Fannin County, Texas Society

 

No where in the south, can a higher standard of society be found, than in this county, taking morality as a basis; and it has ever been thus. It is true that a cosmopolitan population and an increase of wealth, has made a great change in the social world of Fannin County, particularly in the towns and villages, since the early days, but this change is only surface deep. The people or those who largely compose society, have the same standard of morals, the same Christian spirit, and kindly feeling for each other, as in the old days; but they haven't the same warm friendship and love of their ancestors, Friendship and love in those days were born of, and kept up by a common cause; the dangers and hardships, of a frontier life begot them, and those dangers and hardships were of a kind that wealth could not alleviate. No matter what was the financial condition of members of a community, they were as dependent as the poorest class of people. Before the building of any towns, or trading post, and for many years after, the closest neighbors were two, five, ten and fifteen miles apart. One little log church house, furnished a place of worship for a radius of fifteen and twenty miles. Occasionally, on Sunday, the people might be seen going to this church, but from their appearance, the generation of to-day, would be likely to take them for a mob, but for the ladies among them, for every man and boy went armed. The cunning Indians soon found out their manners and customs, and rarely ever failed to take advantage of every favorable opportunity for murder and plunder.

While we today, have the opera, elegant balls, skating rinks ice cream festivals, sociables, college commencements, and innumerable other sources of social enjoyment, the first settlers, had only the corn huskings the quiltings, the country dance, and the like, with which to enjoy themselves; but on these occasions, when not under restraint from fear of Indians, the social enjoyment was genuine. Gossips were few and far between and the. studied deportment and conduct which tends to diminish social pleasure, was not to be found. At the quiltings, the older ladies took their seats around the frames, adjusted their "specs" and began work with conversation, not about their neighbors, not about styles and fashions, but about the color and dimensions of the last, or next web of cloth; about the latest dish some of them had improvised, or about the heroic conduct of some one in repelling the last raid of the Indians ; while the young ladies on the other side would chew their gum and talk pleasantly about the last Sunday at church, or what a good time they had at Mrs. Smith's last dancing party. How different now! What a grand change fifty years has brought about! Yet this change has been effected so gradually, that the old settlers of today can scarcely realize it.

What would be the feelings .of the average city or village belle of today, If she should see her young lady friend come out from the house, dressed in homespun, wearing brogan shoes and a huge sun-bonnet covering her sunny ringlets, lay one hand on the top rail of a fence and leap to the other side with perfect ease, or see her on her way to church, (they had economy clown fine then) with her Sunday shoes tied together and swung across her arm, and carried thus until she got within sight of the church house? Flirtation was then indulged iii, perhaps as much or more than at present, but so long as the youthful parties kept within bounds of propriety, the young man was not liable to be shot down by a jealous rival or a cranky kinsman, nor was the sensible young woman apt to commit suicide if thrown over. When a visit was made, nothing short of the entire day was counted. The guest took dinner, and unless they lived several miles apart, generally stayed until supper. It was not contrary to society laws to ask a visitor to take off her hat, as it is now, for fear she will "mus" her bangs. The people, young, old and middle aged, were perfectly free from the social restraint, dudeism and finicky manners of the present generation, and its society.

A habit contracted in the early days by the male members of society, is to some extent kept up by them until the present, and is readily fallen into by the immigrant. I speak of their style of dress, which seems to be a matter of little moment. If a stranger should undertake to pass upon the mental, moral, financial and social worth, of the male population of Fannin County by their style of dress, in nine cases out of ten, he would be deceived. While they dress perhaps, comfortably, and decently, there is an utter absence of any pretensions to finery. But the case is quite different with the other sex. While it may not be a very pleasant fact, to some who may read this book, to record, yet, as I profess to deal fairly with the Past and Present of this county in every matter of public interest, without aspiring to criticism or reform, I feel that it is my duty to mention the extravagance indulged in by many members of this branch of society, whose pecuniary circumstances can ill afford it. Of course it would be a desirable state of affairs if the wives and daughters of poor and wealthy men could dress alike, but when the daughters and wives of poor men, attend the opera and balls in costumes that would do credit to the milliner of a banker's wife, somebody must suffer sooner or later. This feature of our society has been frequently referred to by the ministers of today. It unquestionably keeps out of what may be termed the first circles, many women, who would prove its ornaments. This inordinate love of dress, and finery however, has been a feature of society, ever since, or perhaps before the day that David's first love laughed at him for dancing around the Ark of God in dishabille, and will probably continue to be.

Modern society in Fannin County is inclined to piety. Most people are members of some one of the many different churches, and the impress of religious sentiment is plainly marked upon every social assembly. The day 'is not far distant when social barriers will be- erected for the habitual and occasional drinker, over which he will not step with impunity. This may be deferred with the hope that relief will come from a political source, but its consummation in either event is only a question of time. The people of Texas are taking the lead in many moral ideas of reformation socially, and otherwise, and the scalp of the social evil, intemperance, will doubt less receive their attention in due time.

In the social circles of Fannin County, the same rule applies to the admission of strangers, as in the business world, and indeed with good reason. In the early days, every stranger was joyfully received and made to feel welcome and no questions were asked. He was at once admitted to the social and business confidence of the settlers. Generally, this confidant was not misplaced, but frequently the open-hearted, honest people were deceived. For this reason, the people of today exercise caution and discretion in selecting friends and social companions. The honest stranger and homeseeker can't understand this feature, but when he sees the reason there for, he is willing to acknowledge that it is only justice to the whole of society.

Texas was once a rendezvous for the social skum of every clime and the people have been imposed on so long and so often, it is but natural that they should thus protect themselves. In a few years however, this will be a feature of the past, for the status of affairs is being rapidly reversed. A rigid code of laws, diligently and vigorously enforced, has made Texas about the last place which the refuse of society and criminals of other countries want to stop in, while her natural advantages and the high standard of morals and society are grand inducements to the best class of people to make their homes within her borders.

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