Unknown Courtship

Commercial marriage certificate in frame - Edward E Dow and Viola Bell Bennett - 16 April 1887

Commercial marriage certificate in frame – Edward E Dow and Viola Bell Bennett – 16 April 1887

Insert in framed Certificate of Marriage with marriage information for Edward E Dow and Viola Bell Bennett (Benitt) - 16 April 1887.

Insert in framed Certificate of Marriage with marriage information for Edward E Dow and Viola Bell Bennett (Benitt) – 16 April 1887.

Wouldn’t you love to hear about the courtship of your ancestors? I would, but I have no records about their relationships prior to marriage licenses. No letters. No diaries. No journals. No written family histories.

What I do know, according to the records and family stories, is some of what happened to them after they married.  Today, 16 April, is the anniversary of my paternal great grandparents – Edward E. Dow and Viola Bell Bennett – who married in 1887. Ed was 24 and Bell was 19. Rev. John Oiler, a Freewill Baptist minister and husband of Ed’s half sister, performed the ceremony in Jackson County, Ohio.

This union produced ten daughters, the oldest of whom died in childhood, and two sons – Fanny, Eileen, Ruby, Flossie, Mabel, Blanche, Catherine, Walter, Dorothy, Ray, Jennie, and Mina – between 1888 and 1908. Ed worked in the coal mines, as his father did, in Ohio, and continued to work in the mines when they moved to Michigan between 1901 and 1902. Flossie and Mabel made the newspaper for perfect attendance at Roeser School in Saginaw, Michigan, on 23 June 1903.[1]  By 1910, Ed was farming according to the census.

While living in Saginaw, Bell was a member of the Magnolia Lodge Number 143, Daughters of Rebekah. At the April 1910 meeting, Ed and Bell celebrated their 23rd anniversary with their friends along with four other couples who had been married in April.  The celebration consisted of a mock wedding complete with matrons of honor and wedding music. Among the apple blossom decorations, they dined on a “bountiful supper.” Afterwards, they enjoyed dancing.[2] That was the most exciting find for me – to imagine my great grandparents dancing the night away!

Ed and Bell decided to sell their farm in Michigan between 1914 and 1915 and try farming in Florida. Their daughter Ruby married before they left and moved to Ohio. With their other eight daughters and sons, they traveled by train to land they had purchased sight unseen in Putnam County, Florida. The family story is that the train was fueled by coal, which was plentiful in the north; but the farther south they traveled, the train switched to wood as fuel. When they ran out of wood, the train would stop, and all the men would chop down some trees and load the logs on the train. The women and children got off the train and played and visited while the men worked. When they had as much wood as the train could hold, they would all get back on board and travel until they ran out of wood again.

I don’t know how long Ed farmed in Kenwood, but by 1916 they found it necessary to move to Jacksonville, and Ed began working for the railroad. After living in several homes, the couple purchased a former rum runner boat, sunk it at the Foot of Dora Street, and made it into a houseboat.

Foot of Dora Street, Jacksonville, Florida - houseboat. Watercolor by Darrell Chatraw

Foot of Dora Street, Jacksonville, Florida – houseboat. Watercolor by Darrell Chatraw

Adventure, dancing, and lots of children. This was hardly a dull couple. You can read more about Edward Dow at Births That Caused a Truce, and Viola Bell at The No Name Baby Girl. Still, I would like to know a little about their courtship, especially if it was anything like their marriage.

[1] “City Chat,” Saginaw Evening News, 24 June 1903, p.11, col. 3; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 1 January 2014).

[2] “Social Life,” Saginaw Daily News, 27 April 1910, p.9, col.4; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 1 January 2014).

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One Response to Unknown Courtship

  1. Just today I found the Saginaw City Directories online through the Saginaw Public Library website at http://dtsearch.saginawlibrary.org/index.asp. I searched for Edward Dow from 1901 through 1916 when I knew he was in Florida. I found him living in various residences and his occupation listed as a miner through 1914. I did not find him in 1901, nor did I find him or any of his daughters listed in 1915 or thereafter. The 1910 census listed his occupation as a farmer; so I don’t know if he farmed after 1910, or if mining was the real bread and butter for the family and he farmed on the side. It might be that he really farmed and the city directories did not update his occupation. There is a farm number (1) listed for his farm on the census. The source for the 1910 census is: 1910 U.S. census, Saginaw County, Michigan, population schedule, Saginaw Township, ward 18, p. 213 (stamped), enumeration district (ED) 67, sheet 24-A, dwelling 393, family 404, Edward Dow; digital images, HeritageQuest Online (access through participating libraries : accessed 16 April 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 672.

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