Annual Royal Gathering of the Pioneers Big Rapids Pioneer Feb. 19, 1885
The tramp of the pioneers, and the human sea, were both plainly audible and visible at the Armory Hall in this city last evening. As previously announced none were entitled at the Old Settlers' party except those who came into the Muskegon Valley as settlers before the first cars upon the G.R. & L. Railroad entered Big Rapids; and this rule was rigidly adhered to. This regulation, of course, included the children of those families. Never since the organization of the society, seven years ago, has there been such a gatherine of the old pioneers and their children. The old farmers and their wives, who entered the wilderness and stood in the front of the battle - many of them over thirty years since - came - along - distances to greet their old time friends and neighbors. About four hundred people enjoyed the grand old visiting party and its festivities. Seated in groups around about the room, many if the old people truly became young again in their rehearsal of the struggles and trials of years long since relegated to the past. Said one old lady, in speaking of thrity years ago, "I have never known such happiness in a neighborhood, never saw such true and genuine hospitality as existed the first few years of our coming into woods of Mecosta county." And she laughed heartily at the inconveniences to which all were subjected in those early days. "To go outside in those early days," and an old gentleman. "was considered about as much of an understaking as to start on a journey to Boston now. From to two to three days getting to Grand Rapids, through the trackless forest with an ox team, was considered good time. But what did we care. It seemed as we were 'monarchs of all we surveyed' in this splendid north country. We could cut a tree or make our maple sugar, wherever it most convenient, and for a long time there was none to say."
A pleasing and appropriate incidenr occurred in the hall about eleven o'clock. It was announced that Mr. and Mrs. Gooch, of Hersey, had brought two or three bushels of fine apples from their own orchard to distribute as they would have done in times past - among those who had borne a burden and heat of the day and were stikk regarded as dear friends. After the usual hand shaking and friendly greeting were over in the early part of the evening, it was announced that dancing would commence, and this was kept up with now and then an intermission until daylight this morning. The music by Bisbee's Cotillion Band, was all that could be desired. Twenty-four set were formed on the floor, and all dancing at once most of the time until after midnight.
A call was made for the first fifty tickets for supper at 11:30 o'clock, and the parties departed, for the Northern, where a most sumptuous supper was provided by Mr. Roosenvelt, and to which all did ample justice. About 150 ladies and gentlemen sat down at the first tables. The large dining hall was completely filled for the third time before all were served. It woulkd afford us pleasure to furnish our readers a complete bill of fare which the genial landlord furnished on this occasion, as it was truly recherche (?) in its character and abundance. We may be permitted to name a few dishes: Oyster stew, scalloped oysters, cold turkey, cold boiled ham, salads, pickles, jellies, oranges, etc. The hot tea and coffee was superb. All was in excellent order, the waiters obliging and attentive, and not an incident to mar the happiness of the occasion. Supper being over, many departed for their homes, while others again repaired to the hall to indulge in the card playing or dancing for a few hours later. As might be supposed the kind of dancing indulged in on such an occasion was of the old fashipned kind. The contra dance, the cotillion, the waltz and reel were especial favorites. Our reporter was informed that at the close some of the oldest citizens desired an old time moss-back contra-dance, and in old time costume, by first removing coats and boots, tying their suspenders tightly about the waist and "wading in" in their stocking feet. A few sets were formed in this manner and an exceedingly hilarious time was had, one gentleman becoming so excited that his stockings flew off also, but gave him no concern, nor did he allow it to interfere.
At the close of the party Mr. J.G. Palmer, in a feeling and appropriate speech announced that there accumulated in the treasurer's hands from previous years about $155, and it was moved that $100 of this surplus fund be presented to our most worthy and honored citizen, Mr. Charles Shafer, which resolution was instantly and unanimously carried. Considering Mr. Shafer's infirmity and his standing as a citizen, we believe this action will meet with universal approval.
The following is a complete list of those in attendance:
Since the list was not in alpha order, I have taken the liberty to do it, in hopes of making it much easier to find all the names.