Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Providence Spelling Bee

This story is told by a man whose name was Horace Thomas. The newspaper tells the story the way Horace pronounced his words and his version of the Providence Spelling Bee.

April 15, 1875
Newspaper: "The Carroll Watchman"
For several months past the good people of the most prominent cities in the North and West have been viewing with each other as to which were the best spellers.
Providence not to be behind hand in the march of improvement, has thrown down the gauntlet and asks to be recognized as a first class contestant.
One the first of this month - there were present in full force at the Court House two full classes of spellers--at least so we learn--through our intelligent country man Horace Thomas.
Meeting him on the street the other day, our reporter remarked, “Horace, we have been looking for you for a long spell.”
“Umph,” replied Horace, “you don’t catch me any more for along spell or a short spell, I had enough spelling in mine that night at the Court House.”
By assuring him that we were a stranger in these parts-being a reporter for the “Inter-Ocean”, and not the WATCHMAN, he consented to unbosom himself, and told us the following story:
“You see Mr. Inter. Most all de big folkes in town went to de courthouse to do some spellin—and one of my yung frens ax me go long widem, but I tole him I could’nt spell very much, and he said you won’t have to spell but only one word, and you can pic out any word you plese; so I tel ‘im alright, I pic out de word “Katie,” case dat was my wife’s name and I know’d how to spell dat.
Well, ater we all got up dare, dey picked out two captains—one to run each side, and the judge he sat up in front of us, to see dat everyting was dun on de Square.”
“Who was de judge, Horris?”
“Ah! He was a good man, it was Judge Mossy. Well, he was settin up dare a little larger dan life, and den de two classes were stretched out in line, one class under command of Mr. Galbreth, and the other wid Captin Donnelly at de head; and it so happened dat dare was in Mr. Galbraith’s class, Mr. Gla, Mr. Fulgum, Mr. N. Burton, Wash Stuart, and me Horris Thomas. Den in Captin Donnelly’s class, dare was Mr. Geo. Benham, Maj. Oliver, Mr. Jo Leddy, Mr. Jim McGuire, and a whole string of oder fellers. So just a fore de spellin commenced de judge got up to say a few words—and dat was dat whenever anybody missed spellin he was obliged to take a back seat—and just as he said dat he stuck dat small foot o’ his right through dat big cane-seated rush bottom chair, and rushed de bottom out’n it.”
“Well, then, I ‘spose”, said the reporter “there is no bottom in the chair.”
“Oh, Yes,” Horris says ‘dare’s always a calf skin bottom in it whenever de judge sets dar.”
“Well de fust man dat was called up to spell was De Hon. Mr. Gla. Captin Donnelly ax him to spell Madison. De word was no more dan said, afore it was spelled correct.
“Den Mr. Galbraith ax Judge Benham to spell Carroll; well, he spell Carroll all right.
Den Captin Donnelly ax Mr. Gla to spell Richland. Gla mis-spelled it in less dan a minit.
Den Judge Moss; who was sitting way back, and had a very bad cole, he ax Judge Benham to spell Morehouse; but de Judge, he didn’t understand de word very well, and he spelled it –SOLD OUT. So wit dat de folks begun to laff and clap de hands—and I clapped my hands on my pants’ pocket to see if my pocket book was dar. It war all right.
Den de Judge said de two fist scholars could set down a spell, and he would give dem a little advice. Den he advised Judge Gla to go to Represent hisself for the people of Carroll in de State House in New Orleans, and den he tole Judge Benham to go too Longwood for a spell, and take a spellin book along with him. Den both of de gentlemin took dar leavin de most polite manner—leaving de rest of us chaps to spell only one word.
Fulgum was next called up.”
(continued in our next issue)

