My maternal grandmother, Leora (Goff) Wilson was almost married on Valentine’s Day, over 100 years ago.
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 would hire out sometimes to do some sewing.
And in 1912, after her parents bought a farm at Wichita in Guthrie County, and her sisters were older, two Goff brothers moved to a farm a couple of miles away and needed someone to cook for them. She kept house for them during the day, gathering dead wood from a nearby grove to use in the cooking range, then that spring rode a bicycle home to read in the newspaper all about the sinking of the Titanic.
Grandmother Jordan was widowed in February of 1913, 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 younger brother was also visiting.
Their first real date was to a Chautauqua at Panora.
They became engaged Christmas night, after attending church at the Monteith Christian Church. Clabe gave her a silver vanity set–mirror, brush, and comb–as he loved her mass of dark brown hair. She hadn’t thought to give him something. He said he’d like the “Home Sweet Home” picture 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.
Their wedding was held February 15, 1914, at the Wichita, Iowa, 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.
Roads had drifted 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, and 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.
For their wedding, Clabe bought 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.
That house is still standing, at 105 W. Lane Street.