This morning Patricia Lynch, Civil War dance instructor in Milwaukee and president of the West Side Soldiers Aid Society, emailed me a wonderful treasure–a PDF of a page from a dance tunebook used by Yorkville settlers in the plank road days.
According to the file description listed for this example of “Pioneer Dance Music” in the Racine Heritage Museum, the handwritten notebook of tunes and dance notations was “brought from the east by Rubin Waite in 1837 and used by three generations of the Waite family: Rubin Sr., his son Lorenzo, and his grandson Menzo, who donated the book to the Racine Co. Historical Room.”
The page is marked “3d Sett” and contains a reel and two jigs. Neatly-inked quarter- and eighth-notes caper above a swirling script:
First 4 R & L/ Bal – 4 Swing/ Ladies chain/ All promenade //
These figures are familiar to square dancers and contra dancers today. Old-time dance communities still flourish in the Midwest, following in the footsteps of the Yorkville settlers who promenaded in the Waite’s Corners schoolhouse or the ballroom of the Mather Inn.
Click here to see the 3rd Sett
If you attend the Plank Road Summer book launch at Yorkville Elementary School (see the Events page), you can join in old-time dancing with caller Dot Kent and the Hoosier Recruits, a contra dance band. The Recruits may well be playing a dance or two out of the Waite family tunebook.