Take a step back in time to 1873 and visit a Philomath picnic. (Photo by Anton Ostapenko/Getty Images via Canva)

Among the gems that can be found in old newspapers are those types of articles that provide very detailed descriptions of events. The article below features pieces of information that can help you paint a mental picture of what it was like to be at a picnic in 1873 Philomath.

As you read through this author’s piece, give it careful thought. The description of the appearance of Virginia Hartless (the “May Queen”) included her clothes, how she wore her hair and even what she held in her right hand. You can also get a good sense of the program that followed, the food they enjoyed and commentary on young couples.

Interesting to me were the writer’s comments about how he wishes there were more occasions like the May 1873 picnic that would bring people together to socialize. I also thought it was funny that he gets a jab in at the newspaper for not showing up.

The author is identified only as “Greasyite” — if I had to guess, it’s like a reference to someone who lived in the vicinity of Greasy Creek.

The following appeared in the May 24, 1873 edition of the Corvallis Gazette and was addressed to the editor:

“Your presence was wished for, but being absent, from some cause unknown to me, I have concluded to give you a short sketch of our picnic, on the 20th inst., and a description of the beautiful May Queen.

“The schools of Philomath votes for, and elected, Miss Virginia Hartless May Queen — a very intelligent, amiable and beautiful young lady; after she was elected, the scholars and a portion of the inhabitants around Philomath, repaired to the grove near Mr. A.R. Brown’s — and a nice grove it is.

“The May Queen and her subjects took their positions on the stage, which was handsomely decorated for the occasion. An appropriate piece of music was then sung by Prof. Sellwood and others. The Queen was then crowned with a beautiful crown and wreath of rich flowers. She was most tastefully dressed in white, and her dark auburn hair fell in beautiful ringlets on her pearly white neck; and she held in her right hand a golden scepter as a badge of her authority.

“She then delivered a short, intelligent and appropriate address. Mr. I. Springer then arose and responded, in a very able and eloquent manner. After which Prof. Sellwood read quite a lengthy essay on May parties, picnics, education and its advantages, liberty and its blessings, and on nature generally — which was pronounced good by every one present.

“The Rev. Harritt then arose, made a few very appropriate remarks, and dismissed the company, that we might take dinner and enjoy ourselves the best we could. We did enjoy ourselves eating — for a more bountiful and better dinner we seldom see.

“Our bill of fare was boiled ham, roast chicken, strawberry pies, huckleberry pies, cakes of all kinds , (and as many pretty girls as ever got together in one little crowd). It is true there were not three thousand of us, but I am satisfied there might have been eleven baskets of (I was going to say fragments, but I will say as many baskets of) good substantial grub, taken up after we were all filled to unpleasantness.”

“After dinner we had games of ball, buggy rides, strolls, singing by the Philomath class, some gathered strawberries, while some of the more love sick swains and the fair sex sat in their hacks and buggies sparking. (Well, I guess they were sparking,) I see them sit and looked at each other for a half hour at a time, without saying a word, but I am satisfied they kept up an awful thinking. (I have been there myself)

“It is sufficient to say that we had a nice time — and we always do out there at any of our gatherings; and we still expect to have nice times. We need more picnics; we need more sociability; we need a better feeling from one to another than exists at present, and we believe this is a good way to bring around these feelings of kindness, we are taught to love our neighbor as we do ourselves, but how very few of us obey this commandment?

“This is as seen and enjoyed by a Greasyite. Philomath, May 20, 1873.”

125 years ago

“Philomath news letter”: City Marshal Taylor has a force at work graveling the streets. … Bishop Castle, wife and son, from Elkhart, Indiana, arrived here last week. … Rev. Parker has repainted the library hall, also the inside of Philomath college. … Mrs. Keezel has moved the post office into the building south of Dr. Loggan’s office. … Robert McFarland and wife of Summit, and Alden Hulbert and wife, of Linn county, were at Uncle Abe’s over Sunday. (Published May 20, 1898, in the Corvallis Gazette).

100 years ago

PHS activities: The girls’ baseball team of Philomath High school played Monroe High Monday afternoon on the home grounds, the score being 27 to 10 in Monroe’s favor. The senior class of the Philomath High gave their class play Saturday night, May 19, entitled, “Safety First.” It was enjoyed by all. The boys of Philomath High School played baseball with Shedd on the home grounds, the score ending 24 to 4 in favor of Philomath. (Published May 24, 1923, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times).

75 years ago

Babysitting service: Mothers may take advantage of a baby tending service in Philomath on election day, it was announced today. Mothers are invited to leave their small babies and children at the home of Mrs. Orr Wieman, third house north of Plymouth community hall, where the election will be held Friday. The service will extend all day through the courtesy of the League of Women Voters of Corvallis, a nonpartisan organization. (Published May 19, 1948, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times).

50 years ago

Queen hopefuls: From five hopefuls, the queen of the 1973 Philomath Western Frolic will be crowned Tuesday night at a coronation and variety show. The event will begin at 8 p.m. at Philomath High School. The queen will reign over the Frolic festivities scheduled for June 8, 9 and 10. Members of this year’s court are Jeanne Gerding, Hertha Grass, Sheryl Hallam, Kitty Lossett and Melinda Newell. All are seniors at Philomath High School. (Published May 24, 1973, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times).

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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