Volume III, No. 4, Summer 1976


by Terry Brandt

Drawings by Emery Savage, Interviews by Danny Hough, Donna Scott, Teresa Maddux and Terry Brandt

When a team of horses were hitched to a wagon or plow, they knew they were expected to share equally in the responsibility of pulling the load. Getting hitched, the expression meaning getting married, though used humorously, is nevertheless an appropriate metaphor. For marriage meant that the young man and woman were binding themselves together to share in the load of a life time of responsibilities and labor to build a home, raise a family and do their part in the community.

Carrying the comparison still farther, like the horses, they had been trained since early childhood in farming and homemaking skills so that they were ready and eager to take their place in the adult community.


One of the now prevalent traditions of the bride wearing white at the ceremony was seldom practiced in this area until more recent years. Usually the bride would choose her favorite color or the color that was most attractive for her. The dresses were also practical because their use did not stop after the wedding, but they were worn to church and other dress-up socials.

Dorothy McMicken told us about the determination it took to shop for a special dress in a small rural town. "I wanted blue and blue was what I was going to have. I could find everything but blue, so I looked at Richland and Crocker. They kept showing me dresses and I said blue. And sure enough I got a pale blue dress, long sleeved one the length they wore them."

Although dresses were available at town stores later in the early 1900's, buying them was a luxury most could not afford. Nor did many consider it. Most women chose to make or have someone make their wedding dresses.

Mary Moore was married in "a dress that was brown. It was really mixed as much blue as it was brown, trimmed in white silk. It was clear down to the bottom. It touched the floor in the back. They didn't wear none of them trains then in them days. Nothing like that. But they wore them down--clear down. My mother made it. We bought the material and she made it in a couple of days and then done her other work, too. There wasn't a lot of fancy work to it."


"My dress was a light blue taffeta," Lois Beard said. "It was beautiful. Of course, it had to be made. I never had a store bought dress at that time. Mother didn't want to make it. She was not too good a hand to sew, she didn't think, so I rode horseback with my material down to my good friends Jim and Frances Davis. Frances was a good hand to sew. I stayed all day and she made my wedding dress. Now I'd say the length of it was about one half way between my knee and ankle. It had a waistline cut separate and there was a panel of shadowed lace about eight-teen inches wide on either side that flowed loose from the waistline. The shadowed lace was embroidered around the bottom. Then a tie belt tied in a bow in the back and the sleeves were sheer.

"Cole's suit was blue with a little bitty pin stripe. We had no flowers, not even a corsage nor buttoneer. We didn't dream of such a thing as going to town to buy flowers. It didn't enter our minds."

The man wore a suit usually brown or blue. Mary said, "There wasn't no matching or nothing like that done. People didn't have money to do things like they do now."

"I wore a brown lady's suit and high topped shoes," Myrtle Hough said. "It was brown, sort of brown and probably more of a beige than a brown, but it was brown tones. And a white blouse and a little cap that matched the suit. And white kid gloves. Elvie really was fixed up. He had a blue serge suit. He really looked nice."

Showers were not commonly given to the bride. "Of course, we didn't have a shower," Lois said. "Back fifty-two years ago you never heard of a shower. But we had a few wedding presents--just a few. We had a kerosene lamp given to us. We didn't have any towels or sheets given us. I know we didn't have many things given to us--a dish or two, but no sets of dishes, no big elaborate things--a teakettle."

"I don't think anyone got invitations, so they wasn't expected to give," Dorothy said. "But if there was someone in the family like aunts or Charles' sister, she liked to do fancy work and she give us pillow slips and embroidered sheets. And the aunt gave us a bedspread and we got a dresser scarf end just things like that from close relatives and close friends. But as far as them being told so they felt like they should do it, why they didn't.

"Sometimes I've heard a cow was given to a daughter when she got married, but it wasn't always done. Probably a farmer that was a little above average was one that did that."


After the preparations were complete the ceremony would take place. There was no typical Ozark wedding, for they varied with the tastes and community. Large church weddings like we have today were virtually unheard of in rural areas. It was more likely the couples were married in the pastor's home, their home or in the court house.

