Halloween in the 1860’s

Harper's Weekly

Harper’s Weekly

As we prepare to take our children out this coming Thursday for Trick or Treat, many people won’t think about the history of Halloween. Yes, we know that Halloween is a Christian festival (With some Pagan roots) celebrated the day before All Saints Day which is November 1st.  Going through, the Valley of the Shadow, there are a few stories about the youth of the area that were causing some mischief on Halloween night. These are some of those stories that range from 1861-1870.

Semi-Weekly Dispatch, November 1, 1861, Halloween

Summery: Complains of the behavior of “rude, uncultivated” boys the previous evening, in their celebration of Halloween. Notes that the boys shelled with corn and thumped doors with cabbage.

Philadelphia Press Newspaper, October 31, 1862

Summery: Halloween is thought to be a time when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are all abroad on their bandful midnight rounds” and “when street boys club together and ring multitudinous door bells, hiding up alleys and behind corners, and exploding into shrieks of laughter at the ultimate success of their tintinnabulations. (Source Authentic Campaigner Forum)

Franklin Repository, October 30, 1867, Hallow E’en

Summary: The editors note the impending arrival of Halloween and remonstrate against the actions of local youth, who have taken to “the indiscriminate pounding of doors, tearing of porches from their fastenings in front of dwellings, pulling door bells, throwing corn at windows, pulling all sorts of moveables into the streets, and other species of mischief.”

Valley Spirit, November 9, 1870, Shooting Affair in Dry Run

Summary: A young man named Winfield Walker was shot in the vicinity of the house of John Hammond on Halloween night. “The young folks were celebrating Hallow Eve by throwing corn against the doors and indulging in similar boyish freaks.” When the group approached the Hammond house, shots were fired that struck Walker. He is in critical condition. It is not known if the shots were meant to frighten the boys or to harm them.

Franklin Repository, November 09, 1870, Unwarranted Recklessness

Summary: Winfield S. Walker was shot on Halloween by John Hammond. Walker and a group of boys and young men from Dry Run were “amusing themselves by visiting the houses and gardens of the village and indulging in the sports peculiar to Hallowe’en.” When they came near the house of Hammond, Hammond fired three shots at the boys, critically wounding Walker.

Also read All Hallow’s Eve by Caroline Davis on Emerging Civil War