Pre-Wedding Jitters Part 2
December 29, 1896
My Dear Nathaniel,
Just two weeks from tomorrow. Do you realize how near the time is getting? It seems rather strange to me when I think about it. I can hardly believe that I am going to be married, and to you, after all these years we have known each other.
Mattie was a veritable old maid. She had just turned 27. She had been working in a doctor's office for several years. When she was only 18 and the family still lived in Kansas she had been a country school teacher. The women in her mother's family had been active pioneer school teachers and among the first to attend the State Normal School in Emporia, KS.
In the next to last letter Mattie would write to Nat she wanted him to know that she had been valued and brought talents o the marriage.
I have been helping Dr. Linton straighten up his mining stock and other business for the end of the year, and he thinks my services are quite valuable, he said today. I doubt if he ever lets any other assistant into his business affairs, outside of his profession, as he has me. I greatly appreciate the confidence too. He said that I would be able to look after our family accounts and I hope I can help with business affairs too. I had to write my name a number of times today to witness the signing of stock certificates and he told me I'd better write it while I could.
Thursday will be the last day in the office in which I have spend over three and a half years. I can't leave without a felling of parting with friends and I suspect I shall cry, and yet I am glad to go- to you. It will seem strange for me to get up mornings, and not feel the responsibility of going to the office, and that seeing that everything is ready for the day. But I will soon have your interest to look after, your clothes to mend, and the cooking to do to please you. Ah my! What a change it will be, but I shall like it I know, if you don't scold me when I don't please you. But you won't will you? I couldn't bear that.
It is ten o'clock and I must go to bed. What do you do until 12 o'clock every night? You ought to go to bed earlier than that. You must write to me Sunday, even if you do start Tuesday.
Your own Girlie (Mattie)
May your New Year dawn without a cloud.
True to her word, Estelle had been sewing diligently, between badgering Mattie to hold still while she pinned the wedding dress in place. It was now January 6, 1897, less than a week before the wedding. They would marry in a small ceremony at the First United Methodist Church of Colorado Springs and then head by train to Missouri.
The stitches were tiny, almost invisible and the satin caressed her cheek when she picked up the dress and hugged it as a beloved child.
"Mattie!" yelled Estelle, "Don't crush it. You'll ruin all my weeks of work before you walk down the aisle."
Mattie dropped the dress as though she had been caught stealing and immediately apologized to her sister.
"Oh Estelle, I couldn't help it. It's so beautiful and I am so lucky to have such a talented sister."
"O pshaw sis, I know you're luck to have me. I've been wondering. Are you going to take the dress with you to Missouri? I mean, you won't need it there will you?"
"Of course I'm taking it with me. Nat said I could wear it at the reception his parents are planning for us. I want to keep it forever!"
[As far as we know she did not keep it forever. It was not passed down in our family, If you are curious about wedding dresses of the times I found this blog Threading Through Time ]
Times were tough. The Hollingsworths still struggled since B.F. hadn't found steady carpentry work. A small wedding of mostly family would be held in the Methodist Church in Colorado Springs. But, Mattie's siblings, Charley and Estelle, were going to Missouri with the couple to attend the reception and meet the Givens family in Gallatin.
Nat arrived on the Union Pacific January 10th, the day before the wedding. The would head back to Missouri on the 12th.
Mattie looked radiant as she walked dow the aisle on her father's arm. She had never seen Nat look so handsome. After the ceremony they went to Sade's and Belle's house to celebrate. Their friends and family toasted the newly married couple with fruit punch and cookies. Mattie changed to her going away clothes and left her wedding dress for Estelle to pack. The plan was to have one honeymoon night at the hotel and the next morning take the 10 a.m. train to Missouri.
They hadn't expected anyone but her parents to see them off, but at the last minute Belle and Sade and Alta and Ed arrived at the train station with a big present.
Always practical, Mattie exclaimed, "Now where are we going to put this? My dress takes up a whole seat."
She smiled when she said it and the well wishers knew she was secretly pleased.
The dress rode with the wedding party, packed carefully in a box of its own, tied with sturdy string, looped into a handle and carefully labeled with Mattie's new name 'Martha H. Givens' and the address of her first home as a married woman.
"Why didn't you use Hollingsworth and our Colorado Springs address on El Paso Ave.? You and Nat might call it all off before we even get to Gallatin," Estelle teased.
"Yeah," added Charley joining the fun, "Nat looks as though he's made a terrible mistake already."
This was Nat's cue to hug his bride and confirm his life-long devotion. Mattie stuck out her tongue at the offenders and they all laughed. Thus the long train ride started with laughter and conversation. Eventually though, as the monotony of the barren Kansas plains in winter mesmerized the travelers, each retreated to their own thoughts.