"Usually country folks got married then on Sunday or Saturday nights, usually around in the home," Brother Patterson said. "The minister, relatives and everybody would go in. But in the towns and the larger places, occasionally, there would be a church wedding."

"Charles and I were married at the pastor's home in Crocker," Dorothy said. "My brother was here from St. Louis, he and his girlfriend (later his wife). They wanted to be at the wedding, so we got married on Wednesday night at eight o'clock. We were without a church house at that time as a tornado had blown it away, but I doubt if we would have been married in the church. Usually marriages were performed either in the pastor's house or have the pastor come to their house."

Ashford and Ella Hough were married in their pastor's home, but it wasn't as convenient. "I was twenty-two and he was twenty-eight when we got married," Ella said, "so we weren't kids anymore. We went to Springfield and had our pastor marry us in his home."

"We sneaked off!" Ashford teased. "Our pastor lived in Springfield, see. We went to Springfield to his home and got married. He had different churches he came to. Lebanon was one of his churches as was our little church in the country. He maybe preached different churches, but he preached here once a month."

"Our pastors would come down Saturday and be there Sunday and Sunday night,"


Ella explained. "Then go back Monday. They'd stay around with members of the church--different ones would invite them to come stay with them. The churches couldn't support a minister full time. They would come once a month and preach."

"We had half a dozen different preachers during that period of time--lived in Springfield," Ashford explained. "We didn't have many of our native preachers that preached in our church during those times we're talking about. It was mostly Springfield preachers that belonged to the conference, and time for conference annual meet was when they'd assign pastors to churches they were supposed to take care of. It works all right, but a preacher can't do you much good just coming down, preach and go back. He doesn't have a chance to know who he's preaching to.

"We could do mean things and he wouldn't know about it. Now if he was living here, he'd catch up with us. That's the trouble with preachers today. They kind of keep checking on us! But we both were active in church before we were married. We were raised that way. We didn't fight it, we liked it--to be part of it. And since we got married we, of course, think more of one another and we try harder to live together. In fact, I had such a hard time getting married the first time, I don't want to take another chance."

Lois and Cole chose to have the preacher come to her father's home to perform the service. "The older four in our family married in a little over a year. I was the youngest of the four. We were about worn out with marriages, but I was the only one in the family that had a home wedding. My dad was always proud of that. He thought I had honored him by being married in the home he had provided. And I've always been proud that I did that."

Brother Patterson said, "I was married in the home of my wife's parents. There's one oddity about it. She was the organist in the Methodist Church. And I was superintendent of the Baptist Sunday School in two different places. So usu\-ally the bridegroom leaves it up to the bride to select a pastor to perform the ceremony. She wanted her pastor to do it and I'm glad of it. He hesitated because he knew he was going to lose an organist, and I was gaining one. So he protested the wedding. He didn't want us to get married"

The county courthouse was also a fitting place where the entire service could take place. The couple could get the license and the services of a minister for under five dollars.

"Our wedding was rather simple," Myrtle said. "Elvie came after me on Saturday morning and we went to town and we were married in the courthouse by the pastor of the First Methodist Church.

And you could buy your license there. It cost $2 to buy a license and $2 for the preacher. I was scared stiff. I didn't know what was happening. Elvie walked in and give them $2 and told them our names and our ages. I don't remember exactly what else he did. I was walking on air at that time. The recorder of deeds were friends of ours, so they stood up with us. None of our families were there."

The Lampkins also went before the judge. "You didn't see these big weddings like you go through now, because you did well to get a wedding dress," Ila said. "Most people, I said most people--we went before a judge because I guess it was more simple--but I believe most people then went to judges. Most of the friends I know did. You'd go to the courthouse. You'd go get your license and go in to the judge, you had two witnesses and the judge would marry you. Then you'd go back home and live with your folks for about a year until you got able to get you a place to go to. We didn't have a new house waiting for us then."

