The Stearns House Supper

Benton County, MN

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St. Cloud Democrat (St. Cloud, MN) Thursday, 6 Jan 1859, page 4

The Stearns House Supper.

[Jane G. Swisshelm, Editor]

   Many of our citizens assembled at the Stearns House to bid farewell to the departed year and welcome in his successor; and were joined by a number of ladies and gentlemen from Sauk Rapids and Watab. A part of the company commenced the evening in a sleigh ride, but by nine o’clock P. M. all had met in the parlors, where, with music and conversation, they enlivened the late moments of the passing year, until supper was announced, when the numerous oyster can there and then collected were quickly converted, by the generous host, into so many cans of oysters.

   The supper was a curiosity—a regular western institution. It was got up on short notice. Trained servants are scarce articles in this region. Mr. and Mrs. Stearns are advanced in life; and are everybody’s good angels in all times of need. So, they are never likely to run short of help while anybody is near. One lady neighbor volunteered to make the ice cream; another sent in her winter’s supply of eggs; one to make boquets and fancy decorations for cakes; another for assisting at table sitting; and we became responsible for making cake, and cooking the oysters. The meats, vegetables and sauces were brought to perfection under the hands of the hostess and her usual assistants.

   It was a merry, busy time; and we should be at a loss to find a better illustration of the genius of our country than was given at that supper. Here we are in the very vanguard of civilization, within sound of the Indian’s rifle, as he pursues the game he still claims as his rightful inheritance; and to see the table fully furnished with snowy damask, crystal glass, silver, china and all the changes deemed essential in the highest civilization; and to reflect that it owed nothing to government patronage. It was not at a military post, those anomalies which carry luxury and vice into the most inaccessible regions. It was simply an impromptu entertainment of private citizens, who had come to make homes beside the Red man’s wigwam. The costumes and general appearance of the company would have been elegant in any place; and we wished that those who talk of the “privations of frontier life,” could have witnessed the fortitude with which our pioneers bore the afflictions of that evening. After supper, the speeches and sentiments were the order of the evening. STEPHEN MILLER Esq., who presided, opened with a short, pleasant and appropriate speech, of which we failed to get a report. He closed with the sentiment:

    Our country’s flag—Her stars for friends, and her stripes for foes.

   Which popular toast indicates the fact that brother MILLER is decidedly patriotic; but he forgot to mention that our country does not dispose of her emblems according to his wish; but that her stars are reserved for Buncome and Fourth of July illuminations; while her stripes are bestowed upon the women who toil in her cotton and rice fields; and for weak neighbors whose territory offers a field for the extension of our striped institutions. He forgot that our Supreme Court, and Chief Magistrate have decided that our flag is principally intended to proclaim and protect the right of ruffian men to whip women, and steal babes on any soil over which it waves.

    Shame upon our self laudations about our own liberties, while we stand in the light of a nation where the rich and powerful rob the poor and weak with impunity.

   Mr. H. Z. MITCHELL was next called out but professed to have eaten too much supper to be able to see clearly; but proposed that the meeting be called the old settler’s association, and maintained that he must be an old settler since the country was only two and a half years old, and he had been here three years. He gave us a sentiment:

    Our highly esteemed and worthy representative Hon. T. C. MCCLURE—shape and talent—the primary elements of his political success, we bespeak for him, on the same account, a speedy matrimonial success.

    This called out Mr. MCCLURE, who gave as a sentiment:

    Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud—seperated by the turbid waters of the Mississippi, may they never be divided by feelings of strife, envy or discord.

    Mr. LANCASTER then rose and after a few graceful remarks gave: Success to the Northern Pacific Railroad.

    As Mr. L. is a Government surveyor of large experience and information about the different routes for a Pacific road, this sentiment was warmly received.

    Mr. GORTON next gave:

    The American Eagle—May he never rise in anger or go to roost in fear.

    The company were highly pleased with this as they had been with Brother MILLER’S flag toast; and nobody said a word about the habit of that

   “—Fierce gray bird,
   With the bending beak;
   With and eye of flame;
   And a startling shriek.

    Or the particular fancy he has for catching old hens and small chickens; and for contending with the vulture for his carrion prey.

    Mr. WAIT made the following remarks:

    Ladies and Gentlemen, in response to the sentiment offered by my friend Mr. Lancaster from Sauk Rapids, I have to say I know of no other subject so deeply affecting the interests of Minnesota as that of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Situated as Minnesota is, midway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, commanding as it does the navigable headwaters of the Mississippi River with a Railroad, such as that contemplated, we should have the choice of all markets and be excluded from none.

    The Geographical situation of Minnesota is peculiar. Few States have greater commercial facilities and none have them so well distributed over its surface. Whilst its South and South-eastern parts find direct communication with Southern markets, its Northern and Western portions are connected with the great Lakes; and, by the Red and Saskatchewan Rivers, with the country which lies at the base of the Rocky Mountains. We need a Pacific Railroad to bridge the commercial chasm which nature has left between us and the West. The South ever watchful of its own interests, laughs at the idea of a Pacific Railroad North of the Latitude of St. Louis. They couple our position with barren wastes and trackless snows and with winters which scarcely admit of summer sunshine or summer flowers. But experience is fast exploding such theories. The emigrant may go North, as he goes West, without change of climate. The snows of Minnesota average less in depth than in Eastern States, whose Latitude is 2 or 3 degrees further South. The new gold discoveries in British Columbia point to Puget Sound as the future Western terminus of the Pacific Railway. Ships are now fitted out at Vancouvers Island, laden with freight for the Indies. San Francisco is fast losing its exclusive commercial monopoly upon the Pacific; and is dividing its spoils with Victoria. British capital and British enterprise is becoming enlisted in the great undertaking which is a guarranty of its success. Shall not Minnesota also engage in the work of building a Pacific Railway? It is directly upon the line and the finger of destiny seems to point to the Road which is now approaching us from St. Paul, as destined in the future to be part of that stupendous work. Not “Westward” but North-westward “the course of empire takes its way.”

