The History of Taylor County Chapter Two Hundred-Twenty


Spanish-American War Days

That clever little comedy star Mary Smith Robbins came to the Opera House for a return

engagement in her role Little Trixie, January 4, 1898, and repeated the favorable impression she made on her former engagement among the patrons on the above night.

  L Decicco, an Italian, established the first exclusive fruit market in Grafton when he leased a room in the Colerider Building on West Main street and stocked the room with many different kinds of fruits that were not native to this section.  Oranges and lemons were familiar to the folks the year around, but grapes, plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and other fruits out of season were displayed among the stock of fruit stand.

  Guy Brothers Minstrels made their second appearance in the Opera House January 17, and were greeted by a very good house.  This company of five brothers all talented artists was managed by their mother who looked after the financial side of the company and to the welfare of the members.  The face of the father who on the previous engagement acted as interlocutor in the first part of the minstrel was missing, he having passed away at his home in Vermont.

  The horrible atrocities practiced against the people of Cuba by the Spanish Governor General Weyler aroused indignation among the people of the United States who prayed Congress to recognize the independence of the Cuban Islands and end the rule of the Spaniards in the Antilles.  This action on the part of the United States Government was resented by the Spanish government and doubtless lead them to retaliate by placing bombs in the waters of Havana Harbor, one of which was struck by the United States Warship the Maine and whose explosion sank the ship and took the lives of 275 American people.  In every American war the soldier boys adopted a war song and was universally used during the period of the strains of Yankee Doodle used during the Revolutionary period was handed down through the years and only a very few of the oldest living today recall the air and song.  During the period of the Civil war, some recall the song “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” and “Marching Through Georgia,” “Dixie” and “Tenting On The Old Camp Grounds,” are frequently heard on occasions, but have to do with meeting of the old veterans.

  During the Spanish-American war many of the lads from the plains of Indiana and Illinois in passing through Grafton sang a sentimental ballad with a beautiful air entitled “On The Banks Of The Wabash” and this sentimental song in many theatrical entertainments in 1898.  Then during the great World war came many new songs among them “Over There.”  “Keep The Home Fires Burning,” and “Tiperary,” the last two with a marching air that caused the lads to keep step to the words of the song, instead of the tap of the drum prevalent in all previous wars.  Some wit among the American Expeditionary forces composed that comedy song, “Hinhkey-Dinkey Parley Voo.” that was an instant hit and perhaps became the most sung air for some time after the war.  But in time all are forgotten and never heard of again and this is true of most compositions of a sentimental nature that have a run for a while.  Only the religious hymns and the National Anthem continue to live and will probably continue in use as long as religion and the Nation lives.

  The farce comedy Hooligan’s Wedding came to the Opera House January 27, 1898.  This hilarious comedy was written to give Charles F. Edwards and Pat Conroy a vehicle to exploit thier peculiar style comedy roles, ably supported by a clever company including Miss Freda Lancaster, Miss Libby Dupree, George Dupree and Bert Harvey in the leading roles pleased and audience which got great enjoyment from the action and musical numbers given by the company.

  Early in the year 1898 Reverend Father John McElligott began the movement for a better and larger school for the children of the parish.  The old frame church building erected in 1857 used for school purposed and the basement of St. Augustine Catholic church were both overcrowded with the ever increasing number of pupils seeking education which greatly hampered the Sisters of St. Joseph in providing room for this increase, Father McElligott met with gratifying success in his efforts to provide the funds for this new and better school building and in Mrs. Virginia Himan Donohue he found a willing and enthusiastic contributor to the movement and to her generous gift of funds the building was made possible in this year.  The firm of Franzheim, Giesey and Ferris of Wheeling were engaged to prepare plans and specifications for a modern school building on the site of the old historic old frame church, the first temple of religion erected in the town and in which the oldest settlers of Grafton for almost a third of a century came regularly to offer up their devotions at its Holy alter.

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