Some women had engagement and wedding rings, but there was no general practice. Most usually had a plain gold wedding band. Mary had a solid gold ring. Only in recent times have the man and wife both had rings. Though Brother Patterson has performed many marriages, he doesn't much care for present day double ring ceremonies. "Now I tell you one thing, it'll be a long time till I get used to the double ring ceremony. It's divided. First is, 'I take thee, June, to be my lawful wife' and then she says, 'I take thee to be my lawful wedded husband.' And then they take their vows in that ceremonial. When that's over we enter the double ring ceremony. The bridesmaid has the bride's ring and she gives it to me. And then I make that remark about the emblem and the significance of its bond being endless. And then I give it to her and she puts it on his finger and repeats after me, 'With this ring I thee wed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.' It's the bridegroom that has her ring and then he gives it to the other man and he gives it to the groom--no, gives it to her and she--I don't know! But it was quite a ceremony.


"After the ceremony later on when we were associated with churches and church weddings, we had receptions, but usually it was in the home in most cases. The family and relatives and the neighbors would come in and they'd have a pretty good feast. Then the ceremony after. But the reception and entertainment and things like that, back in those days when small towns and rural communities wasn't much known about."

Front and inside of a wedding invitation

The marriage in the older days was a very solid bond in many ways stronger than today's. The vow "til death do us part" was almost always kept sacred. "It really was a disgrace. It was more or less a disgrace, people who were divorced back in those days," Ila said. "I think people were more serious in those days. I think life was harder and they were serious about who they married and they were taught that when they married that was until death. That was one thing that was taught to me--to be very careful because when I married that was unto death. We really didn't have a whole lot of choice, but again we were careful."

"It seems like we have more divorce now than we did back then," Dorothy said. "I think there is more independence on the woman's part anymore. She can work and she can make her way. Back then it was expected that the man work. The man provided. And now the woman is equal. Now she can say, 'Oh well, I don't have to take anything off of him because I can make my way.' I believe that's it. Like myself now, if I had been dissatisfied with Charles, I just wonder what I would have done. I'd never worked out. I didn't know a thing about working away from home. Now I just wonder what I would have done except go back to my parents. But if I was young now, I'd do just like others do, perhaps. And most all of them has got good education now and they can go ahead and get a job if they're not happily married."

Long after the knot of marriage has been tied, the strength of the enduring bonds still last. "Now she's been dead fifteen years," Brother Patterson said. "I don't know, but my daughters when they come home and notice that many of the articles, particularly in the kitchen and around the place is just like she left them. This divan was just like and so was the desk. Many things. She had a certain place in the cupboard in there for one thing and I keep it that way. You know we were together forty-eight years after we married. And you get used to somebody that long."



After the wedding there wasn't very often a honeymoon. "Our honeymoon started about five o'clock that evening," Brother Patterson continued. We got in the buggy and thought we was going on a trip. I mean just drive around the country for two or three hours--that's about as far as our plans went. We didn't make Niagara Falls or New York City or any long trips, because the travel conveniences weren't what they are now. We traveled perhaps a mile and a half and the old horse was fighting nit flies and horse flies so I couldn't turn the lines loose, and I said, 'Oh shucks, let's go home.' So we went down to the little house where we had fixed up to set up housekeeping. I went about my chores the next morning and she went about putting things straight and fixing up her house. That's all the honeymoon we had, but you know, that was because of circumstances and finances and motor traveling. We hadn't thought about those other places. We just grew up there in those communities where the church was about the only thing in the social connections."

Instead of a honeymoon more often the family had a large dinner for the newlyweds right after the ceremony. This happened to Lois. "They had a supper for us--Mother and Dad did--real nice, elegant at that day and time. But there was no show, fanfare or nothing fancy like we have today.

"We were married at my father's home on Sunday afternoon at four o'clock. We had the supper at six. We spent the night there at my dad's. And the next morning we got up it was snowing and was cold as the blazes. We got in the buggy and went to his parents for the infare dinner. That was the one, like for instance when they have a wedding rehearsal, the parents of the groom has a supper or something for the wedding party. That's in the same order as the infare dinner, only the cousins and neighbors or who all is invited come in and the women help fix an old hen and noodles, dumplings or a baked chicken or something. They helped the parents prepare the dinner. And they have that big feed for the groom and his bride in their home."

