The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter IV
Social Amusements

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



The pioneers were not averse to the lighter and gayer side of life. The craving for social enjoyment comes from one of the deeper instincts of human nature. The outsider is lonesome. Good cheer has always been an important element in normal human life. Feasting and making merry went along with the more serious things, and of all the places to feast and make merry in early flint, the chief was Todd's tavern. "Aunt Polly" Todd, if we may believe half that is told of her, was abundantly able to shine in the social sphere of white traders, half-breeds and full-blooded Indians and thrifty pioneers. And the landlord of Todd's tavern could easily set a good table with venison, with turkey and fish, abundantly supplied by the Indians. Talking was not one of the lost arts at the board of "Uncle John" Todd, and good stories never failed.

One of the first social events of Flint tool place in this old tavern. In the winter of 1831 Mr. and Mrs. Todd gave a wedding reception in honor of George Oliver and Miss Keziah Toby, both of whom had been in the employ of my lord and lady of the inn. The same winter Mr. and Mrs. Todd gave a "house warming." An adequate idea of this grand occasion was given years afterwards by "Aunt Polly" Todd herself:

"In February, Mr. Todd had the frame addition to his house all finished and as Sam Russell--the only violinist in the county--was procurable, Mr. and Mrs. Todd determined to give a housewarming. For this purpose all the settlers in Flint and Grand Blanc--about thirty in number--were invited to the 'Flint Tavern,' to pass the following evening. Meantime all the ladies put their best garments in readiness, and Mrs. Todd--who had better facilities for importing new articles into the settlement than many of the others--had a full new suit and a splendid new dress cap, ready for that special occasion, all purchased some weeks previously by Mr. Toss in Detroit. As the evening advanced, the guests commenced arriving, and 'Aunt Polly' concluded to dress up. As she appeared among the ladies they all expatiated on her becoming dress and 'perfect love of a cap.' Mrs. Todd, having a light in her hand at the time, stood opposite a looking-glass and casting an admiring glance at herself therein, mentally agreed that she did look well, and that it was 'a love of a cap.' While elevating the light to get a more correct view of the beautiful piece of finery, it caught in some of the delicate borders or ribbons, and a fire ensued which reduced the gay head dress to a few burned rags in less than three minutes. However, the tuning of the fiddle previous to the dance set the gentlemen to looking up their partners, and Mrs. Todd, who loved dancing, was on the floor one of the first, looking just as well and as happy in another cap of less pretensions than her lost beauty. In those times a dance was the only amusement looked for at any gathering, and when an invitation was given, it was sure to be accepted."

Other centers of hospitality and social life in early Flint were the Northern Hotel and the Genesee House. The Northern Hotel, which was built and kept for a short time by Captain Crane, was conducted by William Clifford, who founded the River House, which he had taken over from Joel Todd in 1838, too small for his increasing business. The Northern Hotel then became headquarters for the Flint-Pontiac stage-line. The Genesee House was built in 1837 by Thomas J. Drake, and stood at the angle formed by Detroit and Saginaw streets. Mr. Drake's successors were Cornelius Roosevelt, S. W. Gibson, W. R. Scoville, Mr. Allen, Mr. Pettee and Jared Mason. Mr. Mason subsequently built the Carlton House, which stood upon the site of the present Bryant Hotel, and was first opened January 1, 1836. This hotel was afterwards changed to the Irving house, and was destroyed by fire.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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