The History of Taylor County Chapter Three Hundred-Seventy-Four

The Celestial Wanderer of 1909

The appearance of Halley’s comet in the heavens during October, 1909, invisible until December, was viewed by untold thousands who peered through smoked glasses to witness this blazing sun, whose appearance is only seen by the people of the nation every 77 years, the length of time for the celestial body in making the journey around the sun. The planet was first seen in the neighborhood of the earth in November, 1832, then the people of Grafton, 77 years after, or in 1909, we’re given a fine view of this heavenly body, which will not appear again to their view until the year 1987, according to astronomical calculations. Its appearance led and inquisitor to right the Grafton Sentinel as follows:

Grafton, October 24, 1909.

“Editor Sentinel:

Halley’s comet—Halley’s comet—what is Halley’s comet? Almost every paper I pick up has something about Halley’s comet. Can you give me any light on the subject? What newspaper space is not crowded up by a discussion of the polar controversy seems to be taken up with the comment. What is it—where is it? What is it all about? Is it going to kill us and bring about the doom of the “Holy Rollers” predicted? What have you got to say about it?


The editor informed the writer the celestial body was discovered by Edmund Halley, an English astronomer in the year 1682, and named for its discoverer, who after a great amount of study fixed it in its proper place as a member of the solar family, improved it had a fixed orbit, running contrary to and crossing the orbits of other planets and took away the fear of this fiery storm with its sword like tail as a messenger of destruction to the peoples on earth. With the passing of time and the periodical lapse of 77 years of the visit of the comet and nothing untoward happened to the inhabitants all former fear of the celestial body was allayed. Perhaps some reader of this history of the town of Grafton 44 years hence, when Halley’s comet again appears in the heavens, will relate to the youth of 1987 his recollection of the visit of this celestial wonder of the year 1909.

Mrs. Maria Jennings Flanagan, widow of the late Thomas Flanagan, suffering from a condition requiring a dangerous operation in the hopes of prolonging her life, but her condition was such that her vitality ebbed and she passed away and Grafton City Hospital, November 10, 1909. Born in the county of Mayo, in the emerald Isle, with her parents she came to the United states when a mere child, who located in Grafton in 1862 and became one of those sturdy families who laid the foundation of the town. Maria Jennings, a comely lass and popular girl in her day, attracted the attention of Thomas Flanagan and the friendship begun had its culmination in marriage. Magnanimous, kind hearted, a true Christian woman and a devoted mother, her passing was a keen source of regret to her orphan children and her many devoted friends. The passing of the woman, who came with her parents or as the wife of the man who came to Grafton junction in the beginning of the town and took their part and making history, who reared their children and taught them at their knee the love of home and country denied them in their native lands, and who fled from those lands to find freedom of thought, speech and worship in the creed they believed, in liberty loving United States, seem to most of us and unkind act of Providence, yet the span of human life is so uncertain, the high, the low, the affluent and the humblest cannot avert this act. And, like so many of her close by neighbors and Intimate friends, she, too, was carried atop the hill and rest in that peace and quietness only the grave knows.

The youngsters of the town were treated to a fine Halloween celebration by the citizens, who offered prizes for the most outstanding costumes that passed in review at the judges stand at the First National Bank corner. The Grafton ban was engaged to lead the line of March and possibly 300 youths of both sexes formed in line, all dressed in the most bizarre costumes, all eager to win one of the prizes. Mother Hubbards, Red Ridinghoods, Buster Browns, clowns, dominos, Uncle Sam’s, male and female impersonators, ballet dancers, negro, Chinamen, German, Jewish, Italian Organ grinders and Tom Barnhouse and his one-man band. There were so many impersonations, it would be futile to recall them all. Mayor love issued a proclamation warning against all marrying and destruction of property and promised a severe penalty against any caught in the acts. Few recall the Halloweens of bygone years, when the streets were barricaded with large packing cases stacked as high as a two-story house, gates removed from their post, carts, drays and wagons taken apart and placed on the roofs of blacksmith shops and homes bombarded with cabbage stalks, which seemed the ammunition of the youth of the 70s. And to observe the occasion, people cut nose, eyes and mouth in a hollow pumpkin and lighted the grinning face with a candle behind the darkened windows of their houses. The young ladies used cut out silhouettes of witches and Black Cats and hung them in windows and illuminated these behind the casements with a lighted lamp or candles to reflect these symbols of Halloween.


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