April 22, 1875 "The Carroll Watchman"; Newspaper (continues from last week)
“Well, just a fore Fullgum commenced to spell I stole up to Galbraith and tole him not to forget that my word was “Katie” for I didn’t know any other. Galbraith said alright, and I stole back to my place, and de spell went on. Fulgrum’s word was “enjoin”, but Fulgrum being one of de volunteer fire department, spell it just like any odder Providence No. 1, would spelled it; all de judges shook der heads, dat was to let Fulgum know he missed. So Major Oliver he see Fullgum make a mistake—he was up in a minute wid one hand stretched way up over his head making two of his fingers go for all de world like a pair of small scizzors, de teacher see dis, so he tell de maj. to ‘perceed.’ Well, you see de major he’s ole at de business, and he spell it right de fust time, so he took Fulgum’s place, and Fulgum stuck his lidde foot under his arm and walked off on his left wheelhouse.
De next to step forward was uncle Nick Burton, he was ready to tackle any word dey give to him, for he was studying up a good while; well, his word was “claims”, --de ole man was prepared for it, as I said afore, he was studying up his claims, so when without much tinking he spelled c-l-a-i-m-s, it was allowed by Mr. Galbriath, but dats all de good it done de ole man; he can put his claims in a picture frame I tink, and keep it dar for his children to look at when dey are grown.
Den Mr. Jo. Leddy was called up to spell his word, after him Wash, and dan me, Horace. Captin Donnelly ax Mr. Leddy to spell Nash.”
Reporter—“Nash, why that’s easy to spell, ain’t it?”
Horace—“You never tried to spell him did you? Well, he can out spell anybody except Bob Anderson, and Wall Benham, and dey can out spell the world.”
Reporter—“Nash, why that’s only a man’s name, ain’t it?”
Horace—“Yes, one of de “ole maid” men of our times.”
Reporter—“You mean “self-made men?”
“Yeh, dat’s it. Well, Mr. Leddy commenced to spell K-n-a-s-h, den you ought to see de folks yell and laff and de judge said sit down sir, that’ll do for you---you’ve spelled Nash wid a venegence; and Captin Donnelly spoke up and said “I never did know a barkeeper that knowed anything—there’s none of em smart; I’ve seen Jo Leddy myself try to make ---- spell drinks.”
“Now, dar was only Wash to spell his word, and mine next—dat just suited to a Knat’s heel, but just ‘bout dat time Nat Murfree came to de door and called Wash (Stuart) to do to de wharf-boat for freight, and Wash left, so it was “Katie, Bar de door wid me”; I tell you I wish Nat’s heel was in de bottom of de river, I didn’t know what word Wash was goin to spell and I didn’t know how to spell it if I did, and I kept winking at Galbraith to let him know Wash was gone, but he could’nt take de hint, besides he had Wash’s word out of his mouth afore I could get out de room, so he give de word out to me, and dar I waz wid de whole congreation staring me in de face and a word to spell I never heard of afore, it was C-h-i-l-l-y. To spell Chilli - I never could, but a chilly spell came over me, and I commenced to shake, fust my feet would’nt stan still, den my legs commenced a spell, and I foamed at de mouth, and I shook a spell until I shook de courthouse so much dat I shook all de folks out of it; and I fel in a fainting fit, and shook an shook an shook, and Dr. Davis, who happened to be dar, tole me I better be quick an take something right off, so I reached round to my vest pocket where I kept my disolver, and took out a pint flask and swallowed half was in it afore de Doctor could take hold of it and examine it to see if dar was a label on it, he saw dar was none and he axed me if I thought dar was any efficacy in it, and I tole him “no, dar was nothing by Jesse Lightning in it, some of Jim Leddy’s worst, “ so he carried me to de window of de courthouse, so I could get air, and I happened to look out and dar was all de school teachers, judge and everybody else over on Harney’s Gallery, where I shook dem I suppose, when I had dat “Chilli spell.”

This was a follow up in the following paper, April 29, 1875 "The Carroll Watchman":
Mister Editor:----"Gentlemen, I say! You muss not print dat proceedings of de school board any long, case I iz not satisfy with dat company U fine me sociatin with round the courthouse. Umph! It is “Kitty bar de door”, and bar all you folks what goes rona reporting and tellin me you is an “Inter Ocean” man. I wish dat reporter was inter de ocean, shore nuff, an a big whale (one like the one what Jonas rode on his back) had swallowed him.
It wood have give you a chill to a seed them long legged fellers like de judge Moss, an Fullgum an Donnelle, all glomerated together.
Then to have spelling words popped out at you by such as Gall’s breath, I jes tell you Horris had no breath left in him.
Now, mister editer, please don’t; don’t you mix me up in dat crowd no more. “Katie", is it? I’d a spelled dat name with a vengence.
Mister Editer—you’ve hered of ‘Katie Dids’. Well, now I could’nt tell you all that ‘Katie did’, for me; you’d a guessed if you’d a seen me, dat far time I riz up out of that ditch, what she knocked me, ker slap, and the mud was making a picter on my face wors’ en the picter of death riden on a white horse, which it war black.
Now, mister editur, this is not the sibility of the understandin. Which Horris don’t rise to make a speech, but spaciates, and rites to you what he wants you to quit that spellin business. Respectively,
HORRIS (Horace)

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