    He gave us a sentiment:

    New Years Eve—The shadowy link, in the chain of years which binds the dead past to the coming future—May it link our past trials to a future of golden destinies.

    A little lady from Little Falls offered:

    Minnesota—May she ever be faithful to the Union.

    Whereupon we took the liberty of adding,

    So long as the Union is faithful to the right.

    A gentleman who was too modest to get up before so many ladies, got Mr. MITCHELL, who was still laboring under difficulty on account of the oysters and ice cream; and the trouble of belonging to that class of Hollanders who do not see well after four o’clock, to read:

    Our Fellow Townsman, STEPHEN MILLER Esq.—Commends himself to our high esteem, for his public spirit, and indefatigable zeal in whatsoever tends to promote the interest, prosperity and welfare of our town and neighborhood both at home and abroad.

    Here Mr. MILLER was expected to say something handsome; but had his attention so pre-occupied by the ladies, that he could not “say beans;” and twelve o’clock being announced, some wag, who dared not stand god father to the sentiment, offered:

   “When did ever morning break,
   And find such beaming eyes awake,
   As those that sparkle here.”

    N. P. CLARK, our Clerk of Court, elect, when called upon, was discovered in a state of modesty which forbade a speech, but he gave:

    May the ensuing year be as victorious, as the ending of the old year is glorious.

    Mr. COON gave:

    The coming year—May it be a glorious and happy year for us all.

    CHARLES TAYLOR Esq., being repeatedly called, gave the most beautiful sentiment of the evening. We feared spoiling it, and, so, did not take it down, as we did the others, hoping to get it from him in writing; but he objects to appearing in print; and as he is one of our most estimable citizens and a near neighbor, we have reluctantly consented to leave him out of our report. Our readers will therefore understand that Mr. TAYLOR is left out by his own request. His sentiment amounted to a wish, that the lives of the citizens of Minnesota might flow on in harmony, as do her streams on their way to the ocean; but it gained peculiar beauty from the manner of expression.

    Judge SMITH was repeatedly called for, but could not be induced to utter a word.

    It was understood that he was suffering from disappointment, at having been badly jilted at a late wedding party; and he was excused.

    As he owns the grist mill here the Miller of St. Cloud was toasted until he was done quite brown; and S. MILLER Esqr. responded for him. This gentleman has a habit of making people laugh when he talks, which is rather undignified in one whose beard is turning gray. If it were not for this peculiarity, his remarks would be worth reporting, when he is not talking about “Our Flag,” for he talks well; but we never say anything about it, for fear of making him vain.

    The Mill owner of Sauk Rapids, Mr. CHASE, was next toasted, but declined saying anything except pledging himself to use his best endeavors to supply us all with the staff of life. We thought him a very amiable gentleman; and were no little surprised when we were called on for a sentiment, and thinking to say something clever, gave:

    The Gentlemen—Thank God for them, that bad as they are they might have been worse.

    and our modest Miller rose on the instant and responded that there was abundant evidence before the house that this sentiment was correct. “The horrid creature!” If it were not that he made a short and really beautiful speech afterwards, we should say he ought to be “chased” by the ladies until he take refuge in matrimony with a shrew.

    HENRY SWISSHELM was repeatedly and pressingly called, but was on the committee who were to be seen and not heard.—

    Sentiments came fast and we select at random, for want of room.

    By Mr. WAIT,

    St. Cloud, the Town of magnificent dimensions—May its future be a popular comment upon the most sanguine expectations of her original proprietors.

    By Mr. PROCTOR,

    Minnesota—May the present year bring her a big emigration; but not a grasshopper emigration.

    By Mr. WAIT,

    St. Cloud sends to Sauk Rapids Greeting—Rivals though not necessarily foes—may their future development span the Mississippi River in a single arch of consolidated triumph.

    By Mr. MILLER,

    The loved ones behind us—May they be with us next New Year to judge of Minnesota for themselves.

    By Mr. PROCTOR,

    Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud—May they soon be connected with iron bands.

    By Mr. WAIT,

    Stearns County, the County which bears the name of our honored host—May he long live to enjoy its healthful climate and beautiful landscapes.

    Mr. STEARNS after bluntly telling Mr. WAIT that he did not thank him for calling him in to hear that, gave us a history of the division of the State into Counties. He stated that he had the “honor—or dishonor” of being a member of the Territorial Legislature two years, that in ,54, an attempt had been made to divide Northern Minnesota into Counties but had failed. In ,55 Mr. J. L. WILSON of St. Cloud had brought the question up again, when this County was organized and named for him. He ended by hoping the citizens would resist all of the many plans for dividing it, reminding them that small Counties were of small importance in districting the State for Representatives.

    Mr. WM. POWELL, then favored the company with the popular National song of the “Red, White, and Blue.”—When, in answer to our sentiment and by the way, he said, of killing us with kindness, he gave:

    The Ladies—Thank God for them that, good as they are, they could have been no better.

    Whereupon, we were constrained to acknowledge that he was entitled to our bonnet.

    The tables were then cleared, and the dining hall suddenly converted into a hall room, when we left the young folks enjoying themselves, to the extent of their ability.

Transcribed 4 Oct 2019 by William Haloupek

Updated 4 Oct 2019 by William Haloupek

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