"Being graceful in the "Tilter"- Real Art"
Mrs. Frances Parkhurst Eldridge of East Tenth Street who celebrated her 89th birthday last week - Feb. 24 - and whose association with Davenport ever since she was a young girl has been most intimate as a member of one of this community's most prominent old pioneer families, has many interesting remembrances of the days when the hoop skirt and the voluminous flounces were the last word in style, and bonnets and hats were veritable flower gardens of posies and color.
Young people were the "real folk" in those days, Mrs. Eldridge thinks, and also that they had many more gay little parties, the moonlight dances and country picnics more jolly and full of fun than in these later days, and youth was more carefree and happy than in this modern restless age of the cigarets and cocktail.
"There was always something going on," said Mrs. Eldridge, in telling of her girlhood. "Some of the parties were lovely balls. I remember the night of April 14, 1865 when a new hall at the corner of Brady Street where the new Mississippi Hotel is located - was opened with a ball. We were dancing the quadrille when the music suddenly stopped and a man came out on the floor and said President Lincoln had been assassinated in Ford's Theater, Washington. Everyone was terribly upset."
Mrs. Eldridge still has the dress she wore on that occasion - a Rich, heavy, brocaded taffeta, warm green, the prevailing color, the light stripe being of a bright blue brocade with a pin stripe of orange to set it off. There is also the deep silk lace shoulder flounce with its fluted trimming of dainty blue ribbons which finished the tight-fitting, bones bodice, and this also is among the many lovely keepsakes, touched to a delicate ivory tint by Father Time, which Mrs Eldridge treasures for the happy memories it recalls of the long ago.
Mrs. Eldridge laughed happily as she looked at the dignified little picture of her youthful days with the stately hooped gown so stiff and wide, and she said, "I would just like to see some of these modern girls of short skirts and slinky gowns, wear one of those old hoops of my day, My, they were tricky, and it was a real art to manage them. No I hardly think the old "tilter" will ever come back - not as long as this sporting fever holds."
Mrs. Eldridge confessed she hadn't much of an opinion of these modern types of Gay Youth. "Cocktails? Northing of the sort! We were taught different when I was young!"
We were well brought up in those days," was the was she expressed it, and there was a little tilt of her pretty gray head with the soft curls about her face, and the sparkling blue eyes held a glint of scorn that bespoke the 89 years had in no way taken toll of the high spirited courage and gaiety which had made their owner known as "The Belle of Iowa" in her youthful days.
Mrs. Eldridge's father, the late Lemuel Parkhurst, was one of the well known river men of the time when LeClaire had ambitions to become the metropolis of the midwest, and Davenport was only just being thought of.
He was during all his long life associated with and had commanded some 30 or more river steamers, in the days when the passenger boats were called "Floating palaces" and the main travel was by way of the river.
Mrs. Eldridge said, "He would have been on the Effie Afton when that illfated craft struck the first wooden government bridge, and was burned and sunk in the river only the day of the accident he happened to be ill at home and a man who took his place was drowned."
There was no road between Davenport and LeClaire in those early years. The rive was the main highway in summer and the ice became a thorofare and connecting link in winter.
There were may trips to St. Louis and down rive and visits were exchanged with friends. Mrs. Eldridge recalls when the boat she was on with a party of youthful friends got stuck on the rocks just above this city, and for three days -with expectations every day of being released, the party danced and sang and had a jolly time - not at all anxious to have the boat off the rocks and be on their way.
Mrs. Eldridge was born Feb 21, 1842 in the log cabin home in LeClaire which her father had built and where the family lived for a number of years. [This area was known as Parkhurst and became part of LeClaire]. Lemuel Parkhurst was a Canandaigua, N.Y., man, who, restless and itching for adventure, started west to see the country. There was some thought of stopping in Chicago, but he found that place "nothing but a marshy slough," and set his face toward Iowa and the Mississippi. He liked the looks of LeClaire, with it's thickly wooded hills and was in love with the river for the active life it brought him and the many people he met in his river trips.
He was a great friend of Antoine LeClaire, who used to visit the Parkhurst home in LeClaire quite occasionally, and whose four beautiful ponies, and his carriage were objects of great interest to whites as well as Indians.
"Antoine LeClaire always patted me on the head when he came to our house," says Mrs. Eldridge, "and I liked him, He was a great, hearty man." "The Indians were our friends, too. They were good people and we saw a great many of them when I was a child."
Mrs. Eldridge, like her father, has a strong affection for "Old Man Riber". Looking out from her pretty home on East Tenth Street, she can sit in her rocking chair and watch the lights come on at twilight in the cities across the water and recall the old days when the raft boats with their great tows of logs for the lumber mills here and down stream, the daily packets, and the big passenger steamers were a common sight from her windows.
The Davenport Democrat Feb 28 1932