The Robert Cook Dramatic company came to the Opera House for the week of January 12 to a very good week’s business. Gordon McDowell, a sterling actor, had the leads in the repertoire of plays presented by the company and Miss Elma Cornell ably supported him especially in her part of Lady Isable and Madam Vine in the touching drama, “East Lynne.” Her singing that beautiful air “Then You’ll Remember Me’ the word of which:
“When other lips and other hearts,
Their tales of love will tell
In language whose excess imparts
The power they feel so well
They may perhaps, in such a scene
Some recollections be
Of days that have as happy been
Then you’ll remember me.
When coldness or deceit shall slight
The beauty they now prize
And deem it but a faded light
That beams within your eyes
When hollow hearts shall wear a mask
“Twill break your own to see
In such a moment I but ask-
That you’ll remember me”
was so touching there were few dry eyes in the house, even the gods who packed the gallery sobbed audibly and the red bandanas were brought into use at this touching farewell between her and Archibald Carlyle. Miss Cornell’s part of Pauline in the “Lady of Lyons” was one of the most finished pieces of acting ever seen on the local stage and won her a place in the affections of the theatre patrons.
The Baltimore and Ohio equipped passenger Engine No.871 with firebox to burn coke in effort to eliminate the unpleasant fumes of sulfur in passing through the numerous tunnels on the Parkersburg branch, annoying to the passengers and train crews. Driver Patrick Flannery of Engine 871 after numerous tests found this fuel so unsatisfactory its use was discontinued, and the engine changed again for the use of coal.
The directors of the Merchants and Mechanics Saving bank purchased the William Cole property at the northwest corner of main and Lafayette streets for a site on which to erect their proposed new banking and office building. This old property on which Eugene McClain erected his home and livery barn in the beginning of the town he sold some few years later to Columbus C. Houston, who for years was employed as driver of the little Engine No. 63, a companion engine to the No.64 that hauled the first train into Wheeling on January 1, 1854. It was the No. 63s duty to push the small three compartment coal hoppers up the incline to the old coal chutes that stood on the site of the present coal and sand tower. Later Mr. Houston was placed in charge of the historic old “Camel Engine No.91” that figured so prominently in the big railroad strike of 1877.
In the late 60s, Mr. Houston sold the property to William Cole who opened a small furniture factory in the basement where he and his son, Milton A., turned out the trundle beds, cradles, the old time perforated front and side cupboards so familiar in the kitchens of the homes of other days, chairs both plain and rocking and other needs for the households, frames for the beautiful old chromos and prints, some of which if available today would bring their owners a very tidy sum from the souvenir hunters, who buy up the treasures of long ago.
Mr. Cole and his son in their little shop fashioned by hand all, or practically all of the coffins from the finest walnut and chestnut lumber that grew in abundance at their very back door for the burial of the dead in the early years. It was an interesting sight to watch Mrs. Evaline Cole line these old coffins with the finest bleached muslin and arrange the materials in the neatest plaits at the sides of those homemade caskets and fashion a small pillow of the same material for the head of the deceased.
Mr. Cole acted as an undertaker and arranged all the details for the funerals of those days. All bodies were carried to Bluemont and the old Catholic cemeteries by men in case of an adult, or by boys in case of a child with the relatives and friends on foot slowly following the casket to the place of internment. If a body was carried to Pruntytown for interment the casket was placed on a road wagon and the relatives and friends on foot walked behind the wagon the four miles to the place of burial. The hearse was yet unknown in the smaller towns and villages and conveyances were available in those early years for the funeral corteges.
People of those early days were so intimately acquainted and neighborly they felt it a duty and do all in their power in these scared rites. Mr. Cole’s barn on the rear of the lot was stacked high with old handmade caskets and the youth of the town accustomed to playing about the horse barns gave his barn a wide berth filled with its gruesome contents. Mr. Cole died in 18890 and the property sold to the directors of the bank as the site for the new fine bank building.
The much-heralded Adelaide Cherie, proclaimed the most beautiful woman on the American stage came to the Opera House on February 3, 1894, and presented the melodrama “Only a Farmer’s Daughter” to a mere handful of people, just why the regular patrons remained away is a mystery. The play of five acts was filled with tense and absorbing situations and the scenes beautifully staged and dressed. Miss Cherie as Madame Laurent an intriguing and charming adventuress was superb in her parts and Charles Mortimer, a handsome leading man in the dual roles of Jack Hartley and Phillip Bartram, cleverly interpreted these difficult parts. The comedy of F. Gordon Meade as Sammy Green, a country boy was very good, yet despite this the play failed to attract the patrons into the house and they missed seeing a well-acted and most clever entertainment.
Then strange as it may seem the regulars and many others who rarely attended the theatre swamped the box office for tickets to witness a home talent play on the night of February 6, 1894, staged by an entire cast of local would be actors who presented the melodrama “Down The back Canyon” in which Homer Peters, a West Grafton lad, essayed the leading role and was supported by Addison and Maud Young, Milford Beeler, Joseph Shaw and others whose stage training came from seeing the many actors who appeared back of the footlights in the many plays on the local stage. The gods who filled the gallery at all plays are perhaps the best critics as to the merits of an attraction and they were never backward in giving advice to an actor who missed a cue or forgot his lines gave some of these amateur actors the benefit of their experience in the art of acting.
A crowd of people gathered at the front steps of the Taylor County Court House attracted by the cries of Sherriff Stephen B. Jenkins conducting a sale of a very good looking gray horse, but despite the sheriff’s good looks and his earnest efforts to sell the animal at a fair price, he was reluctantly forced to accept the bid of $5.25 for the horse.
Arthur Deming one of the best blackface comedians of the theatrical stage brought his own minstrel attraction to the Opera House February 12, 1894. His popularity and the usual good features presented by the company caused the box office to do a rushing business.