After the dinner, depending on the circumstances, the couple would spend the night with their parents or their new home. Dorothy said, "I don't recall anybody going on a honeymoon. Usually they didn't have any more than they needed to set up housekeeping with and I know that was the way with my sister that lived a half a mile from me. Her and her husband got married the 24th of December and they went in a buggy up to the Christian preacher just about a mile from our home to get married. And she kept saying as she put up the Christmas decorations, 'I've got to quit.' She had her hair all done up in curlers. She said, I'm going to have to quit after awhile for I'm getting married.' She kept telling us and we didn't believe she meant it. But sure enough she did, and she had beaded a beautiful dress for her wedding. Put in so much work on that beaded dress. So they had to go up there in a buggy, and the snow, I guess, was clear up there by the step of the buggy. They went to his folks that night.

"Then the next night they set at the table and figured out how much everything was going to cost. They put down the necessary things to go to housekeeping with. And it's surprising how many things it would take. It cost quite a little bit back then to start out. They started out with as little as they could possibly get by on. They could add to it as they went along."


Lois recalls the first home she and Cole moved into. "We had about fifty-two dollars and a half worth of furnishings for that house. We had a dresser in the front room with two beds and we had six chairs that went with the dining table we'd bought. He bought the dining table at a sale and paid two dollars and a half for it! And a little four cap cook stove. Did you ever see one? It was a little bitty narrow thing that sets up on legs with a little oven door on either side. It's cute. But anyway, that's the kind of stove I had and it set up on bricks it was so short. He'd made a cook table and I had a set of plates and a set of teacups and saucers and one platter. Then we got a milk bucket or two and a milk strainer and a crock to put our milk in.

"We had everthing pretty handy for a beginner's life. There wasn't much in that little house--bare floors painted brown. The beds were in the front room, for that's all the room we had. Just a bed on either side. They were iron--I still have them--with a round post that went all the way over with little gold spots on them. I had made bedspreads just alike and appliquéd them all the way around out of unbleached muslin. And they had a pillow sham that went across. And I had maybe a couple pictures on the wall that he had bought. And the old log house was papered with building paper that was tacked on and then we put the wall paper on that. We had a few pots and pans. We got along.

"We had plenty of meat hanging in the smoke house and fruit upstairs by the flue where it would keep warm in the wintertime. It was a pretty good way to start out. Not too many people had anything any better."


Even after the marriage vows and settling in their new home, no couple felt they were completely married until they had been officially greeted with a shivaree. A few nights after the marriage, their neighbors and friends, banging pots and pans and firing shotguns, would startle them out of bed.

"Oh, they done everything that could be done," Mary said. "But then, I'll tell you what they didn't do. They never tore up nothing. But you'd think they was going to. They did it just because you was friends. If one failed to have a shivaree it was someone wasn't very well thought of. If they didn't have no shivaree made it kind of bad."

Lois and Cole really had a big shivaree. "Oh my goodness, yes we had a shivaree. But they shivareed us before we got in our own home. They shivareed us the second night after we were married. They picked up over a hundred shotgun shells in the yard the next morning.

"People did it just to bug you. It was just as normal to shivaree a new married couple then as it is for them to go on a honeymoon now. That was just your greeting in the community. And you better have your candy and cigars ready, too, because you sure got to go to the pond. They'd put you in the creek or the pond or something.

"But we had two or three boxes of candy and a box of cigars ready and we just had a good time when that group came into the house. Why, my goodness, the house was so crowded you couldn't see.

"They had circle saws. Did you ever see a circle saw? A saw that's about so big around with teeth all the way around it and they'd take it off of the saw rig and someone carries it on a pole and beats it from both sides. It rings just like two or three bells being rung. It makes a terrible noise. They had all kinds of horns like fox horns. They had them a-blowing from every corner and all that beating and a-pounding and someone hitting the house. Oh, it sounded like they were going to tear the place down.

