nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

the tale of a marriage certificate

with 2 comments


Of my eight great-grandparents, I have found myself most drawn to the story of Ella Hawk and Frank Norman.  Before I became interested in them, my aunt did a considerable amount of work, so I have only had to fill in small gaps of information.  If you follow my Blog, you will know I have looked diligently for information on their lives before 1886 when they married in Laramie, Wyoming (for a poem about Ella’s early life, see https://nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/occupation-shoemaker/

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I know several bits of information about the day Ella and Frank married – July 24, 1886.  For one thing, I have stood in the Methodist Episcopal Church where they were married (see https://nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/sacred-spaces-2/ ).  Also, the newspapers for July 1886 are a great source of information on Laramie and the people living there at the time.

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I also have copies of Ella and Frank’s Application for a Marriage Licence and their Certificate of Marriage.  On the documents, Ella identified herself as Mary Ellen Rhoderick since she was previously married.

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Marriage Licence Application for Frank Norman and Ella Hawk (Mary E. Rhoderick)

Marriage Licence Application for Frank Norman and Ella Hawk (Mary E. Rhoderick)

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Certificate of Marriage for Frank Norman and Mary E. Rhoderick

Certificate of Marriage for Frank Norman and Mary E. Rhoderick

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Who were the people who signed my great-grandparents’ marriage documents?

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George W. Fox, with the very elegant signature, was the County Clerk in Laramie from 1885 to 1888.  An 1875 history of Laramie describes him as a ‘city alderman’, who, in 1866 crossed the Plains with an ox train, by way of Fort Laramie and the Big Horn’ to eventually work in the Laramie meat and vegetable market, and in the sales of dry goods.  The history says: ‘by fair and honorable dealing has very much endeared himself to our citizens. In fact as a benevolent, high minded, business gentleman Mr. Fox has no superior’ (History and Directory of Laramie City, Triggs, 1875).  George W. Fox is also known for his diary, kept in 1866 as he crossed the Plains (Annals of Wyoming 8 (3):580-601; https://archive.org/details/annalsofwyom8141932wyom ).  His stories of encounters with stampeding cattle and rattlesnakes vividly portray the wild west.

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S.H. Huber was the Minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  According to the July 10, 1886 Daily Boomerang newspaper, Pastor Huber had been in Laramie for two years.  He was in poor health and would stop preaching and leave for Illinois within the month.  Another article says he performed the Sherriff’s marriage the week before Ella and Frank’s marriage.  The First Methodist Episcopal Church, which still stands at 150N Second Street, was constructed in 1860 and was eventually moved across the street where today it is the oldest church building in Laramie.

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Although there are other possibilities, it is likely that Lizzie Langhoff was a friend or acquaintance of Ella. Among three Langhoff families in the Laramie area in the 1880s are Charles and Almena Langhoff with their children Lizzie, Emma, Anna, Louis and Minnie.  By 1884, this family had come from Plattsmouth, Nebraska (1880 US Census) to live in Laramie.  Lizzie, Louis and Anna appear in the Roll of Honor for schools in the Laramie area several times from 1884 to 1886 (Daily Boomerang).  Lizzie was born January 6, 1871, so she would have been 15 years old in July of 1886, perhaps old enough to witness a wedding.  Lizzie Langhoff died in Laramie on April 25, 1892 (Wyoming: Find a Grave Index 1850-2012) at the age of 21.

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Methodist Church in Laramie, front view

Methodist Episcopal Church in Laramie in 2002 – this is the back and side of the original church which was rolled across the street to its present position

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Ella and Frank did not stay in Laramie for long.  In the 1890s they lived in Denver Colorado where my grandfather Leo was born in 1890.

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Leo Norman, born 1890

Leo Norman, born 1890

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Unfortunately, Ella and Frank’s marriage did not last.  I have the paperwork for their Divorce Decree in 1896.  Nevertheless, I owe my existence to their decade-long marriage and the sense of adventure their short time in Laramie has brought to my own life.

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 15, 2014 at 7:20 am

2 Responses

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  1. This sounds like it could have the beginnings of a novel. Like in the Laramie and Denver must have been an incredible adventure in late 1800s.

    Like

    Sheryl

    May 15, 2014 at 11:05 am


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