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· When Two Deaths Make a Marriage
It’s Wednesday evening, January 2, 1901, at the home of Mrs. Mary E. Ingram Wilson, 114 9th Avenue East, Hutchinson, Kansas. Shortly, Reverend Anderson Forbes (A. F.) Irwin will be performing a marriage between a widow and a widower.
Hutchinson has been a good move for me, Belle, and the children, thought Anderson, as he considered the past twelve years serving as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, arriving from Peoria, Illinois, in early 1889, months after the elegant stone church was completed on the southeast corner of Sherman and Poplar.
When Anderson, 38; his wife, Belle M. Anderson, 32; and five children, arrived in Hutchinson, the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church was welcoming. In recent years, despite the pastor’s declining health, the members continue to support his leadership.
Anderson recalled the stories he’d heard about the early days when there were no church buildings, when public religious services for people of all faiths met in a butcher shop on Main Street. Back then, on the Sabbath, the tables and meat blocks were pushed back, chairs gathered, and an improvised pulpit set up for a preacher, one usually passing through, looking for a more established community than Hutchinson. (History of Reno County, Kansas: Its People, Industries and Institutions, VI, Sheridan Ploughe, B. F. Bowen & Co, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1917, p243.)
The town’s founder, C. C. Hutchinson, offered three lots free and a cash bonus as incentive for the first church to be built. The First Presbyterian Church won the race, with a building dedication in June 1873, and since then Hutchinson has grown and prospered, and so has the church (Ploughe, p244).
Just like the adult residents of Hutchinson, the Irwin family was from somewhere else. Anderson and Belle were born in Pennsylvania. Four of their five children were born in Illinois.
As Reverend Anderson prepared to join Mary “May” E. Ingram Wilson, and “Captain” John M. Hedrick together in sacred matrimony, he conjectured that in his position he had officiated more funerals than weddings. One funeral service he recalled was Smith Wilson’s, husband of Mary. It was held at the church on October 11, 1893. Smith had died after a sudden attack of paralysis, having been in feeble health for some time.
Nearly four years later, on August 20, 1897, John Hedrick’s wife, “Kate,” or Catherine Ann Kneister, died of cancer after a painful but patient suffering. Reverend Irwin was again called on to officiate the funeral, held at the Hedrick home five miles southeast of Hutchinson.
Miss Kate Kneister was the daughter of John and Nancy (Armstrong) Kneister, of Madison County, Ohio. Kate and John M. Hedrick married October 9, 1865 after he mustered out of his Civil War Regiment on July 15, 1865.
Kate left husband John; two daughters, Dollie (also spelled Dolly) May Hedrick Wainner, and Joanna (also spelled Johanna) Fay Hedrick Wainner; and a son, Edward McKee; to mourn the loss of a noble wife and mother.
In the fall of 1900, John and Mary visited Eastside Cemetery with plans to marry. They had graves to visit and one-sided conversations to initiate.
John greeted Ann. “I miss you every day,” said her husband, “and every night. Edward looks after me but he’s a son, not a partner. Mary Ingram Smith and I plan to marry, but we’ve agreed to be buried by our first love. My resting place will be next to you.”
“Hello, honey,” Mary said to Smith, her late husband. “I’m here to ask you for your blessing on my upcoming marriage to John Hedrick, a good man, and good soldier, who fought for the Union.”
Mary also wept for Jamie, their son, who was taken from her bosom in 1885 when he was only seven years old.
And Mary thought of Lindley James Woolery*, a traumatized boy. She and Smith adopted the ten-year-old after his parents, and a three-month-old infant, died in 1887. Lindley joined the married couple just two years after their son’s death. The newcomer slept in the same bed where Jamie had slept.
Unfortunately, Lindley, a self-willed and troubled boy, bumped heads with her husband who was already in ill health. A near fatal encounter occurred when Lindley, at age 14 in 1892, shot an old Harper Ferry’s musket at his adoptive father, but wounded the elder’s horse instead.
Due to Lindley’s age, the law was limited with its choices despite the serious charge of intent to kill. Rather than sending the boy to a man’s penitentiary, Lindley was escorted to the reform school in Topeka for boys. Lindley would remain there until he attained age of majority or was excused from the institution for good behavior.
It was unfair. Mary and John had expected too much from Lindley. Unconsciously, the two grieving parents had hoped the boy would, in some small way, replace the child that had left a hole in their heart. At the same time, they were trying their best to be good guardians for Lindley, understanding that just as they couldn’t forget Jamie, Lindley would never forget his real parents.
In 1893, a year-and-a-half after Lindley was sent to Topeka, Mary’s loving husband was dead.
Upon Lindley’s release, he returned to his home state of Ohio to start a new life.
Reverend Irwin cleared his voice and continued the wedding ceremony. Reading scripture about the benefits of marriage, he said:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.”
Note: Becky Wolary informs me that in her family research she has found her surname spelled Wolary, Wolery, and Woolery.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.