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"In the first years of the settlement of a country, a wedding engaged the attention of the whole neighborhood, and the frolic was anticipated by young and old with eager expectation. This is not to be wondered at when it is told that a wedding was almost the only gathering which was not accompanied with the labor of reaping, log-rolling, building a cabin, or planning some scout or campaign. On the morning of the wedding day the groom and his attendants assembled at the house of his father for the purpose of reaching the home of his bride by noon, which was the usual time for celebrating the nuptials and which, for certain reasons, must take place before dinner.
"Let the reader imagine an assemblage of people without a store, tailor or mantua-maker within a hundred miles, and an assemblage of horses without a blacksmith or saddle within an equal distance. The gentlemen dressed in shoepacks, moccasins, leather breeches, leggings, linsey hunting shirts, and all home-made. The ladies dressed in linsey petticoats and linsey or linen bed-gowns, coarse shoes, stockings and handkerchiefs and buckskin gloves, if any. If there were any rings, buckles, buttons or ruffles, they were the relics of olden times; family pieces from parents or grandparents. The horses were caparisoned with old saddles, old bridles or halters, and pack-saddles with a bag or blanket thrown over them; a rope or string as often constituted the girth as a piece of leather.
"The march, in double file, was often interrupted by the narrowness of our mountain paths, as they were called, for we had no roads, and these difficulties were often increased by the good and sometimes the ill-will of neighbors by felling trees and tying grapevines across the way. Sometimes an ambuscade was formed by the wayside, and an unexpected discharge of several guns took place, so as to cover the wedding party with smoke. Let the reader imagine the scene which followed this discharge; the sudden spring of the horses, the shrieks of the girls and the chivalrous bustle of their partners to save them from falling. Sometimes, in spite of all that could be done to prevent it, some were thrown to the ground. If a wrist, elbow or ankle happened to be sprained, it was tied up with a handkerchief, and little more said or thought about it.
"The ceremony of the marriage preceded the dinner, which was a substantial backwoods feast of beef, pork, fowls, and sometimes venison and bear meat roasted and boiled with plenty of potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. During the dinner the greatest hilarity prevailed. The table might be a large slab of timber, hewed out with a broad-axe, supported by four sticks, set in auger holes; and the furniture, some old pewter dishes and plates; the rest, wooden bowls and trenchers: a few pewter spoons much battered about the edges were to be seen at some tables. The rest were made of horn. If knives were scarce the deficiency was made up with scalping knives which were carried in sheaths suspended to the belt of the hunting shirt. Every man carried one.
"After dinner the dancing commenced and generally lasted until the next morning. The figures of the dancers were three and four handed reels, or square sets and jigs. The commencement was always a square form, which was followed by what was called jigging it off; that is, two of the four would single out for a jig, and were followed by the remaining couple. The jigs were often accompanied with what was called cutting out, that is, when either of the parties became tired of the dance, on intimation, the place was supplied by some one of the company, without any interruption to the dance. In this way the dance was often continued till the musician was heartily tired of his situation. Toward the latter part of the night, if any of the company through weariness attempted to conceal themselves for the purpose of sleeping, they were hunted up, paraded on the floor, and the fiddler ordered to play, 'Hang out till to-morrow morning.' simple Sheath wedding apparels look straight
"About nine or ten o'clock a deputation of young ladies stole off the bride and put her to bed. In doing this it frequently happened that they had to ascend a ladder, instead of a pair of stairs, leading from the dining and ball room to a loft, the floor of which was made of clapboards lying loose.
"This ascent, one might think, would put the bride and her attendants to the blush; but the foot of the ladder was commonly behind the door, which was purposely opened for the occasion, and its rounds at the inner ends were well hung with hunting shirts, dresses and other articles of clothing. The candles being on the opposite side of the house, the exit of the bride was noticed but by few.
"This done, a deputation of young men, in like manner, stole off the groom and placed him snugly by the side of his bride. The dance still continued; and if seats happened to be scarce, as was often the case, every young man when not engaged in the dance, was obliged to offer his lap as a seat for one of the girls; and the offer was sure to be accepted. In the midst of this hilarity the bride and groom were not forgotten. Pretty late in the night some one would remind the company that the new couple must stand in need of some refreshments. Black Betty, which was the name of the bottle, was called for and sent up the ladder; but sometimes Black Betty did not go alone. I have sometimes seen as much bread, beef, pork and cabbage sent along as would afford a good meal for half a dozen hungry men. The young couple was compelled to eat and drink more or less of whatever was offered.
"But to return: it often happened that some neighbors or relations, not being asked to the wedding, took offence, and the mode of revenge adopted by them on such occasions was that of cutting off the manes, foretops, and tails of the horses of the wedding company.
"On returning to the in fare, the order of procession and the race for Black Betty was the same as before. The feasting and dancing often lasted several days, at the end of which the whole company were so exhausted with loss of sleep that many days' rest were requisite to fit them to return to their ordinary labors."
Source: History of southwest Virginia, 1746-1786: Washington County, 1777-1870; Published 1903; By Lewis Preston Summers; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack