Jacob and Lowenthal theatrical producers sent Hall Caine’s production, “The Deemster,” to the Opera House November 8,1901. This much- publicized play, dealing with English life, had made quite a reputation in the larger cities after being dramatized for the stage and as its reputation was established the people of the smaller towns turned out in large numbers to witness this much-heard-of play and the theatrical folks of Grafton had no exception.
The discovery of the dead body of young H. Clay Davis among the debris at the foot of the stone quarry on West Main Street on November 4,1901, led the people to speculate as to the manner in which this popular young employee of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad came to his death, whether accidental or by foul means, but there being no witnesses the manner of his passing remained undetermined.
“The Missouri Girl,” featuring Miss Sadie Raymond, a very beautiful and simple story of a girl domestic, came to the Opera House December 5, 1901. Miss Raymond a clever and accomplished actress, surrounded by a great cast, gave one of the best entertainments to a large house on the above night. The scenery for the entire production was carried by the company and was of the highest order of the scenic painters’ art. The audience clamored for a return date for this comedy drama, it pleased so well.
To the dramatic critic the presentation of the personal drama “York State Folks,” was the highlight of the theatrical season of 1901, which came to the Opera House, December 16,1901. This simple story of rural village life peculiar to and of the folks in all American villages who lived their lives and went about their business without the bustle and stir that actuated the people of the cities. The cast featuring Arthur Sidman as Myron Cooper, a sweet old man devoted to music and who spent then years building a church organ, town tax collector ,who earns the enmity of the village president and rich man by advocating the building of the railroad through the village which will pass through the rich man’s property. James Lackaye, one of the foremast actors of his day, as the irascible, stubborn Simon Peter Martin, rich man and village president, owner of the village wagon works and heaviest taxpayer; Randolph Curries as Frank Martin, his son who borrows $150 from the old organ builder to pay a gambling debt; Marry Linton as Hal Murdock, a young music teacher from Syracuse University; Dwight Smith as Reverend Wesley Barnes, pastor of the “Brick Church,” and town clerk; Ernest Lamson, as Lemon Dunbar, a prosperous “hoss trader”; Arthur Gregory, as Ziby Tucker, a wagon builder in the employ of Simon Peter Martin and an enthusiast over the new puzzle craze of the time “Pigs in Clover” which he vainly tries to conquer; Melvin Smith as Ab Springer, leader of the Excelsior Silver Cornet band; George W. Mahare as Ben Tuttle, proprietor of the Emporium and postmaster; T.H. Parsons as Wick Tilton, mail carrier and stage drivers, William Philbrick as LeLancy Davenport, advance agent for Fenton’s Double Uncle Tom’s Cabin company; Kate Jackson, widowed sister of Myron Cooper; Jennie McIntyre, as Jennie, her daughter; Mrs. Arthur Sidman as Emmaline Hubbard, very charming as the village belle; Celia Clay as Mrs. Libby Martin, Simon Peter’s wife, Hilda Russell as Higgins’s girl, who knows all the village gossip, and little Bessie Bert and Master Willie Gray. The orphaned grandchildren of Widow Miller composed the cast that was exceptionally clever in portraying the different characters in the drama.
The action begins in the Brick church during the evening service when the old organist sees a young man step into his place and gradually take away his pupils. The second scene takes place in Maple lane, after the evening service and sees Lem Dunbar seated on the stone wall about the church yard on hopes of accompanying Emmaline home from the meeting and when he sees her arm in arm with Frank Martin vents his rag by slamming things around. The second act laid in the interior of Myron Cooper’s sitting room whose wall was hung a faded chromo of President Grant and dingy crewel worked motto’s “God Bless Our Home” “Jesus Lover Of My Soul.” A homely rag carpet on the floor, fringed red cover on the center table, an oil lamp with a flower strewn shade an old fashioned sideboard and settled on which two neighbors were seated who were making a call was one of the best bits of realism ever seen on the local stage. The scene in the back room on Ben Tuttle’s Emporium, the village community center with all the men characters trying to work the puzzle “Pigs in Clover” and interrupted by the intrusion of the seedy advance agent of Uncle Tom Cabin show with his flamboyant stock posters and glib talk of great merits of his attraction. A real touch of realism to this scene was the arrival of a woman purchaser of a broom, which she selects from a barrel in which the brush ends rise above the chime of the barrel. The scene in the tax collector’s office where Simon Peter discovers his son Frank trying to pay the $150 borrowed debt and accused the tax collector of borrowing this money to cover a shortage in the tax money and threatens to start a committee of 15 to purify the atmosphere. He accused Jennie, Cooper’s niece, of being no better than she ought to be and demands she release Frank from his promise of marriage and tells him she had intended to release him from his promise on his own account, bow she was going to marry him if she had to refuse an English lord to do so, was a clever bit of acting.
Things look bad for the old organist until young Murdock goes to Rochester and gets the congregation to purchase the organ that took ten years of the old man’s time to bring to perfection which brings the “silver lining” that was hid from the old organist for a while. His happiness is complete bids his grandchildren good night sending them to bed, puts out the cat and winds the old-fashioned clock and seats himself and falls asleep as the stage was dimmed and dreams he sees the choir and organist of a great city church at the keyboard of his organ. The choir boys of Holy Trinity church, their young voices singing softly that grand hymn “Rest For The Weary” as the curtain falls slowly on this ending to one of, if not the best homely drama ever played on the local stage, and which the patrons arose enmasse and demanded a return date, which was promised for December 30.