Leora’s Almost Valentine’s Day Wedding

My maternal grandmother, Leora (Goff) Wilson was almost married on Valentine’s Day, 1914.

As the oldest in a family of ten children, born in Guthrie County, Iowa, in 1880, she wasn’t allowed to go to high school. She was needed at home to help feed her father and seven brothers. And because those brothers thought their father cut their hair too short, Leora got the barbering job.

After graduating 8th Grade in Audubon County, Leora was allowed to go to a six-weeks’ sewing school in Exira, and afterwards hired out sometimes to do some sewing for neighboring families.

After her parents bought a farm at Wichita in Guthrie County, in 1912, and her sisters were older, two Goff brothers moved to a farm a couple of miles away and needed a housekeeper. Leora rode her bike to the place to cook for them, gathering dead wood from a nearby grove for the cooking range. After the housework was done, she rode home to read in the newspaper all about the sinking of the Titanic.

Grandmother Jordan was widowed in February of 1913, so Leora moved in with her at Monteith. One day they visited Grandmother Jordan’s youngest son, Fred and his wife Rectha, in Monteith. Rectha’s handsome older brother, Clabe Wilson, was also visiting.

Clabe and Leora’s first real date was to a Chautauqua at Panora.


They became engaged that Christmas, after attending an evening service at the Monteith Christian Church. Clabe Leora a silver vanity set–mirror, brush, and comb. She hadn’t thought to give him something. He said he’d like the “Home Sweet Home” picture with roses that she’d painted on velvet. “Of course, I got it back,” she added.

That winter Leora made her wedding dress, and her grandmother helped her make quilts and comforters.

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From Leora’s 1942 Bible

Their wedding was held February 15, 1914, at the home of Leora’s parents, Sherd and Laura Goff. It was to be held at noon, but the minister had a difficult time driving his team and buggy more than eight miles through drifted snow. It was a clear day, just windy.

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The Goff house at Wichita, Iowa, probably right before they moved into Guthrie Center, which was at the end of WWI. Clabe and Leora Wilson and two sons are at the left. Ruby and Laura and Sherd Goff are on the right. The rest are neighbors and some of the Goff brothers.
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Map shows the M.S. Goff farm in Seeley Township, just NE of Wichita, where Clabe and Leora were married.

Roads had drifted so badly between there and Panora, where Clabe’s family lived, that his mother and sisters couldn’t be there. The only attendees were Leora’s parents and siblings, and Grandmother Jordan.

One of Leora’s brothers had just had the mumps. The morning of the wedding, Leora felt a little swelling on her neck and jaw. Her parents thought she’d had mumps as a baby. Clabe’s mother thought he had, too, but he came down with them a couple of weeks later. Three of Leora’s brothers also got them. (Another brother would get them in France after WWI.) Mumps was the reason their neighbors cancelled a planned “chivaree” of the newlyweds–a noisy teasing on the wedding night or shortly afterwards.


From the Guthrie Times: Official Paper Of Guthrie County, Thursday, Feb. 19, 1914:

A Quiet Home Wedding

Last Sunday, February 15, 1914, a quiet home wedding was celebrated at the home of Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Goff, near Wichita, Seeley township. It was the giving in marriage of the daughter of the home, Miss Leora Frances Goff to Claborn [sic] Daniel Wilson. On account of illness in the family there were only the immediate friends of the contracting parties present. The ceremony that joined the happy young people together was read by John C. Orth, pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Guthrie Center. At the close of the beautiful service the company was invited to the dining room where an elegant wedding dinner was served, all enjoying the feast. These young people are among the best in the land and number their friends by their acquaintances. They will make their home on a farm in Seeley, where they will soon be at home to their many friends. The Times will be joined in extending congratulations and hearty good wishes for long life and happiness by all their friends.

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Clabe had a set of Rogers silverplate, with oak leaves on the handles. (I still have what’s left of them, although Leora’s wedding dress didn’t survive the Despression Era–the cloth was used up for more urgent needs.)


Whenever anyone mentioned mumps, Grandma Leora Wilson thought of her wedding day, the day after Valentine’s Day in 1914.


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Clabe and Leora Wilson in 1915, in front of Clabe’s mother’s house in Panora, Iowa. Two of Clabe’s sisters were married. The two younger ones, Fonnie (11) and Verna (7) lived here with their mother, Georgia Wilson.

That house is still standing, at 105 W. Lane Street.

105 W. Lane Street, Panora, Iowa. Taken about 2004.
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Guthrie Center, in the center: Where the minister had to drive 8 miles from with a team and buggy. Wichita is in Seeley Township. Find Panora, where Clabe’s mother lived, in the eastern part of Guthrie County.


  1. What great details of and engagement wedding event so long ago! His gifts were so thoughtful. Too bad everyone ended up with the mumps! #RealLife1914

  2. Thanks so much for all the information! It was really interesting!

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