Posts Tagged With: Racine Heritage Museum

Old-Time Dance in Yorkville, Wisconsin

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.

Categories: Racine County | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cornishman’s “Key” Frees Fugitive Slave

One hundred fifty-five years ago this week, fugitive slave Joshua Glover was captured in Racine, Wisconsin, where he had been living for some time, working at a sawmill.  On the night of March 11, 1854, Glover’s former master and two United States marshals surprised Glover at his home.  Fearful of the strong anti-slavery sentiment in Racine, the captors rushed their prisoner to Milwaukee to await transportation to Missouri.

As news of the capture spread, angry Racinians boarded ship for Milwaukee, and Sherman M. Booth, editor of the Milwaukee Free Democrat, called for a mass meeting at the courthouse square, where St. John’s cathedral was under construction.

A crowd of 5,000 gathered around the Milwaukee courthouse, and the leaders demanded that the jailer hand over the keys.  When the jailer refused, James Angove, a Cornish bricklayer, picked up a six-inch beam from a pile of lumber and said, “Here’s a good enough key.”  Other men seized the beam and battered in the door.  According to Angove’s account, Glover was spirited away in the buggy of John A. Messenger, whose horse was the fastest in the Second Ward.

The Cornishman’s interview appears in a June 10, 1900, Milwaukee Sentinel article describing the Glover rescue as a “spectacular incident of anti-slavery education . . .which brought prominently to the notice of the liberty-loving people of Wisconsin the iniquity of the Fugitive Slave law.”

The Joshua Glover case is featured in the Underground Railroad exhibit at the Racine Heritage Museum.  The tale of Glover’s rescue is also told in Julia Pferdehirt’s Freedom Train North: Stories of the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin. In Finding Freedom: the Untold Story of Joshua Glover, Runaway Slave, authors Ruby West Jackson and William T. McDonald provide a detailed account of Glover’s life.  Wisconsin’s most famous fugitive slave spent the last thirty years of his life as a free man in Canada.

Categories: Racine County, Underground Railroad | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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