On June 21, 1891, Mrs. John (Sophie) Bean was frosting small cakes as she made ready for a gathering of local women in her Pendleton home.
She greeted Mrs. John (Paralee) Hailey, Mrs. Ben (Clare) Burroughs, Mrs. C. B. (Adelia) Wade, Mrs. A. D. (Minnie) Stillman, Mrs E B. (Doorothy, "Doll") Marshall, Mrs. N. M. (Jenny, "Perky") Perkins and Bell Bishop.
These ladies became charter members of the Thursday Afternoon Club.
Paralee Hailey, a pioneer school teacher, was elected the first president. Each member was asked to bring a prospective member to the next meeting. Before refreshments were served, Clare Burroughs read one of her original poems titled "The Tale of a Pig."
The club began as a social gathering but the ladies joined the General Federation of Womens' clubs in 1894, and in 1899 they withdrew from the General Federation and joined the State Federation. Women were no longer "sitting by the fire and spinning," but were working to promote the literary, ethical, and intellectual interests of women. It was noted that when the women of Pendleton took hold of worthy causes, they were applauded by husbands, fathers and brothers.
In 1899, the Morning Oregonian reported, "Pendleton is the radiating point for club ideas in Eastern Oregon. She claims the honor of being the home of the 'mother club,' the Thursday Afternoon Club having been the first in the State to join the General Federation." The newspaper wrote a glowing review of the artistic talents of the ladies responsible for the Thursday Afternoon Club yearbook
The club was actively engaged in many civic projects. They started a fund to furnish a restroom in the City Hall for those visiting Pendleton from surrounding areas. They cooperated with other women's clubs to get a public library for the city and helped to solicit funds to improve the cemetery on the north side of the river. Help was given to public schools, needy students, and other civic organizations. They also assisted in efforts to establish traveling libraries in the state.
Through the years the T.A.C. abided by the original plan that limited membership to 16. Later, membership was increased to 24. The 24 ladies not only knew how to work for the good of the community, but they also knew how to entertain with a flair.
The First Annual Banquet was held May 8, 1894, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. S. P. Sturgis on Water Street. Husbands and gentlemen friends were invited. Before dinner a parlor farce "The Mouse Trap," was presented, and Grace Evans sang to the guitar accompaniment of Mrs. J. E. Bean. Mrs. H. C. Guernsey officiated as toast mistress. Gentlemen chose their dinner partners from witty, poetical portraits of the ladies. Thirty-three people sat down to enjoy the elaborate meal. The menu consisted of: olives, salted almonds, crab bedeviled, chicken croquettes, potato chips, green peas, orange sherbert, sweet breads and mushrooms, tomato salad, ice cream, strawberries, cake, coffee, nuts and raisins. Among those in attendance were: Messers and Mesdames John Hailey, T. G. Hailey, C. B. Wade, E. P. Marshall, A. D. Stillman, J. R. Dickson, S. A. Lowell, W. E. Potwine and E. P. Dodd. Final entry on the menu card gives an appropriate ending to the evening, "Then rose the guests, and as the time required, each paid his thanks, and decently retired."
Jan. 26, 1888, the club entertained at a Whist Party. The Scrap Book contains one of the tally cards from the party. The cover is of beautiful ecru satin covered with hand-painted daffodils. The tally is in perfect condition without even a tear in the delicate satin covering. The score card shows that C. D. Jackson and Mrs. Sturgis were Whist partners. They won 43 points and lost 40 points in the evening's play.
The Second Annual Banquet was held at the Pendleton Hotel and "eclipsed all previous efforts in Pendleton to entertain around the festive board." Guests assembled at 8 p.m. and enjoyed conversation and music until the dining room doors were opened to reveal a dining room festooned in green, white and pink streamers. Guests were seated, and Mrs. J. R. Dickson acted as toast mistress by introducing the various speakers who responded with witty and appropriate toasts. Col. E. D. Boyd toasted the organization for their delightful hospitality, and the evening ended with all singing "Auld Lang Syne."
Minute books of the Thursday Afternoon Club, now in the archives of the Umatilla County Historical Society, are dated from Sept. 13, 1895 through Sept. 10, 1897, and June 1899 through May 1904. The beautifully hand-written pages are well preserved after all these years. Their interesting Scrap Book was started in 1891 and contains a wonderful record of the mores of early-day Pendleton.
An item in the minute book for 1905 recorded the following motion: "Moved and carried that the Woman Club be invited to become department of the Thursday Afternoon Club." This was the last book of recorded minutes that were in the black, tin strong box that was received by the Historical Society from the estate of Helen Raymond McKenzie.
Ladies of the Thursday Afternoon Club exemplified the refinement and social graces that were prevalent in the early part of the 19th Century.
This article appeared in Pioneer Trails, Vol. 24, No. 1, Spring 2000, and is available in its entirety at Heritage Station museum.