"We knew it was a-coming," Lois continued, "because we always knew they always did that. I'd been in a few shivarees, but I don't care for them really. I really like a greeting all right when new people move into the neighborhood or a marriage, but I don't like all that noise. It just seems like it's carrying it too far. I'd rather just go down and sit down in a yard and sing awhile. I like that so much better than shivarees because I have seen a few dangerous things at a shivaree. I've seen them shoot the corner of the house through and I have known a few people getting hurt. I sort of have a fear on it. So I'll stay away from a shivaree."


No one was immune to a shivaree because of their age. Brother Patterson told us of one incident. "I'll tell you there were lots of them back then there in those hills. Shivarees were peculiar to certain communities and they shivareed any age.

"My father married a couple one time that was past fifty, maybe sixty. We all got our washtubs and dinner bells and cowbells and horns. One of the boys brought an old shotgun. He'd shoot it in the air, you know. We gathered at their house, and they didn't know we were coming. We slipped around and surrounded the house--just a two room building. And when the racket started, that lady let out a yell you could have heard, well it was like a wild cat down in the swamp. But he came out and tried to get us to leave, but of course, in that case we had to go through the whole rigamarole. Somebody got a rail and we grabbed him by the arm, put him astraddle of the rail and hauled him around the house. That old lady. I felt so sorry for her. She was standing in the door just a-crying. She thought we was going to kill her hubby."

Myrtle and Elvie's shivaree was very unusual. "Oh, I was teaching school," Myrtle recalled. "We were having a pie supper when the young folks in the neighborhood decided they were going to shivaree us. And they really did take that house down! They just shot guns and done everything you could think of. They rang bells and yelled and shouted round about the schoolhouse. Nearly broke the pie supper up. We were having a program--a good program. I had about sixty pupils in the school. It was a night. So these friends of ours and the neighborhood and everybody else you could think of and where I'd taught school for three or four years, they all just really gave us a shivaree. They really got a little bit too rough. We couldn't treat them because the directors of the school didn't like it for making noise at the schoolhouse. They got angry and got out and arrested some of the boys and made them pay a fine for disturbing the peace. Nobody meant anything by it, but you know how young folks are."


It must have been quite a scare to an eastern bride not accustomed to the ways of her new community. That factor certainly added to the fun and enjoyment of the neighbors participating. Elvie has helped in many shivarees at home. "We'd just get a crowd together and organize. Ones would bring certain things to make racket with--shotguns and bells and horns, them big old saws, circular saws you cut wood with. Couple of fellows'd carry it, put a stick through the eye, you know. They'd carry it and a couple people behind would just pound that thing. Then they'd treat cigars and candy. If they didn't treat you it was just too bad. Take him to the closest mud hole and put him in it. Most generally they treat though, not for that to happen. Some of them did ride him on a rail. They just really put him on rail. Someone would hold him up on one side of it. One man holding on each end of the rail and the one on the rail jumping around. Oh, they wouldn't carry them too far, just to introduce them to it."

"You can imagine how uncomfortable it'd be someone carrying you half a mile on nothing but a rail," Myrtle added. "They didn't do anything to the bride. Just the groom. They left the bride a-weeping and a-wailing afraid they was going to kill him.

"I remember when a couple lived down in the little house on the creek," Myrtle continued. "We shivareed them one night. But they weren't expecting it and they didn't have any treat for us. But they wasn't too many of us. There's about a dozen and a half or two dozen of us. And we just made...bells, guns, horns. We didn't do anything to the groom that time. We just felt sorry for him and let him go back in the house, for it was a cold, cold night. Snow was on the ground. That would probably have made him sick if they'd took him out and dumped him or rolled him in the snow."


