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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Wedding Day of Time Gone By

Wedding Day of Time Gone By

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by: Betty Weiss, Columnist

With a blast to the past and some imagination, you are cordially invited to the wedding of my paternal great-grandparents.  Hitch up the wagon or saddle up your horse and ride on out to the house.   

IMAGINE THAT IT’S APRIL 15, 1880 and you are living in Lexington, Missouri.  You’ve just opened the morning paper – “The Lexington Register “– and read the following wedding announcement:  Mr. F. G. McFadin and Miss Mary M. McDowell will be united in marriage this evening at 8 o’clock at he brides’ residence three miles east of the city.  Mr. McFadin is a gentleman who is well known in this community and his bride is an accomplished and popular lady.  For a number of years she was the principal in the Third Ward public school, and no lady teacher ever gave more satisfaction to the patrons of the school than she.  We unite with many friends in wishing them a long life, attended with unallowed happiness and prosperity.

Shortly after the wedding, Mary pasted that announcement inside the cover of a small leather-bound Bible that had been presented to her on November 23, 1854 by the superintendent of the Madison Sabbath School.*

The wedding day:  As your horse and buggy pulls closer to the house you notice a patch of white sweet clover sits to one side of the house about twenty yards from the road, and a soft breeze is stirring the downy spring buds peeking out from the trees in the yard.  A fat tabby cat that’s been snoozing on the porch all day has just woke up to observe the antics of two pesky blue jays and decided they weren’t worth a chase.

The bride’s antebellum home, with its white columns and wraparound porch, has a festive look with swags of greenery and candles placed throughout the house in anticipation of the evening’s ceremony.  All the vases, even some caning jars, have been filled with white wildflowers – wild plum, May apple, ox-eye daisies, and dogwood – and set out on crocheted doilies wherever there’s an open spot.  The four-burner coal stove in the kitchen has been fired up all day, turning out pans of fried chicken and gravy, which will be carried into the dinning room later and put on a massive oak sideboard; a big kettle in the fireplace is steaming with rabbit stew that’s all part of the late night feast that will be served.

The bride’s simple gown took hours to iron, and some repairs were needed to mend a piece of the heirloom lace on the cuff of one of the sleeves.  A crinoline hoopskirt, designed to take the place of a half dozen petticoats, hangs from a hook on the bedroom door and sways back and forth like a bell each time the door is opened.

The preacher rode in early to have lunch with the family.  He has a somber look in his back frock coast and black pants, which are tucked inside his riding boots.  While everyone is busy with chores, he’s spending time browsing through some of the family’s records and albums.  He knows that Mary was born in Lexington in 1841, and Fortunatis was born in Kentucky in 1839, but the had forgotten that Mary’s father, Daniel, was born in Scotland and her mother, Mary White, came from Virginia.

As for the ceremony, just let your imagination take flight back in time…a happy couple in their wedding finery standing before the preacher in a cozy parlor packed with family and friends… and they lived happily ever after.

*FOOTNOTE:  Mary’s great-great-great-great-granddaughter, Paisley Jean Cohn, was born 161 years later on November 23, 2015 in Austin, Texas.     


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