My Grandfather, Charles Hughes (1868-1844) first got married to Clara Hester Braden on March 25, 1900, in Morgan, Benton County, Missouri, Over the next 3 years Charles and Clara had 2 children. Clara died during childbirth on April 19, 1903, leaving Charles to raise the 2 children by himself. After losing his wife he moved his small family to Cole Camp, Missouri to be closer to his family. Here he met Virginia Belle “Jennie” Hayes (1880-1981) who was 13 years his junior. In the early 1900s most marriages where a matter of convenience or necessity. Charles had 2 young children who needed a mother and Jennie was considered a spinster because at the age of 23 she was still unmarried. This was a horrible stigma for a young woman to bear. I, however, want to believe that they fell in love!
Both Charles and Jennie came from large families. Charlie had 6 brothers and 4 sisters and his soon to be bride had 4 brothers and 4 sisters. With 18 siblings between them, and each one being married and having children, they had the makings for a really big wedding. Most country weddings in the early 1900s took place in the home. A preacher would come to the home to perform the wedding. Even if people were not churchgoers, the preacher would “marry and bury.” At the wedding ceremony, someone, usually a couple, would stand up as witnesses for the couple being married. Charles asked his slightly older brother Fielding and his wife Ida May to be the best man and matron of honor for the ceremony. In rural communities like Cole Camp, most young women just wore their best dress to get married in. Jennie was lucky in that she received a beautiful wedding dress that her mother had worn.
On January 28, 1904, Charles hitched up the wagon and went to pick up Jennie. They then rode into town and headed straight for the courthouse. There they got the license that allowed them to get married. They then made the trip back out to Charles’ farm to prepare for the ceremony. When they arrived, the house was buzzing with excitement. Jennies and Charles’ 8 sisters were decorating the house with paper flowers (It was snowing so no real flowers) and cooking food for after the wedding. Jennies’ mother Elvira and the grooms’ mother, Martha, were making final alterations on the dress. The guest began to arrive by mid-afternoon and the Reverend A.B. Breedlove of the Cole Camp Baptist Church was among them. After the ceremony, the guests and newlyweds gathered in the barn to eat and dance.
One tradition in the rural Mid-west communities was the time-honored Shivaree. A Shivaree was a post-wedding noisy party for the community where the newlyweds were forced into service as hosts. A few days after the wedding people from the town came walking or riding in wagons up to the Hughes farm. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest were banging on pots and pans or using noisemakers. Once they arrived, they all gathered outside and sang songs and it was the newlyweds’ responsibility to provide all of them with refreshments. Then some of the visitors would take turns politely mocking and making jokes about the couple.
Supposedly, the Shivaree was spontaneous and clandestine. However, it was an organized spontaneous that wasn’t really a secret. Since the newlyweds were expected to provide the refreshments for their own roast, they had to know where to be and what time to be there. Community members organized it by word-of-mouth instructions. Everyone in the community had plenty of advance notice for this ‘spontaneous’ post-wedding party and looked forward to the fun. The newlyweds looked forward to the noisy event as well, and they would have been insulted at not being forced to host the Shivaree.
Regardless of the reason for their marriage, I know that they loved each other. They went on to have 9 children of their own and Jennie never once made a distinction between them and her 2 stepchildren. They had been married for almost 41 years when Charles died in 1944.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.