A story from times past

HOUGHTON — Thomas Jarvis Friday submitted this article to the Daily Mining Gazette, which originally appeared in the Marquette Mining Journal in July, 1871. Jarvis explained that he came across a reprint of the article sometime in the 1960s, and saved it for its humor.

The article bears a third printing, but for a number of reasons:

One, it is a rare, glimpse at Victorian-era humor. Victorian humor was often in the form of short stories, such as this one, most often at someone else’s expense, and was used to teach a lesson in values or morals of the time, and the consequences of violating the social rules.

Second, while the stories were used to convey a message, they often ended with the people involved surviving the embarrassing situation with their honor and innocence intact and preserved. One more detail to note is that while the story, for the time, borders on “unseemly,” it does not, of course, occur in the city in which it was published, but in a rival town.

Third, the story is typical of its time in that it makes sure to include economic and social classes in some way or other, these two items being hallmarks of the Victorian age. While the young girl has the means to travel by rail (which it is doubtful she would have done unescorted in 1871), the young man in question has secured his transportation on the train as a peanut salesman, something rather laughable in itself at the time. It is to be assumed, too, that the fiance is financially established, because he is engaged to be married and additionally can afford to take the train, as well as secure lodgings in one of the better hotels in the city. Whether the story contained in the article is true, may never be known, but the article still survives 150 years after it first appeared in the Journal.


From the Mining Journal

Negaunee, Michigan

July 1871

A little affair took place in Negaunee the other day, which might have furnished a foundation for a good-sized blood and thunder sensation – but it didn’t. On the train from Chicago Wednesday last was a German girl, young in years and fair to look upon. She was on her way from Detroit, where her parents reside, to Houghton, there to meet and be reunited with a young man who had won her affections.

In order to travel by train from Detroit to Houghton, in the upper peninsula of Michigan, in 1871. The train would travel to Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay and to Negaunee, where one would switch to a train up to Houghton.

Among the people on the train was the inevitable peanut merchant, a youth of pleasing address and extreme politeness. During the journey he managed to strike up an acquaintance with the girl in question, and by showing her many little attentions won her esteem and confidence. Arrived in this city, the gentleman who dispenses peanuts and rakes in the dimes, politely escorted the young lady to the Ogden House, procured a room and looked after her luggage. This was all right and very gentlemanly on the part of the peanut prince, and would doubtless have ended the matter but for the indiscretion of the damsel. Being young and innocent, and desiring to see the wonders of our city, by daylight before her departure for Houghton, she thought there was no harm in inviting the young man to awaken her early in the morning and bear her company, in a little walk. This was innocent enough, surly. Both repaired to their respective rooms, and at 6 o’clock next morning, prompt to his promise, Peanuts rapped at the young ladies door. She was already up and dressed, and rather indiscreetly, we admit, she opened the door and asked the young man to enter, partake of some wine, she had, and await the donning of her walking apparel. He went in. We will leave him there while we unfold another chapter.

The lover at Houghton, having been informed of the time of the girl’s departure from home, came to Negaunee on the train from the west to meet his affianced. He also stopped at the Ogden House. Inquiring if a young German girl was stopping there, he was told “no” the girl’s appearance not indicating her nationality. The lover supposing she had not arrived, retired. He too, was an early riser, and in the morning he found that the object of his affection had passed the night under the same roof with him. Ascertaining the number of her room, he went up stairs, intending to awaken the fair one and surprise her with his presence. He knocked at the door; she asked, “Who’s there?” He gave his name, and the girl, realizing that her position was an awkward one, told him to go down stairs and wait in the sitting room. But the lover had heard voices, and thought he “smelt a rat.” He wouldn’t go down stairs, but wanted to get into that room. She told him to keep out, that she wasn’t dressed. “Well, he would wait outside.” Now here was a pretty fix for the two inside! However, innocent they might be, things would have a bad appearance to the lover outside. A hurried whispered consultation took place, and the girl finally prevailed upon Peanuts to crawl under the bed. The door was opened and the lover stalked in, unfortunately just at that moment Peanuts, thinking perhaps he might have to fight for it, crawled out again to get a better “posish.” Then there was a row. The girl, in tears, protested her innocence, and Peanuts tried to explain matters; but the indignant lover didn’t want any explanation; he could see how things stood, and turned to leave, vowing he would go home alone, and that the might go to – well, anywhere she wanted to. But, she wouldn’t let him go, hanging on to him with desperation, until finally he was persuaded that, however appearances might be against the two in the room, they were innocent of wrong intent. The couple left Thursday morning on the train for Houghton, and it is to be hoped ere now are fully reconciled.

The moral of this tale is obvious: To girls it conveys the information that it is not best to invite young men into their sleeping apartments while preparing for a walk. To Young men it shows that there is such a thing as carrying politeness too far, and that a fellow is apt to get into a scrap occasionally through his attentions to the fair sex.


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