As they passed through Emporia, KS, a college town in the easter part of the state and the town where Mattie had been born, Mattie perked up to tell a family story.
"Did you know that four of our mother's older sisters once broke up a saloon in Westfield Corners, Illinois just before they moved here?"
Charley and Estelle were nodding. They'd heard the story many times-the story about the pre-Carrie Nation Spencer family of Quaker descent who were as opposed to hard drink as they had been to slavery. The Spencers had been among many pioneer Kansas families who helped bring the state of Kansas into the union as a free state.
"It wasn't a saloon, Mattie. I think it was a corner store that sold hard liquor."
"What did they do?" Nat asked, sitting up in interest.
" Well it was against the law to sell liquor at a store. The sisters, Mama named our sister after her sister, Elmira, who took part in the raid"
Nat Nodded and charley took up the story.
"Elmira was the youngest of four, only 15 at the time. There was another girl not related as I recall. Well, Aunts Susanna, Amanda, Eliza and Elmira raided the store broke the jugs and rolled barrels of liquor into the gutter!"
"Good Grief," Nat exclaimed. "Weren't they prosecuted for destruction of private property?" In the store owner's shoes he would have been enraged.
"Oh yes! The owner took them to court," Mattie chimed in. "but Susanna, the oldest of the girls, defended herself and the others, and won the case. That ended the whiskey business at Westfield Corners."
"Susanna was named after her grandmother, Susanna Lightfoot."
"Was she of Indian blood?" Nat asked wondering if his new bride had savage blood in her.
"Oh no, Lightfoot's an English name. Susanna Lightfoot eloped with John Spencer when she was fourteen years old," explained Charley.
"Jumped out of a second story window into a sheet held by John's friends.!" Estelle added.
Mattie was giggling at the expression on Nat's face. "Didn't know what a wild family you were marrying into did you?"
"You're pulling my leg!" smiled Nat.
"NO!" the three siblings cried in unison. " Love conquers all," Charley added.
Nat would never be sure the stories were true, but he liked them. They coaxed a story from him about his puritanical, Sabbath-keeping grandmother who would do nothing but read the Bible on Sundays. Nat said, "They said even the milk horse knew to pass by their house on the Sabbath."
"Don't forget the story about how grandad Spencer cast his vote to help make Kansas a free state."
"That's a good one," agreed Estelle. "Go on Charley, tell Nat."
"The Spencers moved to Kansas on election day to influence its entry into the union but, the polling place was on the other side of the high waters of Neosho River. From where the family lived there was no easy way to get there. Granddad determined to ride his horse, Tom, across. He started into the river with Tom. He underestimated the current and was knocked off his mount but managed to grab Tom's tail and hold it until they reached solid ground. Wet, but triumphant, he cast his one vote on October 4, 1859 to bring Kansas into the union as a free state under the Wyandotte Constitution ."
[The October vote was to accept the Wyandotte Constitution which out lawed slavery, among other things, in Kansas. "Kansas was admitted into the Union as a free state under this constitution on January 29, 1861." ]
"You haven't heard these stories Nat?" Esttelle asked, suddenly aware that the groom had much to learn about the family of his new bride.
"No. They're fascinating. How many were in your mother's family, Mattie?"
"Twelve. Ten were girls. Mostly redheads. Our mother was in the middle."
"You're full of surprises, aren't you girlie?"
"Well I didn't do this stuff. It was my mother's family."
Nat looked thoughtful. "Mattie you have some of your own adventures! I think the first time I decided you were the girl for me was when you wrote about climbing Pikes Peak on your 21st birthday."
"Everybody was doing it then. It was nothing unusual. Of course, I admit not everyone made it." She smiled with pride.
"Mattie, after that letter I know you were the woman for me. Sometimes I wonder why you would want to marry me."
Estelle and Charley were getting embarrassed. Nat and Mattie were talking as if they weren't there. They got up in silent agreement and left the couple to their statements of devotion.
"What do you think?" Estelle asked her brother.
"First time you've ever asked my opinion!"
"Oh Charley! Seriously."
"Nat's a lucky man. Our Mattie will stick by him no matter what."
"But will he be good to Mattie?"
"Nat loves Mattie. After all the letters those two have written each other they are better acquainted that most newly weds."
It was true. Mattie felt she knew Nat well after their seven-year correspondence and his frequent visits to Colorado Springs. But she had never met his family. The meeting of one's in-laws is always a sobering occasion, but in this case the young couple would be living with them, and Mattie was the one who would have to adjust.
Finally, the Union Pacific arrived in Kansas City where they changed to the Rockland Railway which headed north to Wabash Station in Gallatin.
Stay tuned for the next installment!