Thursday, June 18, 2009

The (Shotgun) Wedding

A curious spectacle was presented to those who witnessed the inauguration ceremony for the first Oklahoma governor on November 16, 1907 - a wedding, of sorts.
Symbolizing the unions of Oklahoma and Indian Territories were a bride (Mrs. Leo Bennett, a Cherokee) and Mr. C G. Jones, a prominent businessman. The two began the day, along with the Governor-elect, in a parade like none before seen in the region. Carried in sixteen carriages were prominent territorial officials and leaders from the "Five Civilized Tribes", including some who wore spectacular headdresses. A marching band beat out the tattoo to which mounted police and Army cavalry trotted. Finally, the parade ended at the steps of the Carnegie Library in Guthrie where the mock wedding began.
In the ceremony, which was officiated by Judge Frank Dale, the groom is referred to as a young, but stalwart man of only 18 years, being born in 1889 - the year Oklahoma Territory was established. When speaking of the bride, however, the speech takes on a sadder tone. "Despite the unhappy circumstances of her youth, which have cast a shadow of sorrow over (her) face... this beauteous maiden comes to him as the last descendant of the proudest race that ever trod foot on American soil..." He then goes on to say that she is bestowing upon her husband a dower of rich in fertile soil and productive mines.
Couple the sad and defeated words spoke to her with the fact that she was dressed not in native wardrobe but in the fashion of the time, and a surreal sort of shotgun wedding begins to form in the mind. I'm picturing a woman that must look like she's just been sold off into marriage.
But history is rarely generous in corroborative data and so we've little to go on but the words of others. The sole picture I could find of the event was taken from what must be 300 feet away. It is easy to get swept up in our own 21st century ideals when judging the past. For all we know, she might have been grinning from ear to ear, and feeling quite beautiful in what was described as floor-length lavender satin dress in a princess style, topped by a large "picture" hat.

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