Braidwood's favorite pastime, quoits?

Sandy Vasko

    That Braidwood and the surrounding coal towns were hubs for immigrants from all over the world still fascinates me.
    They came in waves, usually one nationality at a time. The prejudices they grew up with came with them. But also came the good things. Let's look at just one.
    The earliest wave of immigrants came from the British Isles, the Irish, English and the Scottish, were all familiar with life in the coal mines and for the most part they all spoke English.
    They had another thing in common - the game of quoits. I have to admit I am not really up on the game. It seems to me that it's kind of like pitching horseshoes, but with a quoit (a round ring made of rope or metal) instead.
    As soon as the earliest men arrived they formed a quoits club and began pitching. We read in the Iowa Daily Register on Aug. 5, 1868, “A match of quoits for $1,000 (about $18,300 today) and the Northwestern Championship was played yesterday between Chicago and Braidwood Clubs, resulting in a victory for the latter, the score standing 165 to 145. A handicapped match for a silver cup will be pitched this afternoon.”
    I don't know how many men were in the club, but it certainly was a nice chunk of change for them to take home.
    Twelve years later, in 1880, we find the following description of a heated quoits match in the Wilmington Advocate, “Jock” Walker's quoiting rink was the center of attraction on Wednesday. Here it was that Tom Fleming, of Diamond, beat Jas. Craig by one point; here, too, it was that the victor named tackled Pete Barr and worsted him, after which Pete turned the tables upon him and came out victor. The “Jock” McIntyre put Jim McArthur in chancery, beating him to the tune of 21 to 19.
    “Then,” said Walker,” I taught McIntyre the art in a very few lessons. Result, 21 to 13.  Why, mon, you wad na' believe it.  Next I put on my war paint and got after Findley Littlejohn, giving him 11 points to start with. Well, sir, I pitched with both hands till I caught up with him - kept two quoits in the air all the time, till I saw that I had the conceit out of him.
    “Then I gave a slight twist of the wrist and let him beat me, just to put him in good humor again. Result, he tallied 21 to my 14. I tell ye lad, I'll open some of their eyes here this summer.”
    The Braidwood Club made life more interesting when they had a gold quoit made and used it as a trophy. We read in August of 1880, “A grand quoiting match took place on Saturday last, at the popular rink of John Walker, in Braidwood. The prize was a gold quoit and the match attracted a large number of quoiters and their friends from miles around. Considerable money changed hands and the interest at times was intense.”
    A week later we read, “Another big quoiting match came off on Saturday at “Jock” Walker's amphitheater in this city. The bone of contention was that same gold quoit and Tony Durney “took the cake.”   
    And in mid-October, “The golden quoit has at last become the private property of Quinton Clark, he having won it three times. It was presented to him on last Saturday by John Walker, in presence of Messrs. Durney, Frew, Wilson, Bell, Townsley, and other ex-champions of the quoiting field. Then the boys all took a social glass of beer amid the best feeling.”
    In 1885 quoiting tournaments were mentioned at the Fourth of July celebration, but by the 1890's quoiting is no longer mentioned. I assume that by that time the earliest of the British Isle miners had died or moved on and other ethnic groups took their place with their own style of entertainment.
    I would like to know if anyone still living in the area plays the game, or if their ancestors left them a golden quoit as a family heirloom.