The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 4, Page 14.


Those Old Time 'Donation Parties' Were Great Events And Kept the Pastor Going


---- [illegible word] services and donation parties were great social institutions in the early days. Someone's many roomed home was open for the occasion. The ladies of the particular church brought culinary triumphs, cakes, pies, doughnuts, cookies, and sandwiches, even plates of cold chicken and ham for refreshments, which were served to all at the same time. A plate placed conveniently near the door received the collections as people entered, so there was little embarrassment for a large family or one with little to give.

Rev. Robert Beer lived most of the twenty years of his ministry in the house at the corner of Washington and Erie streets, now occupied by C. J. Spindler. The annual donation party there was one of the social events of the years. Mr. Beer was a most genial, kindly man, his wife a beautiful fun loving, little woman, who the children all adored. There was a a large family of sons and daughters.

The minister's small salary was supposed to be considerably augmented by the donation party. Early in the morning of the day of the part a load of wood from the Washington Bartholomew farm north of town, would be delivered. A little later a dressed hog and perhaps a dozen live chickens would come from Lewis Robbins, farther out, supplemented by crocks of lard and rolls of butter, with canned fruit, jars of apple butter, and sacks of potatoes, they made a pile in the shed back of the house that looked inexhaustible. George Buel and Thomas Miller sent baskets of groceries from their stores and A. V. Bartholomew often a bolt of muslin. The professional men of the congregation brought gifts of cash when the people assembled for the party.

And what a party it was! Nearly every woman had something to wear. Any guests from the homes were introduced all around. Distinguished visitors made short speeches. There was music and speaking, a brief prayer by the pastor before the supper. The children were given the study, a large upper room in which to play. When it was time for the ladies to serve, everyone was seated, the older people in chairs, the younger on the floor, the children three abreast on the stairs. Comments on the cakes and exchange of recipes went on below stairs. The children watched for the passing of a mother or aunt and got a helping of everything but coffee. Mrs. Beer would hurry through, always giving the children a smile and asking "Have the doughnuts or the cookies or the chocolate cake been passed to you?"

As proof of the elegance of these affairs, I quote an account of one held in the home of Rev. S. C. Logan in the large brick house he built, still standing, just south of the new high school. It is from the pen of R. A. Cameron in the Valparaiso Republic, Reb. 5, 1863. "We are much gratified at the success of the donation at Rev. Mr. Logan's Tuesday evening last. His house was fairly packed full of his friends. The receipts in money were exceedingly gratifying, amounting to $113 cash. The affair was highly pleasing and entertaining, and so far as we have heard expressed everyone enjoyed himself amazingly. The viands that were served would highly complement the best caterer in the land. The music the groups here and there in each room conversing, some angrily disputing in fund, imparted to the scene a high degree of social enjoyment."

Whether the circumstance I am about to relate ended these festal gathering I do not know. I remember no other donation parties after this unfortunate even. All the usual preliminaries for the donation party at the parsonage had been attended to and the girls in the upper grades were exchanging confidences concerning the festivity, when the boys announced that they had other plans for the evening out at Lembke's pasture, now Forest Park. "Run Sheep Run," a glorified form of hide and seek, they often indulged in among the hazel brush in the ravines.

The church people and their daughters assembled at the parsonage, where there was the usual entertainment. Angel food cake was a new delicacy and several ladies had brought one to the donation party along with other delicacies, also Mr. Charles Dresser, son-in-law of Mrs. Jackson Buel, had sent a five gallon can of ice cream. The cakes were in the pantry, the ice cream in the wood shed. At the time to serve all the cakes and the ice cream had disappeared. Mrs. Beer had left the window to the pantry unlocked. Nothing unusual since most of the people never locked their front doors at night.

The absence of the boys, even the son of the family, was a coincidence hard to explain. The freezer and several cake tins were found later on the wide porch of the school house, which stood where the Central School now stands. But no boy ever incriminated himself or his pals with regard to this disappearance of the food. Hot discussion among the firls and also among the parents threatened to disrupt the peace. The minister requested the congregation to drop the subject and the great festivity of the year became a thing of the past.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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