June 26, 2013
During the last week of November 1876, the Sedalia Democrat featured three stories about weddings — each reported in the purple prose typical of the time. The weddings, however, were quite different. One was hushed-up, one was loudly celebrated, and one had dire consequences.
The Democrat first reported on a wedding in Clinton in nearby Henry County. The Rev. Dr. Wood performed a ceremony that united newspaperman G. F. Mitchell, of the Clinton Democrat, and Blanche Stewart, the daughter of Dr. Stewart.
The Sedalia reporters thought it was amusing that Mitchell had not announced his wedding in the Clinton papers, which generally printed flowery reports of how “the lucky winner of female loveliness” won his bride. The Sedalia Democrat, therefore, printed an announcement of the wedding with a note instructing the Clinton paper to “Please copy.”
The second wedding, observing the niceties of etiquette, was properly announced. Numerous friends of brideElizabeth Delaney and groom Mitchell Carroll gathered at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church to witness the Rev. Graham administer the sacrament of holy matrimony with all the expected pomp and ceremony. Mr. Thomas Kerby and Miss Mary Buckley served as attendants. After the services, the wedding party and guests traveled by carriage to the home of the bride’s father at the corner of St. Louis Street and Washington Avenue.
The wedding reception began when the Rev. Graham arrived. Guests “demolished” the bride’s cake, a “quite handsome, highly flavored, and exceedingly well-baked” confection, followed by nuts, candies, and other cakes. While the guests enjoyed the refreshments and the couple reveled in their good fortune, a company of uninvited boys aged 5 through 15 gathered outside. Armed with tin cans and sticks with which to beat them, they raised their discordant voices in a raucous serenade know as a chariviri.
The new Mrs. Carroll sat next to her husband, with “a cloud of unpleasantness resting on her placid countenance.” A guest begged the crowd to go, but they demanded wine, cigars, and cake before they would leave. The guest promised a hogshead of cigars the next morning, but the mob demanded a box of cigars now. Best man Tom Kerby delivered a box of cigars to the porch. The “hoodlums” pounced on the box, and the larger boys took most of them, leaving the younger boy s to continue their serenade until they were promised future payoffs.
The Democrat noted that its reporters had believed the “charivaris were a lost art and hope that we may never witness another one.”
No doubt Mr. and Mrs. Carroll agreed.
The third wedding had supposedly taken place several weeks earlier. A young woman described by the Democrat as “healthy, fresh, and rosy girl” lived with her widowed mother in Greene County. The girl was illiterate, “an innocent, unsophisticated country girl” who had “never seen anything of the world.”
There, this “handsome country lass” met a “flashy, foppish young man.”
The two became acquainted, and in a few weeks, he proposed marriage. She accepted. The wedding ceremony was planned and the young man arranged for a minister. Shortly after the wedding, the young man persuaded his bride to move with him to Sedalia, where he had good business prospects.
The couple arrived in Sedalia and took rooms in a respectable and costly boarding house on South Ohio Avenue. The young man did not go to work, but was full of promises about his grandiose business plans and real estate development schemes. He neglected to pay the rent for some weeks, however, and the landlady pressed him for payment. One Saturday evening, the young man boarded an M.K. and T. train, telling his wife he was going to get some money and would return the next day.
Three days later, he had not returned, and the young woman had begun to be suspicious of both her wedding and her husband. She deduced that the wedding was a sham, performed not by a minister, but by a friend of her husband, whom she now knew to be a thorough scoundrel. The Democrat reported that she cried incessantly as she realized the bleakness of her situation, “deserted far away from home, among strangers and entirely destitute,” and very possibly pregnant.
The landlady took pity on the young woman and the two visited the mayor, asking him if the city could provide train fare back to her home in Greene County. The mayor told them the city had no funds for transportation, and suggested the young woman get a job as a housekeeper and save her wages for train fare. She agreed, noting that she had always worked at home. The mayor promised to help her find such a position.