Though shivarees were fun for most, it was the neighborhood's welcoming the beginning of a new family life in the community and wishing them well. The new couple immediately got down to the serious business of setting up housekeeping, making a living and learning to live together.Girls often had hope chests of linens and bedding, but right away they worked together setting up for housekeeping. Dorothy found out early the kind of man she'd married. "I never had a shower, or a hope chest, either. I had some things in a trunk. The day after we were moved in--we lived with his folks--I went home and got my trunk. We started back over here and we had three flat tires in that old model T. Every time he had to unload to get to the car tools to fix that flat. That's when I knew Charles was pretty wonderful. He never said one bad word."

"We didn't have Showers," Myrtle said. "So you young folks can be so thankful. In this day and time we always give our young folks showers. But nobody had showers. Aren't you glad you're living in this day and time? We just began to buy. I had what we call now a hope chest. It was just a big old trunk. I had it full of this and that and the other--linens and so on. But that's all we had."

Like the McMickens, the Lamkins also stayed with his parents for awhile. "There wasn't jobs then," Ila said. "Only farm jobs back in the country. And what you usually did, why you just farmed, and pretty soon you'd maybe get a house somewhere, and you'd work somewhere on a farm. My goodness, and about the first time you was able to afford a cow and some pigs you thought you was really doing good. It was very simple compared to what it is now."

Some couples were fortunate enough to have a place of their own to move to. Ashford said, "We was living on a farm. I had a farm at the time and we were farmers. But we were broke most of the time and she taught school two years to give us something to eat! Back in those days we didn't have lots of money. But we lived good and she was a good cook. I was really a fair provider. I batched for two years before we were married on this farm, so you can see why I was beginning to get anxious. We had a house to live in. It was on the farm when I got it. It was just a place to live, is what you'd call it. An humble home."


But all our people agreed life was good. "Nobody knew anything different" is the comment we heard constantly when talking about earlier times. Everyone had the necessary shelter, no one went hungry and they had love for each other, supported by the security of their relatives and neighbors all around them.

When Myrtle asked us, "Aren't you glad you're living in this day and time?" Danny (her grandson) answered hesitantly and without much conviction, "I guess."

For Elva Houghs, Ashford Houghs, Lamkins, Brother Patterson, Lois Beard and Dorothy McMicken all helped us see that the basic things all of us strive for---peace, companionship, love and security, and a meaningful occupation with time for fun--were so obviously achieved in their less complicated time.

*     *     *     *     *

Our wedding day was on Sunday morning, December 11, 1910. We had a wonderful nice day. We celebrated our 65th anniversary this past December. Our attendants are still living and August's brother, Walter, is now pastor of that same little church.

Another brother, Emil was the one we chose to do the inviting. He was given the list of the relatives, friends and neighbors he was to invite. He wore his best dress hat and then went out to do the inviting. All those that he invited would give him a ribbon, and either they or he would pin it to his hat. He had quite a number of ribbons by the time all the people were invited and they were many colors and lengths. He then wore this hat on our wedding day with the ribbons. His horse also had a few ribbons on its bridle.

I believe we were the first couple to be married in our church, Freedom Lutheran Church. They would always have it in the homes, but August wanted to be married before the altar. The pastor walked down the isle, then August and I and then my cousin Dora, bridesmaid, and Walter, best man, came last. We walked in side by side two and two. There were chairs set up in front of the altar where we sat all during the regular church service. The pastor based his sermon on the Wedding at Canaan. Then after the sermon, the wedding ceremony followed in German. The congregation sang the hymn, "With the Lord Begin Thy Task, Jesus Will Direct It."

After the service all the invited guests went to my home which was located about a two mile journey near the Gasconade River. Emil riding his horse took the lead. We were all in buggies, wagons or horseback. There were no cars.

When we reached my home there was a nice dinner waiting for all of us. My parents had butchered a hog on Friday and a number of chickens. The hams were cooked in the big black kettle outside the evening before and were they good! The cake had been baked in a tube pan and then put on a nice cake stand.

The next evening the choir was scheduled to practice for the Christmas season. After the practice they surprised us with a shivaree at Emil's home. A good crowd had gathered to make a lot of noise. Our relatives had made a lot of pies and cakes for all to enjoy.

Emma and August Niewald describe their wedding day.


Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.

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