I’m delighted to be back as a guest at Petticoat and Pistols, a blog that’s chockfull of great information! I’ve found myself perusing previous posts, sharing a laugh or a nostalgic sigh as I filled up on historical tidbits.
I’m especially excited that in three days The Substitute Bride, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, will hit the shelves. It was a fun story to write—with a mail-order bride, disgruntled groom and a small, personality-filled town. Here’s a peek:
They Struck a Bargain for Marriage
Fleeing an arranged marriage, debutante Elizabeth Manning exchanges places with a mail-order bride bound for New Harmony, Iowa. Life on the frontier can’t be worse than forced wedlock to pay her father’s gambling debts. But Ted Logan’s rustic lifestyle and rambunctious children prove to be more of a challenge than Elizabeth expects. She doesn’t know how to be a mother or a wife. She doesn’t even know how to tell Ted the truth about her past—especially as her feelings for him grow. Little does she know, Ted’s hiding secrets of his own. When their pasts collide, there’s more than one heart at stake.
Why was Ted disgruntled? When he and Elizabeth are about to speak their vows, the bride suggests one teeny change—the name on the marriage license. J A clear sign trouble lies ahead for this couple.
Perhaps you know an interesting or funny incident that took place at a wedding ceremony. If so, please share.
As a homemaker and mother, Elizabeth Manning is definitely a “fish out of water.” Yet no matter how inept she is, she never gives up, even finds unique ways to handle the children and her new and very challenging life on the farm. I admire her spirit and fortitude—the same attributes that enabled women to survive the challenges of the West.
In my quest for information to write this story a friend suggested I read Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier. The author Chris Enss relates fascinating stories of men and women who wed sight unseen. My husband and I dated for 2½ years. After we married, it didn’t take long to discover we still had things to learn about one another. All good, of course. LOL Can you imagine the surprises in store for these couples who may have only exchanged a few letters or perhaps a picture and often never met until their wedding day?
Why did these women leave behind everything and everyone they knew to take the amazing step of marrying a stranger? Some were motivated by the fear of spinsterhood. Others had a desperate need of life’s necessities and hoped for a better life. In today’s world a high percentage of marriages are arranged, a norm for many cultures.
In the Gold Rush era in America, men in the West needed wives. Men and women seeking a mate placed personal advertisements in newspapers, giving physical description, their financial situation and whom they sought. Throughout the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s a weekly newspaper, The Matrimonial News, printed in both San Francisco, California and Kansas City, Missouri, facilitated matchmaking.
In Hearts West, I found the mail-order bride account of Eleanor Berry, a teacher from California, particularly interesting. Twenty-two and afraid she’d be a spinster, Eleanor responded to Louis Dreibelbis’ advertisement for a bride. Louis described himself as wealthy and average-looking. Their three month correspondence led to a marriage proposal. Eleanor resigned her teaching position and took a train then a six-horse stagecoach carrying twelve other passengers. The trip was uneventful trip—until four bandits held up the stagecoach. As they were about to use gunpowder to blow the door off a safe onboard, Eleanor protested the loss of the trunk holding her trousseau. When the leader hauled it down, Eleanor noted a jagged scar on the back of his hand. Reaching her destination, Eleanor prepared for the ceremony. Though her groom looked surprised when he saw her and Eleanor thought his voice sounded familiar, the two exchanged vows. As Eleanor signed the marriage license then passed the pen to Louis, she saw that same jagged scar. She screamed and ran upstairs. Louis rode off, wondering how his bride had recognized him as the thief. Eleanor returned home too embarrassed to admit what happened, but when the truth came out, she attempted suicide. The fast action of her guardian and local doctors saved her life. Two months after the robbery, sheriff’s deputies caught up with Louis. He testified against his fellow bandits, was released and given a one-way ticket to his hometown in Illinois, warned never to return to California. Hearts West makes fascinating reading and I recommend it to anyone interested in mail-order bride stories. Though I’m unsure how many marriages occurred, the accounts of those that did prove the outcome of these mail-order bride matches varied from wedded bliss to the misery Eleanor experienced.
An interesting attempt at meeting the need for wives was devised by Asa Mercer. In 1864 and again in 1866 when men far outnumbered women in Washington Territory, Mercer tried to bring a shipload of marriageable women from the East to Seattle. Bachelors gave Mercer money to finance the trip and bring them back a bride. Delays and other complications hindered the success of Mercer’s plan. The number of the Mercer Maids, as they came to be called, willing and able to make the trip didn’t live up to the expectation of the waiting bachelors who’d paid for a bride, creating quite an uproar when the ship docked five months after it left New York’s harbor. The trip had cost more than Mercer had calculated so he couldn’t refund their money or live up to his promises. Though Mercer’s intentions were good, others intentionally swindled people who paid money for a mail-order mate that never materialized.
But if not for those brave women who moved west to marry and make a home for their husbands and children—establishing families, as well as founding institutions like churches, schools and libraries, we might not have seen such flourishing civilization of the frontier.
Did any of your ancestors marry for convenience? If so, please share their stories.
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