BRYAN COUNTY HISTORY: Easter on the prairie

Bryan County Genealogy Library

One of the rewards of researching family history is discovering how many ancient traditions still bring joy to family members. Some of the most comforting are birthday, anniversary, and holiday rituals, and two favorites of spring are the Easter church service and the egg hunt. Our great-grands prepared for each in much the same way we do today. Of course, one difference was that they used real eggs!

Egg hunts and egg rolls took place at homes, churches, parks, and schools. Some events charged admission and were great fund raisers for local groups such as the 1899 Ladies’ Parsonage Society of the Methodist church. Church houses overflowed on Easter, often beginning services at sunrise, having dinner and an egg hunt on the grounds, and then resuming services in the evening.

By the teen years many communities had established annual “union” services for Easter. Sunrise service was held in one building, Sunday School classes in their usual locations, mid-day service at a second church, perhaps followed by “dinner on the grounds”. Then an egg hunt was held for the children. Sometimes those had to be in a park or pasture. Evening service, which almost always included special music, was held at a third location. In most communities the host churches were the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist.

The typical charge for egg hunts during the teens was 5-10 cents and a cash prize was given to the child who collected the most eggs. At the Liberty Hill School’s Easter egg hunt in 1916 that winner was Harden Green. Forty-one children scrambled to find 146 eggs, but the report doesn’t say how many Harden found.

The weeks just before Easter often saw the remodeling of local millinery departments. In 1912 the Bass store in Caddo held a spring millinery celebration that drew a large crowd and lasted three hours. They served cake and punch, gave out carnations, and took orders for Easter hats. In 1913 sixteen ladies purchased their Easter attire from Mrs. B. E. Homer, agent for the Ideal Ladies’ Tailoring Company. Men’s suits and children’s shoes were heavily advertised.

Private parties and club celebrations also took place in the weeks surrounding Easter. In 1920 Rev. C. B. Cross preached for the Knights Templar service. Another special occasion was held in 1923 at the Green-Bryant Post of the American Legion in Durant. Rev. A. R. Craig, chaplain, gave an Easter sermon for their luncheon at the Atwood Hotel, which was followed by a program of music and readings. In 1925 employees of Bell Telephone Co. gathered at Gunter Park on Easter Sunday afternoon to hunt for colored eggs and enjoy an hour of games.

One of the larger egg hunts took place in Caddo in 1923 when the Lion’s Club provided 1,800 eggs for an egg hunt at the tourist park. One of the local egg producers was Ira L. Smith from Blue Dale Farms. He made quite a record in egg production that year- with 106 hens he has gathered 3080 eggs in sixty days. No mention was made of how many ended up in a local egg hunt. Other hunts were advertised at Roberta, Pleasant Hill, Midway, Armstrong, Utica, and Connelly.

We can continue to follow the Easter activities of our ancestors through the years and find few changes. Perhaps the candies are different and the eggs are plastic. The church services might be online and the family gathering may be on Zoom. But the celebration of hope and renewal remains the same.

Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.