Source: Ruth M. Brubaker, THE HISTORY OF PLEASANT TOWNSHIP SCHOOLS 1835-1962 (1979), pp. 90-93.
SOCIAL LIFE OF LAKETON
The term Laketon signifying its surroundings is certainly an appropriate name. When Hanna, Thomas, and Cassett laid out the town September 8, 1836, they had surely explored the three lakes lying within a radius of one and a half miles from the village. Soon after the establishment of Laketon, the voting place was changed, and Laketon became the central voting place for the Township.
Forest and streams furnished the principal enjoyment during the early part of the town's history. The social affairs were log-rolling, barn and house raising, pumpkin and apple cutting, corn husking and wood chopping. In the summer or autumn, when apples were plentiful, it was announced throughout the neighborhood that an applecutting would be held at someone's house. Women came with their knives ready for work. Usually the husbands and children came with them, and while the women cut apples for drying, the men cut wood or rolled logs. When work was completed, all indulged in merry-making. The young people danced, often being joined by their elders, who were as sprightly as the children.
On the Sabbath Day, all those having sufficient clothes attended church. Sometimes people went a long distance, and often in the summer barefoot women could be seen carrying their shoes. Before the church was reached they sat down along the roadside to put their shoes on. This might seem very strange to us, but if we could see just how shoes were made in those days, we would see why they felt barefeet was more comfortable, when walking a long or even short distance in their shoes. When the distances were too great for walking, they went on horseback, often two or three on one horse.
At these gatherings, many counties were represented. The dress of people varied as greatly as their language. There were frontier men dressed in deer and bearskin clothes and buckskin moccasins, like those the Indians wore. Yankees, Germans and Quakers dressed in simple homespun linen. Their hats were of various shapes and sizes. Sometimes Irishmen were there also, wearing a mixture of their line of dress suit.
At all merry-making, drinking intoxicating liquor was carried on to an extent that could hardly have been compatible with good morality but either the exposure of backwoods life or the less poisonous quality of the article consumed, rendered its effect less pernicious than at the present time. At a wedding, liquor was the center of good cheer; at a funeral, the solace of mourning friends. At any gathering, it was considered one of the indispensable requisites to true hospitality.
The arrival of a new settler in a neighborhood was an item of interest to everyone. After a newcomer would arrive, a log-rolling would be sure to follow. This was looked forward to by the young people with great anxiety. When the time for the merry-making arrived, a queer looking crowd would assemble. To a crowd of young folks today they would appear very strange, for some still were in deer skin skirts and buckskin moccasins of the savage. Hats varied all the way from the homemade skull-cap of raccoon or wolf skin, to the cocked hat of the grenadier. But the men varied still more widely than did their dress. There were the old frontier men who had spent a lifetime in the wilderness, fighting Indians, and wild beast, the Yankees, fresh from the far down east; the Quakers, from the land of William Penn; Germans from the fatherland; Pat and Michael, from the "Ould Counthry" were also present. These men were not only neighbors, but warm true friends.
It would not be fair not to tell in more detail about the main entertainment of Laketon for many years, that of the spelling contests. These spelling contests were held at the different country schoolhouses. They were largely attended by the Laketon people, who went in bobsled with often as many as eighteen to twenty in one sled. The people were called to order by the teacher of the school where the contest was held. Sides were chosen and the people remained in their seats when spelling. All those present were invited to spell but many declined and many were left to watch the proceedings. A trapper was chosen for each side, and when a word was missed the trapper on the opposite side was given a chance to spell it. If he spelled the word correctly one point was gained for his side. Men or women were chosen to keep tally. When recess came the points were counted and reported to the captains or leaders of the two sides. When recess was announced the young people would rush out of the house to play games such as "drop the handkerchief", "Tap", etc. After recess, sides were chosen again and "they stood up and spelled down". Those missing words went to their seats. "The person remaining on the floor the longest was regarded as the hero or heroine of the evening. People went many miles to attend these spelling contests, often driving as many as sixteen to twenty miles in one night. About 1880-85 the debating societies took place of the old fashioned spelling contests. But still there were some who liked to spell that they were still going in the early 1900s.
They had ways of celebrating the Fourth of July, but much different than we do today. Wheeling a wheelbarrow at a stake and pitching horseshoes were games practiced about 1853-55. A man being blindfolded was given a wheelbarrow to wheel at a stake, several feet in the distance. If he hit the stake a prize was given to him. The prize was generally fowl or pigs. Pitching horseshoes around a stake was a game that any number might take part in. It was done much like today by points. Then later on there were the big concerts put on by the banks. Even having ice cream socials, with pie and cake. Sometimes there would be a big picnic out at the lake where everyone could enjoy themselves. Even before Long Lake was open they had picnics at Round Lake in the grove of trees.
The first literary society was organized by Mr. McNammer in 1884, who was the principal of Laketon School These were debated and one of the themes used was "Resolved, that fire is more destructive than water." One of the literary presidents was Mr. David Bender, who was with the 160th Regiment in Cuba.
The first dramatic club was organized by Mr. N.G. Hunter, and the play was "Ten Nights in a Bar Room." There were clubs as late as 1892-96, with such plays as "By Force of Impulse," Gypsy the Heiress," "Botany Bay" and "Uncle Jack," which were conducted by Mr. George F. Ogden.
There were festivals first known about as early as 1860-68. There have been several since that time.
In the early 1900s, things began to change in the town. The Town Hall was where entertainments of different kinds took place. They had magic shows, the Wholly Rollers, Plays, meetings of different kinds, and even church.
After the closing of the first brick schoolhouse in 1899, that building became what was known as the Maccabee Hall. This was used for several different kinds of things. They would have penny suppers, lodge meetings of which there were several different kinds. Some were for the farmers as was the "Gleaner," "Modern Woodsmen" and even the "Sons of Veterans."
Basketball became very popular in the early 1900s. Much of it was played outside. Many would like to see it and it gave the young people of the town something to do.
Also there was the early fun in the summertime of a softball game, which there have been many of them. If there wasn't a game going in the schoolyard, one could find one out at Ulrey's Landing.
A band was formed by Mr. Hugh Wells and they would have concerts on the main square of town. These were held almost every week and people would make sure they had that evening free. It was where one could find out just what was happening for people did not get the news by paper or radio as they do today. These concerts were held for many years. The bank also would be ready for different events that they had during the year.
As time went on and the High School grew there were plays put on by the Junior and Senior class every year. Plus there would be programs by the lower grades at Christmas time. The Music department would also give a program that the public could enjoy.
For a time there were free shows in town on the Main Street one night a week. Sometimes these were shown on Butler Barber Shop. Other times they would have the screen up by the bandstand and there people could sit on the ground to watch them, if they did not bring their own chair.
In 1936, Laketon became 100 years old and this was a big celebration for all.
In 1937, there was a large "Homecoming" held for the town. Laketon had and still has Home Economic Clubs, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, American legion, American legion Auxiliary, Lions Club, Church with their Ladies societies and the Laketon and Pleasant Township Associations.
As time has gone by, it has left Laketon a rather lost place. But the people who still live there are still proud and those who were born and raised there still feel their town is the best town around.