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Beardstown’s Bachelor Maids

Beardstown, like many cities, was home to a Bachelor Maids club. These groups were formed by young women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The organization was one of the many social clubs that used to exist in Beardstown, and was sometimes referred to in the local newspapers as the W. B. B. M. (Women of Beardstown Bachelor Maids?). Club members were assessed fines ranging from one-cent to twenty-five dollars for numerous infractions, such as talking to a young man or getting married – the ultimate offense. This photo of the Beardstown group appeared on page 30 of the January 8th, 1899 edtion of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Those pictured are: Mayme Speaker, Mabel Miller, Mae Knight, Maud Morrow, Irene Shaw, Anna Smith, Alice Schweer, Edith Smith, Harriet Hocking, and Tillie Hendricker. All of the members except one, Ms. Speaker, would have paid the maximum fine. I could not find any reliable information about Ms. Shaw. From the photo caption:
The membership is now only 10. Miss Bernice Spring died and E. T. Hunter, J. T. Carpenter and A. F. Hogener captured three of the others.
Edward T. Hunter, postmaster of Bluff Springs, married Mayme Hendricker, Tillie’s sister, in October of 1897. Mayme Smith, sister of Edith and Anna, wed Jesse L. Carpenter in March of the same year. On September 16th, also in 1897, Albert Hagener and Suzanna Young were married at Ms. Young’s parents’ home in Grafton, Illinois.

Indian Summer

I was thinking about the approach of autumn a while back  and recalled looking forward to a story and accompanying illustration that would be published in the newspaper every fall when I was young.

The appearance of Injun Summer, by John. T. McCutcheon, meant the beginning of my favorite time of year, with the colorful leaves and the smell of those same leaves burning a few weeks later, also the approach of Halloween and the holiday season soon after. Indian Summer cannot be found between dates on a calendar. I would describe it as a warm spell of several days after the first extended period of cool weather in October or early November. Autumn was defined, for me, by Injun Summer.

We kids were allowed to go “trick or treating” on consecutive evenings in those days and did not have to worry about anyone tampering with the treats we collected. In fact, some of the most enjoyable loot we amassed was not factory sealed candy – popcorn balls, fruit, and baked goods. The hoard sometimes lasted until Christmas. Once in a while someone would give us a nickel or dime and, in the early 60’s, that was enough money to make the walk to Taylor’s Market quite worthwhile.

Injun Summer no longer appears in the newspaper since its depiction of Native Americans is viewed as offensive by some. I intend no disrespect, but include it below because of the memories it brought back for me, when I read it again, after all these years.

Illustrations and text by John T. McCutcheon
Chicago Tribune

Yep, sonny this is sure enough Injun summer. Don’t know what that is, I reckon, do you? Well, that’s when all the homesick Injuns come back to play. You know, a long time ago, long afore yer granddaddy was born even, there used to be heaps of Injuns around here—thousands—millions, I reckon, far as that’s concerned. Reg’lar sure ‘nough Injuns—none o’ yer cigar store Injuns, not much. They wuz all around here—right here where you’re standin’.

Don’t be skeered—hain’t none around here now, leastways no live ones. They been gone this many a year.

They all went away and died, so they ain’t no more left.

But every year, ‘long about now, they all come back, leastways their sperrits do. They’re here now. You can see ’em off across the fields. Look real hard. See that kind o’ hazy misty look out yonder? Well, them’s Injuns—Injun sperrits marchin’ along an’ dancin’ in the sunlight. That’s what makes that kind o’ haze that’s everywhere—it’s jest the sperrits of the Injuns all come back. They’re all around us now.

See off yonder; see them tepees? They kind o’ look like corn shocks from here, but them’s Injun tents, sure as you’re a foot high. See ’em now? Sure, I knowed you could. Smell that smoky sort o’ smell in the air? That’s the campfires a-burnin’ and their pipes a-goin’.

Lots o’ people say it’s just leaves burnin’, but it ain’t. It’s the campfires, an’ th’ Injuns are hoppin’ ’round ’em t’beat the old Harry.

You jest come out here tonight when the moon is hangin’ over the hill off yonder an’ the harvest fields is all swimmin’ in the moonlight, an’ you can see the Injuns and the tepees jest as plain as kin be. You can, eh? I knowed you would after a little while.

Jever notice how the leaves turn red ’bout this time o’ year? That’s jest another sign o’ redskins. That’s when an old Injun sperrit gits tired dancin’ an’ goes up an’ squats on a leaf t’rest. Why I kin hear ’em rustlin’ an’ whisper in’ an’ creepin’ ’round among the leaves all the time; an’ ever’ once’n a while a leaf gives way under some fat old Injun ghost and comes floatin’ down to the ground. See—here’s one now. See how red it is? That’s the war paint rubbed off’n an Injun ghost, sure’s you’re born.

Purty soon all the Injuns’ll go marchin’ away agin, back to the happy huntin’ ground, but next year you’ll see ’em troopin’ back—th’ sky jest hazy with ’em and their campfires smolderin’ away jest like they are now.