Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Wedding 70 Years Ago Was Big Event

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, September 11, 1960, page 16

It was Tom Bergin’s and Jessie Hasket’s marriage. Tom was Ben Rosenkrantz’s “top hand” and Jessie was the sister of Mrs. Rosenkrantz.

The wedding place was Ben Rosenkrantz’s large log ranch house situated on the south bank of the Yakima River about three miles above its mouth.

We lived at Kennewick, a town founded by my father in the early eighties. It was located on the southeast bank of the Columbia River opposite Pasco. The day of the wedding, the entire family arose at daybreak and had breakfast.

Mother, an adept seamstress, fitted the bridal gown for Jessie. Father, a typical frontiersman who could do most anything, helped Rosenkrantz to lay out the space to acommodate the guests. Temporary tables and benches were arranged so they could be pushed back to allow floor space for the dance that would follow the bridal feast and wedding ceremony. The women folks were busy in the kitchen preparing the food, which consisted of huge pans of dressed chickens, roasts of beef and pork, pans of potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, beets, and large pans of buttermilk biscuits.

A quick lunch was served at noon. Everyone continued to prepare for the evening feast. This community was without a preacher or parson. The nearest person who had authority to wed people was Justice of the Peace Gantenbein of Pasco, who had been engaged to perform the wedding ceremony.

He arrived late in the afternoon on the opposite side of the Yakima River and a skiff brought him across. He spoke the English language with a very broad German accent. The preparations for everything having been completed, everyone put on their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. Most of the men wore black broadcloth suits cut in Prince Albert style. They wore lightweight black boots for dancing. The women for the most part wore their own wedding gowns. The local “top hand buckeroos” one a fiddler, the other a caller, had arrived. Several of the women present could play the piano. A long table with benches and chairs on each side had been arranged the entire length of the dining room. A low platform had been built in front of the fireplace to support the piano, muscians, caller and justice of the peace.

Placed in handy locations on the floor were spittoons. This was dry summer time, no smoking; but King Nicotine could be chewed and spat. The food had been placed on the long table, whereupon Ben Rosenkrantz swung his chubby arms and yelled, “Grab a root and come on.” Everyone immediately seated themselves at the long table, the justice of the peace, musicians, caller and the bridal party sat at the head of the table. The neighboring guests sat down with their children, family by family.

All the food was on the table. Everyone passed to each other. Tea, coffee, and milk were the drinks. The food was fried chicken, roast beef, roast pork, mashed potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, pickled beets, cold slaw, buttermilk biscuits, gravies, jams, sauces, pies and cakes. There was much mirth and laughter during the meal. When all had eaten their fill, the musicians mounted the platform and played “America”, “Dixie”, and the “Star Spangled Banner.” All being lustily sung by everyone. Then the Justice of the Peace Gantenbein stepped to the platform and motioned for the bride and groom to stand in fromt of him. This having been done, he asked, “Thomas Bergen do you now take Yessie Hasket for your beloved vife? If so, say yah.” Tom said yes.

Then turning to the bride, he said “Yessie Hasket, do you now take Thomas Bergen for your belovedt husbandt? If so say yah.” Jessie said yes. He then said, “by the atority invested in me, I now pronounce you man und vife.”

Thereupon, all stood up and cheered. The near relatives rushed up to kiss the bride and groom. The food was taken from the tables and they were pushed against one side wall and the benches were lined up on the other, allowing dancing space between. The caller prepared the floor for dancing. He stepped back to the platform and with a bow and scrape called “Get you pardners for a quadrille.” There was a rush to the floor for the quadrille, and when the call was finished the musicians played “Over the Waves Waltz” --much to the delight of the oldsters present.

Thus the dance went on --quadrilles, waltzes, quadrilles, and polkas, quadrilles and schottishes, square and round dances.

Sleepy children were palced crosswise on the beds upstairs. At dawn the festivities ended with a “Home Sweet Home Waltz”.

Fathers hooked up their rigs, and the mothers gathered their belongings and awakened their sleeping children. With hearty “goody-bys” each family started for their respective homes. The bride and groom had slipped away for their honeymoon in Walla Walla.

Thus happened 70 years ago. According to Webster, a pioneer is one who goes before, as into the wilderness, preparing the way for others to follow. These strong-hearted, God-fearing people should surely qualify as such.

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