Marshfield, November 1912: When Halloween fun got out of hand
By Kris Leonhardt
Immigrants brought many customs and practices along with them to the new country. While some remained only within tightly knit communities for decades and even centuries, others spread and became a way of life.
Hallowe’en — named as a contraction of Hallow’s Evening — in the early 1900s had already become a celebration that involved dressing up in costumes and attending parties, which often included apple bobbing and other contests.
Trick-or-treating, on the other hand, had not yet captured the imagination of area youth, who passed the evening away telling ghost stories and dreaming up pranks.
On Halloween in 1912, approximately 80 young men from the area assembled on the streets of Marshfield eager to make the night memorable. The group gathered with the plans and equipment needed to accomplish what was slowly becoming a tradition of the day.
As they made their way through the city streets, the boys set to soaping windows, frightening unsuspecting individuals, and relocating items belonging to local residents, including steps, gates, and vehicles.
Generally, the local police force let the youths travel about the city undeterred, allowing them to have their fun this one evening a year. However, when a lone, overzealous policeman came across the gaggle of youth in the 5th Ward, he attempted to put a stop to their foolishness.
Outnumbered by the group, the officer was accosted by the exuberant crowd. Already high on their antics of the evening, the boys relocated the officer to a nearby barnyard, where they set to rolling him around in the unsavory conditions of the grounds.
Once alerted, the Marshfield police chief grew angry at the lack of respect by the youth and alerted his other officers to round up the offenders.
The boys were then ordered to stand before a judge that following Saturday to receive their punishment.
One can be certain that the first week of November was a very long one for those 80 boys. After receiving whatever type of punishment they were due at home, they then faced a week of uncertainty while waiting to learn the decision of the court.
As the boys stood before the bench that Saturday, they spoke with the judge as they relived the events on that Halloween.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the boys were let off without any fine. The group, however, was ordered to pay restitution for the damage they had caused. The total required for payment was then calculated at 75 cents apiece.