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Historically Fort Bend:
Dancing in Old Fort Bend


Dance card from a Ball and Supper held by the Ladies of the Jay Bird Club, Dec. 28, 1888.

Dance card from a Ball and Supper held by the Ladies of the Jay Bird Club, Dec. 28, 1888.

By Chris Godbold

Ever since settlers first made their homes along the Brazos River or Oyster Creek, families have worked hard to create a life for themselves. However, they didn’t work all of the time. Families made time for entertainment and leisure. One of the favorite pastimes was dancing. Whether it was an impromptu jig or a ball hosted for friends and neighbors, dancing provided a respite from everyday tasks and a way to celebrate important holidays and community events.

Dilue Rose Harris described a ball thrown by their neighbor, the Dyers, in 1834. The Rose family arrived just before dark and watched as a servant lit the room with lengths of cane and a set of tallow candles. The attendees then danced to the music of a fiddle. Dilue describes dancing a Virginia reel and then dancing until morning.

Dances often seem to have started late in the day, after nightfall. This may have been done to leave as much daylight as possible for the work of the day. Holidays were often common reasons to have dances. Mary Moore Jones, later known as Polly Ryon, was invited to a New Years cotillion in 1844 when she was 18. Dilue Rose Harris describes a dance for the fourth of July in 1834 that was part of festivities that included a barbecue and a quilting bee. A formal band was not always necessary for dancing to break out. The fourth of July ball Harris attended was accompanied by a band of African American men playing an iron pin and clevis, fiddles and a tin pan. The dance continued from 3 in the afternoon until the next morning. Polly Ryon was also invited to a Christmas Eve ball at the Richmond Hotel when she was a young teen.

Dancing was appropriate for all ages. In 1834, Harris was nine years old and attended multiple dances. She describes entire families attending dances and dancing reels and waltzes until the early hours of the morning. Dances were also held on Election Day and to celebrate the Battle of San Jacinto. Many Fort Bend County people went to the elaborate ball in Houston to celebrate the first anniversary of the battle.

Dances also included the foxtrot and several other types such as two-steps, quadrilles, and polkas. Ladies carried dance cards which helped them keep track of all of the men who asked her for a dance. There could be 20 or more dances at each ball. Folks truly danced the night away!

Historical facts and photos courtesy of the
Fort Bend County Museum Association, Richmond, TX

Chris-Godbold-Sponsored-by-EZ-Floors

Dance card from dance thrown in honor of Miss Etta May Moore and John Moore Jr., Dec. 27, 1910.

Dance card from dance thrown in honor of Miss Etta May Moore and John Moore Jr., Dec. 27, 1910.

 

Dance card from dance thrown in honor of Miss Ivy Gladys Moore, July 7, 1911.

Dance card from dance thrown in honor of Miss Ivy Gladys Moore, July 7, 1911.


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