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Early Kentucky Amusements

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The early sports were allied to useful occupations. Quiltings, wool-pickings and spinning-bees were made up by the women, when the afternoon was given to work and the night to games, the young men coming in to share the entertainment and escort the girls home. House-raisings, log-rollings and husking-bees were occasions when the men after a hard day’s work would spend, the evening with the young women invited in. As society developed, however, the times showed “smart signs of wickedness ” in place of these earlier amusements. Horse racing, shooting matches, raffling and dancing came in to disturb the staid people of the community, and intoxicate the young and giddy. Dancing had formed a part of the amusements at social gatherings, but then the jig danced by a gentleman and lady, the four and eight-hand reel and the horn pipe had prevailed. But when the cotillion and waltz came upon the floor it brought out the strongest disapproval. In the fall and winter of 1811 Armstrong Bailey, Jesse Irvine and Farrow White, all from near the present site of Daysville, came in company with a dancing master, and made up a dancing school at John Harvey’s. This dancing accomplishment took the fancy of the young people and soon became the gossip of the neighborhood. Several of the young church members were enticed by a desire to improve their steps, a circumstance which precipitated the storm of opposition that had been slowly gathering. Rev. Finis Ewing and Ephraim McLean as ministers, and Thomas Bryan and William Downey waited on Harvey and the dancing party, and begged them to desist. But Harvey and his guests laughed at the idea, and quoted the example of David and the Old Testament saints. The dancing proceeded, and it is said even church members would go and look on with evident pleasure. Things went merrily on for several weeks, when the earthquake came, and that put an end to the dancing.

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