St. Marys

St. Marys Oracle
August 23, 1883

West Virginia's Shore

Queer Scenes on the River and in the Little Country Towns.

Correspondent Buffalo Courier.

St. Marys, W. Va., July 28.

It would appear that the Ohio river possess in some degree the alleged characteristics of the famed Pandora's box of which we read. Your correspondent has already made mention of a great number of its floating industries and habitations, but two new features have since been added to the list of peculiar institutions that have come under my observation. The chief of these was a floating variety theater, which anchored along the levee in front of this town a day or two ago, and gave an entertainment on board that night. This floating playhouse, in its general construction and outward appearance, resembled one of the old time canal packets, except that the hull was of the flat boat model. The interior of the auditorium was about eight feet long by eighteen wide, with a ceiling about twelve feet high, and plain but comfortably constructed seats for about 150, or perhaps on a squeeze, 200 people. The stage at one end was decidedly limited in size, being about twelve feet wide by ten deep, with no more than two feet to spare between the actors' heads and the roof. It was arranged, however, with quite a creditably painted drop curtain, and with scenery and general stage fixtures as good as those of the average cheap variety theatres of the cities. The company, including the orchestra of three pieces, consisted of ten members, only one of whom was a woman. The performance consisted of sleight of hand tricks, songs an[d] dances, negro minstrelsy, acrobatic feats, and a closing farce in one act, the whole consuming about three and a half hours, and being, I must confess, superior in character to almost any traveling show that I ever visited. The prices of admission were 25 and 35 cents. The boat was rigged with huge oars pivoted on the roof, by which it is navigated from one side of the river to the other touching at the little towns as it floats downward with the tide. The company is quartered upon the boat, having their own cook and housekeeper, and are, I judge, making a fair success financially, as their expenses are but nominal. Their auditorium was closely packed with an incongruous mass humanity on the occasion of my visit.

The other institution referred to is a floating photographer's studio, which is at this time tied up in front of the town. This leaves scarcely a trade unrepresented in the array that has already come under your correspondent's observation under sail so to speak.

St. Marys is the county seat of Pleasants county, and has a population of about 400. The chief industry in which the inhabitants are engaged is that of watching the arrival and departure of the several daily streamers that make their regular landings here. And yet, strangely enough, although close applicants to business in this line, they have failed to accumulate any great amount of wealth. Nevertheless they retain faith in the future, and manifest a degree of perseverance under discouragements that is calculated to call forth comment if not admiration. It was in the location of the court house that the astuteness of these people was made conspicuout [sic], however. The summit of a precipitous ridge in the rear of the town was selected, and thereon was reared the temple of justice. The elevation is about sixty feet above the street that runs along its base with a rise of two and a half feet to the varl. In other words the clay bank leading up to it is as steep as an ordinary stairway, and in climbing it, even in dry weather, one has to make a vigorous use of both toe and finger nails, and could use his teeth to advantage where the grass is not worn away. During wet or icy periods, it would not only be dangerous to attempt but practically impossible to make the ascent. The only other approach is by making a circuit of fully one fourth of a mile, which gives you an easy grade. A hillside stairway, if only of steps dug into the bank, would make the front approach an easy one; but with its present means of approach this courthouse constitutes a monument to human folly unequaled by anything of its class that has ever come under my observation. Imagine for a moment the general demoralization of the judge who has to gain access to his court in the manner above which is in no wise a strained description of the situation, or the necessities of the occasion.

Concerning journalism: Violent vituperation and vulgar blackguarding aimed at brother editors constitute one of the most prominent features of the editorial columns of too many of the small country journals, and the utter insignificance of the points which they make as an excuse for their aimless and vulgar janglings makes it evident that they conceive this to be one of the distinguishing features of their craft.


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