a loquacious but good looking young widow. “Hold your hosses a minit, gentlemen,” said the ringing voice of Tom Bailey, as that gentleman strode out after the musicians. In a moment he returned, and taking his place by his blooming bride, a breathless silence reigned. With difficulty I kept my fingers out of my ears, and awaited the “music.” And in an instant it came again--that infernal blast, which my partner pronounced a “most delightful overchure.” The trombone man let himself out this time--his first appearance “wasn’t a circumstance.” “The overture” concluded--then came--oh! horror!

“Carry me back! oh, carry me back!”

and the bridegroom’s interview with the band was explained. This fine air, rendered tiresome even by the bridegroom’s tolerable singing, was now perfectly execrable ; and after the band had murdered it, as they subsequently did “Hail Columby,” and departed after giving three boisterous cheers for Mr. and Mrs. Bailey,[5] I felt a relief that cannot be described.

The “music” having been duly discussed, a desire to “trip it on the light fantastic toe” began to manifest itself. At this juncture, the bridegroom rose and proposed, before having the dance, to go to “the saloon, and have some ice cream.”

“What!” exclaimed I, turning to Miss Ellen, “have you an ice-cream saloon here?”
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“Well, I don’t spose they’d talk about goin’ to one if they didn’t have one to go to,” responded she tartly, and giving me a look which there was no mistaking. I was going too far ; for a village only fifteen miles from a city cannot be reckoned as entirely without the pale of civilization.

Eight couples [6] started forth, Tom and his bride leading ; and after stumbling over stones and into mud puddles, in groping our way through the darkness, we at length arrived in front of a small shanty, with a barber’s pole sticking from the door ; and into this Tom led the way with the air of a man who had been there before. An idea possessed me that he was perpetrating a joke in entering a barber’s shop ; but to my surprise he was followed by all, with perfect gravity, and of course, by myself and companion. Squeezing round the end of a little counter, our jolly bridegroom drew aside a calico curtain, and displayed the “saloon” in all its glory.

It was certainly a model establishment, that, and one which severely tested my assumed gravity. The frosty wooled, solemn looking Ethiopian who presided over it, was a genius in his way. He had divided a room of twelve by sixteen feet into three compartments, in the first of which he carried on the business of confectioner and dealer in varieties ; in the rear of this were the other two rooms, one used as a barber’s shop, and the other as the “saloon.” The furniture of this delectable retreat consisted of two very diminutive pine tables. The board partition was respectably papered, and ornamented with two prints--one the “Soldier’s Return,” the other “The Proposal.” On the opposite side was the “window,” a small square hole with a pane of glass in a frame, which was now raised, the weather being warm ; and through this opening came the mellifluous notes of a small colony of frogs, croaking forth their evening anthem from a pond that guarded that side of the shanty.
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Well, this “saloon” was found to be just large enough to accommodate the ladies, four around each table ; the gentlemen disposing themselves as best suited them, in the confectionary and in the barber’s shop, which latter also communicated with the “saloon” by a door, over which another sumptuous calico curtains hung in graceful folds. After a prodigious grinding in the ice cream tub, “Mr. Williams” (as he was called by all the company) began to serve up the refreshments in very small glasses. The cream was villainous [7]; the first taste sickened me, but as Miss Ellen, who was within hailing distance, pronounced it a great luxury, my fear for that young lady induced me to finish my glass. Her answer to my question about the saloon, had put me on my guard. There is no chance for a man in a country village, if he should happen to do or say any thing having the semblance of putting on “city airs.” I was making myself as agreeable as possible with the young gentlemen in the confectionary, whilst sipping away at our cream ; a crowd, or the crowd of idlers, had assembled about the door, indulging in mirth and criticism, and amongst other “telling” remarks that were made loud enough to be heard inside, was the following, in a mushy voice:

“That city chap’s been putting on ars considerable to-night, I think!” A boisterous laugh rewarded this sally, the great humor consisting in the certainty that I heard it. “Some barefoot brother of Miss Ellen’s,” thought I, and preserved my equanimity. The only demonstration made by the bridegroom here, worthy of record, was his squeezing himself into a corner of the saloon, and bumping his head against the wooden ceiling, by rising on tiptoe, whilst eating his cream, much to the amusement of the ladies and the indignation of the old darkey. But as all bad things have an end, so had the cream, and soon we were homeward bound, groping through the darkness and mud.
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Upon arriving at the scene of festivity, things wore an altered appearance. The carpet had been taken up, the floor swept and sprinkled ; a box was in the corner, diagonally opposite the bed ; on the box a chair ; on the chair a greasy-looking African, and in the African’s hands a violin and bow--all rosined, tuned, and ready for action. These preparations were greeted with delight by the ice-cream party ; the bed was in the road, to be sure, but it couldn’t well be moved--so they would get along as best they could.

A cotillion was soon formed ; the dancers took their stands ; the negro laid his left cheek on the breech of his instrument, and struck up “Jim Crack Corn ;” and then commenced one of those real, good old fashioned, jolly country dances, which are not easily forgotten by one accustomed to the mincing steps and stately distances of the city cotillion. The bed infringed somewhat upon the circle of dancers, but they never heeded it, and jostled each other with the greatest good humor in the world. “Forward two”--“ladies change”--“swing de corners”[8]--“sashy all,” etc, called the negro in [9] regular succession, beating time on the box with his huge flat foot. The first cotillion over, a new one was formed, one of the pairs being Mr. Tom Bailey and his bride. “Come, old feller, give us ‘Carry me back!’” said Tom, rubbing and bouncing his boots over the floor, preparatory to the dance. “Can’t play dat, Mr. Bailey!” said the negro. “Well, any thing’ll do.” So the fiddler struck up “Rackensack,” and away went the dance. In a short time Tom became heated, then uproarious. An involuntary yell would escape him occasionally as he whirled with his Susan through the dance, coming down on his heels till the building trembled, and saluting his bride with a hearty smack as he brought her back to their place. After a while came refreshments, and then again the dance, which was kept up with great energy until the Yankee clock on the mantel struck three, and the sconces on the wall had long tallow icicles suspended to
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them. Some one now moved an adjournment. “Don’t be in a hurry, gentlemen,” said the bridegroom ; but it got whispered around that the nice looking bed in the corner was the bridal bed, and as if by common consent, all the company departed for their respective homes, after a great shaking of hands with the bridegroom and kissing of the bride. I conducted the fair Ellen to her home, promising to ride out and see her some Sunday--and finding my way back, was shown to my quarters for the night. I betrayed my city raising by rising the last one in the morning. At breakfast the newly married couple appeared in the plain habiliments of every-day life ; and “truly,” tho’t I, “they are an enviable pair.” Wishing them a hearty good-bye, I left for the city, with many regrets that fortune had not gifted me with a country birth and home. It will be long, before I forget the pleasure I enjoyed at this “Hoosier Wedding.”


Source: Southern and Southwestern Sketches: Fun, Sentiment, and Adventure. Edited by a Gentleman of Richmond. Richmond: J.W. Randolph, n.d. 54-67. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Original text reads “possed.”
[2] Original text reads "cream."
[3] Original text reads "could."
[4] Original text reads “daughther.”
[5] Spellings of names vary throughout this piece.
[6] Original text reads “couple.”
[7] Original text reads “villianous.”
[8] Original text omits first quotation mark.
[9] Original text reads “iu.”

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