The Germantown Museum

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In Times Past………..
By Andy Pouncey

The Germantown Park and Recreation Department celebrates Thanksgiving each year with a potluck dinner prepared by the employees. This year Charles Veglio cooked crappie to go along with the cornbread dressing. Oh, there was ham and turkey all right, but how many times do you get to celebrate Thanksgiving eating crappie? It was delicious.

On July 24, 1852, there was a celebration of the completion of the railroad from Memphis to Col. Eppy White’s (Kirby Farms House) east of Kirby Parkway along Poplar Pike. A free barbeque would be held that Saturday. 

Isham R. Howze lived in Germantown from 1851 to 1854 on Fanny Wright’s 2000-acre plantation (Nashoba). On July 22nd Isham wrote, “if we should all be well, and God is willing, I aim to take my family there, that they may see the road, and the (railroad) cars running – a sight they have never seen yet.” 

“My children are all desirous to go, and I do not think it is wrong to indulge them in going. I understand that there will be managers, and good order, and great plenty to eat, and no drinking. In a word, it will be a decent gathering of our best citizens. I hope no accident or evil will take place on that occasion. Such gatherings sometimes do good; neighbors meet together and form close attachments.”

“There may be dancing – I have heard there will be – I have no love for that exercise, and of course, so far as I am concerned, I had rather there be none. But it is not my barbecue, and I have no hand in its arrangements, and shall have nothing to do with any part of it that I believe is not right.”

“I do not approve of dancing, but others do, and it is for them to justify their conduct before their Maker….If my children ever should dance it will be against my consent. But I do not feel called upon to keep them away from the barbecue because there will probably be dancing. The small ones have never seen any dancing. I am not sure that any of them ever saw any; and hence I am willing for them to see it, that they may see how silly it appears. I believe it is a sinful function and should be condemned by all pious persons. I would say to my children, “Do not dance”; at best it is of doubtful morality, and dangerous in its tendencies.”

July 24, 1852, Isham writes, “We are all up this morning, and preparing to go to the barbeque. I have no desire to go except for my family. I am sure that it will be too much for my strength. I go then in the strength of the Lord, believing that he will go with us and bring all safely home again.” 

Sunday, July 25th, he writes that “there were no accidents that I heard of yesterday. I was sick all night and the fore part of today. There were so many people at Col. White’s yesterday that there was not enough to eat, but I heard no complaint. There was at best very little order observed, in eating, etc. Yet there was no quarreling or rioting. I did not see an intoxicated person upon the ground. I took no pleasure in anything I witnessed except the (railroad) cars.”

By Monday, Isham wrote, “the trip to Col. White’s has been too much for son Adrian, as well as it was for me. So it seems, judging by external appearances, that it would have been wiser for us all to stay at home on Saturday, and go to Sunday school on Sunday. It would be best for me not to attend such places – it injures my health, and otherwise makes me no amends.” 

I can only imagine Isham traveling through time into the 1960s and being dropped off in front of The Commissary where Jessie “Happy Jack” Sandlin could be found entertaining young people with his tales of his early days in vaudeville and the speakeasies of Chicago in the 20s. After demonstrating his “hucklebuck dance”, Jessie may have invited him indoors to enjoy some great barbeque and ramblings on the past.

And Charles, what would Isham have thought about crappie and dressing at Thanksgiving? I bet you he would have enjoyed it as much as I did.

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