A Stolen Wedding Breakfast
Old Time Tales of Warren County


A Stolen Wedding Breakfast

History and literature are full of stolen brides. Since young Lochinvar came out of the west and galloped across the pages of our Fourth Readers with a bride on his pommel, there have been numberless brides run away with, just as the fatal ceremony, with the wrong man, was about to be performed. But it remained for two Allegheny River raftsmen to steal a wedding feast whole, and get away with it.

It all happened in this way. Benjamin Garfield and Samuel Barrett were jobbers and pilots who lived at Jamestown and Salamanca. In the late seventies they were on a rafting trip to Cincinnati, gliding along down the Ohio below East Liverpool, with excellent weather overhead and splendid appetites under their leather belts. Raftsmen always had ravenous appetites, the aromatic odors of newly cut lumber, the fresh winds of the river, the vigorous exercise at the heavy oars, and nothing much else to think about except eating, created a hunger that made raftsmen famous for their capacities.

The sun had set behind the low Ohio hills when Barrett sent out a snubber with a line, connected with a stout cottonwood tree on the west bank, and slowly brought the raft to a standstill. It was past supper time, no meal in sight yet in the shanty, and it would be nothing but beans and soggy biscuits when it came. "Are you hungry?" inquired Ben, ironically; a raftsman was always hungry. "Gee miminy," said Sam, "I could eat a horse and chase the driver." A farmhouse stood on the river bank a little way upstream and the hungry raftsmen decided here would be a fine place to get a hot, home cooked supper. But when Barrett and Garfield climbed the bank and approached the house they were turned away with an abruptness unusual in those hospitable, hearty days of rafting. The two raftsmen were none too politely informed, that a wedding feast was about to begin and no hungry rivermen were wanted.

They turned away, taken aback at such a reception, angry, and hungrier than ever.

As they started to retrace their steps to the raft, they smelled an odor of cooking things that seemed the most tantalizing of all odors they had ever smelled. It seemed that essences of all things savory and rich and good and satisfying were embodied in that warm smell that came wafting on the evening air.

Garfield and Barrett, famishing for their supper, investigated. They found a good sized out-door oven, something of the "Dutch Oven" style, but made of sheet iron. It was set up on stones at its four corners and under its black bottom burned the red embers of a dying fire. As the two men came close to the oven the odor was maddening; how good, how irresistibly good the steaming contents smelled to those hungry raftsmen.

They retired down the river bank for consultation. It was short. In a few minutes the two men hurried to the raft, returning a moment later with two scantlings. They again climbed the bank, and stuck the scantlings under the hot oven which contained a whole wedding feast, prime cooked and ready for the eating. They bore off the oven to the raft, hurriedly cast loose the lines and were again on their way down the broad, and now shadowy, waters of the Ohio.

Two roasted turkeys, brown and sizzling, a small roast pig done whole. Deep pies, sweet dishes whose names the raftsmen knew not of, sweet delicacies baked in small dishes, a whole gorgeous wedding breakfast it was, the finest feast ever eaten aboard a raft in all the history of raftdom.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 169-171: Old Time Tales of Warren County; Meadville, Pa.: Press of Tribune Pub. Co., 1932


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