Christmas 1913

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“Oh dear,” Leora said to Clabe. “I didn’t get you anything.”

Clabe Wilson loved Leora Goff’s long dark hair. He gave her a silver vanity set for Christmas – mirror, brush, and comb.

They had just attended Christmas services at the Monteith Christian Church.

“I know something I’d like to have,” Clabe told her. “The Home Sweet Home that you painted.”

She gladly gave him the painting on velvet, with red roses entwined with the words.

Clabe Wilson grew up in the woods of Guthrie County, Iowa, around Glenwood. He lived with his widowed mother and two much younger sisters, whom he’d cared for when his mother was ill and couldn’t.

Still a bachelor at age 26, he probably felt awkward meeting Leora, as he did with new people. But his sister, Rectha, had married Leora’s uncle, Fred Jordan, and they met at their home on the edge of Monteith.

Leora grew up in a large family who enjoyed visiting and having rousing discussions. She could start up a conversation with anyone, a winsome asset around a handsome man of few words.

In June of 1913, Clabe sent her a tentative Good Luck postcard, signed “C.D.W.” That’s all that was on it. I guess it was his way of letting her know he was interested. . . . early “texting.”

It evidently worked. She replied with a To Greet You card. “Dear friend,” it began, then some chitchat, ending “Answer soon. L.G. Guthrie Center.”

Their first real date was to the Chautauqua in Panora in June of that year, traveling there (and everywhere else) by horse and buggy. The Chautauqua advertisement offered “a new set of delightful surprises every day” to the citizens of Guthrie County. “Fine education and uplift. It’s an educational picnic.” An easy way for shy Clabe to get acquainted with Leora.

That Christmas night, they became engaged. Leora, a 1910 graduate of Mrs. Connrardy’s sewing school in Audubon, made her own wedding dress.

Clabe Wilson and Leora Goff were married in the Goff home near Wichita, Iowa, February 15, 1914. The wedding was to be at noon, but was late because the minister from Guthrie Center had a difficult time getting through the eight miles of snow drifts with his team and buggy.

None of Clabe’s family could get there.

The young couple rented the farm from Leora’s Grandmother Jordan, half a mile west of Monteith. Leora knew the house well since her grandparents raised their family there, including Leora’s mother who was born in a log cabin that the house replaced in 1882.

Clabe raised Chester White hogs, his favorites, twenty of them. And purebred Duroc Jerseys, that Clabe’s father was known for. They lived there about a year, until the farm was sold for the first time.

Leora got back the “Home Sweet Home” painted on velvet. It followed Wilsons from home to home throughout the ups and downs of the decades, from the Christmas of 1913.

 
Buggy (2)
Clabe and Leora Wilson in front of the Panora home of Clabe’s mother, 1914.

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