I want one of my characters, the hero in Montana Rose, (these aren’t out yet) to perform a marriage ceremony in Wildflower Bride, Book #3. My hero fills in for the circuit riding pastor and does the work of a minister in this small frontier town. Now these days, you can get a license and call yourself a preacher over the internet. It’s wide open. I mean, sure it’s a huge commitment if you want to be a Catholic priest, but you wanta be a pastor in the church of Elvis Presley?
I Googled ‘Minister License Free’ for the purposes of this post and holy moley, it’s easy.
Become an ordained minister legally by our online Christian ministry for free. … within the 50
Or maybe DON’T.
No idea what’s on these sites but it sure looks easy to legally do baptisms, weddings and funerals: Hatch, Match and Dispatch. You know the baptisms and funerals, sure, I can see that anyone can do that. But marriages? That’s a legal, binding contract, registered with the state. It seems like it’s be harder to be able to do those…but nope…not these days!
Back then, there are references to people ‘marrying’ and having a parson come along and bless the marriage when one was in the area, often after several children had been born. Why not? It’s a promise made before God and man, right? I heard that the Pilgrims did this, once they’d spread from their original settlements. We think of them as seriously conservative, right? But they’d take their vows before their parents or whatever witnesses they could dig up and they were married. Everyone accepted it. And when a circuit rider came along, he’d bless whatever marriages had begun, however long ago that was…and maybe baptize their children while he was handy. So that’s fine, I just think–for my book–I’d better come up with a real marriage.
The thing that makes this especially hard is how much information I DID find. I found a site that listed every church in every town and in many cases the number of members, the day the church was opened, the church building, sometimes photos, the name of the pastor and where he went to school, Princeton, Harvard, there weren’t that many colleges back then. I mean I found serious DETAILS. This picture is of, they believe, the original church built in Bozeman, Montana in 1888. The picture was taken much later, but the records exist and are in pretty good order.
But my original statement about a new conception…what really struck me is how few churches there were. How few pastors, how few towns, how few people. Guess what else? How few women! You know…the west was really empty. The boom towns created by a gold strike, were very often abandoned and while they existed they were few and far between and full of men.
The population in Montana in 1880 was 39,000. Actually 39,129, yes they took a census. Hard to believe, what a job that would have been, huh? Anyway, I’m finding small details here and there that are helping…a little, giving me jumping off spots for my fiction writing. J Think about the pioneers, going days and days and weeks and weeks without seeing another person, living on their Little Houses on the Prairie, having the nearest neighbor be a ten mile ride on a horse away. The nearest town 40 miles and you’d go in once a year. We like to romanticize the wide open spaces and the privacy but could you make it? Could you live that alone?