The History of Taylor County:Chapter Two Hundred Thirty-Six

Seek Safety Gates

 The members of the Baptist church gave a tuneful cantata entitled “Queen Esther” in the Opera House on September 7, 1899, that attracted a very large audience and proved most entertaining. The singing numbers by the talented members of the church choir and the choruses were nicely dressed in keeping with the character part in the entertainment.

Mayor Boyd appointed Virgil T. Handley, John A McCabe, and Lewis Kitzmiller a committee from the town council to confer with the Baltimore and Ohio railroad officials in regard to the safety of citizens at Davis Crossing over in West Grafton. The committee reported back to council the officials assured them that in the very near future safety gates and a watchman would be installed at this danger point and that while nothing at present would be done at the Mill Street crossing, the railroad had plans under way for great improvements at the Grafton Terminal that would eventually eliminate the most dangerous crossings of streets and railroads in the future.

Earl and Jeneso presented the comedy with music, “The Bell Boy,” to the patrons of the Opera House September 20, 1899 This mirth provoking experience of a bell boy in one of the great hotels who comes into contact with all classes of people and takes notice of their eccentricities which leads him to give a cleaver imitation of the whimsies of those he attends to their rooms. Surrounded by a capable cast of comedians, the play was most enjoyable and pleased a very good audience.


One of those attractions that catered principally to jaded appetite of the adult male audience known as the Black Crook Extravaganza company came to the Opera House October 5, 1899. This attraction opened with a very beautiful setting entitled the Palace Of The Moon al lof the principals in this extravaganza, assuming the rose of the stars, planets and comets, brilliant and scintillating with action and a feast of music in which the dancing gavotte “Dancing With The Girl You Love,” “My Hannah Lady” by Miss Gertrude Grimes, the singing sketch “The Girl I Loved In Sunny Tennessee” by Misses DeForset and Harvey and the popular “Cake Walk” by the originators Rastus and Banks were presented. During act two specialty numbers were given by Misses DeForest and Harvey in topical songs, Tom and Gertrude Grimes comedy sketch artists. Gibbons and Barrett, the millionaires, and a grand “Cake Walk” with Rastus and Banks and the entire company to close the act. The Third act was also a beautiful sitting, an incantation episode entitled the Grotto Of The Caves, ruled by a hobo king who surrounded himself with a harem of very beautiful girls all of whom took part in a gavotte entitled Ann Eliza, one of the best numbers in the burlesque and the curtain fell on a oriental dance that made the audience stand and shout their approval.


John Carr, one of Grafton’s oldest settlers and most prominent citizens, who came to the town in 1854 to take charged of the machinery department of the North West Virginia railroad andw who left the service to establish his own machine shop and foundry on the site now occupied by the magnificent Baltimore and Ohio station, died at his home on Latrobe street October 25, 1899.


John W. Lewis, a romantic figure and first settler who figured in the flag episode of May 22, 1861 on which day the Confederate forces camped at Fetterman were ordered by Colonel Porterfield to seize the town of Grafton and the bodies of all citizens known to aid or in sympathy with the cause of the Federal government died. The American flag which was suspended above Elizabeth street between the home of Captain George Latham gave Lewis anxiety over the mark the recruiting office of Latham gave Lewis anxiety over the result of this seizure and untying rope on his home carried the flag across the street and begged Mrs. Latham to conceal the colors until the departure of the Confederates. Mrs. Latham taking the flag nailed it securely above the door of her husband’s office and gave Mr. Lewis the reply told in a former chapter of this history. He died at his home in East Grafton October 21, 1899.


Robert Downing, eminent American actor, who in the past confined his dramatic art to classic and tragedy roles came to the Opera House November 2, 1899, and presented an unusual and most entertaining pastoral drama entitled “An Indian Romance” in three acts in which Mr. Downing appeared as Sam Hickey, a backwoodsman-one of the Abe Lincoln kind, Miss Lucia Moore, his leading lady as Mary, was sweet as can be. Morris McHugh as the “cornsheller,” Vernon Sommers and Syrus the “drug store feller who knows everybody and their business,” W. B. Wheeler as the dancin’ professor, Marshall Farnum as Pap Ramsey, the Lucyville oracle, Frederick Edwards as Solomon, wise young lad, J. T. Smith as Ananias who meddles and always present where not wanted, Baby Keith as Boultin’s Angel, a precocious lass strong with elocutin’ and not at all backward in displaying her talent, Miss Ina Brooks as Kathaleen a household drudge who knows the secrets of all the inhabitants of the village of Lucyville and just loves to sot in their places when they git uppity.


This unusual comedy drama with a backwoods setting so different from the roles featuring Mr. Downing was a surprise to the large audience who saw the play and who enjoyed the impersonations of the quaint village folks whose lives and experiences were spent within the boundaries of their village and to whom events like “sparkin” and “weddin’s” were matters of great moment and freely discussed in the village drug store by the wagging tongues of the gossipers. The humor of the play was appealing and provided an entertainment radically different from many others of a pastoral nature.


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