Courtship & Marriage
National Park Service
Young people in coal camps, particularly in a camp as remote as Blue Heron, had limited access to courting others from out of the Stearns Company circle.
Teenagers generally attended church and school event in groups, or were accompanied by a "chaperone" to the occasional movie in Stearns or Worley. Dating consisted mainly of walking a girl home from church, or being with a group with a favorite attending an occasional carnival in Stearns or a company picnic held in town, or in a place like Bell Farm.
Once the courtship had taken a suitable time, and an understanding had passed between the couple, the old practice of asking the father for his daughter’s "hand" was still expected in some families. In others, the father would declare, "My daughter makes her own decisions," signaling close of an era of accepted courtship ritual. In the camp, however remote, life was still more progressive and conditions more advanced than on.
Couples seldom married in the church house, and there is not a single instance that anyone remembers of a wedding in the Blue Heron Church. Typically, the actual ceremony took place in a minister’s home. A surprising number of Blue Heron miners become ministers, and some camp couples were married by neighbors and fellow miners. Others went off to Tennessee.
Having children and raising them was the primary occupation of wives in the coal camps, and families were close and large. Some families had six or eight children. One miner at Blue Heron had sixteen, though that was less typical.
Given the small number of potential "beaus" in the mining region, many who told of their lives are related to one another by marriage, and many were friends as children, fellow workers or homemakers at Blue Heron and other camps.
Our dates were maybe going for walk on Sunday. Or they walked us home from church. That's the way they did courting. If anybody had a little party or something at Mine 18, there wasn't not much of that that went on; it would have been a private thing in your home. There were no public dances. That wasn't permitted. It was outlawed.
Yea, yea, yea
If you went to a dance, you were dead. You didn't go to ball games either. There was no such thing as going to a ball game. The only place we got to go was to church or to the movie. We got to go to the movies but we had to be well chaperoned. One night I heard this little noise at the door, a little hissing noise. I was down praying. I raised up and looked. He was standing at the door motioning me to scoot over in my seat. So I scooted over. He slipped in and sat beside of me and asked if he could walk me home-and back out before they got through praying.
I had to be fast.
We would go around them country churches. The girls would lot of times would walk out of camps and go back in the mountains to churches holding revivals or something. We would hold their hands and walk them back home of the night.
I think what was most on your mind at that age was the only thing we knew was growing up, having a family. You never heard of women's lib then.
We would say we were going to have two children or three children. That was on your mind. You know it was happy.
When she came over the mountain, I remember very well. I guess you would call it love at first sight. You know I guess that is what you would call it. We were building a pig pen. Like I said there, I remember what she wore and the dress she had on at that time. Boy, I thought she was the prettiest woman in the world you know.
Well when we got married we just didn't tell anybody. We just went to a minister down in Tennessee.
I got her clothes to be married in. See I bought that.
He bought me a suit and brought it there. It was about three sizes too big. Well he said, "He thought he was getting a woman but I'm still a little girl."
I wore a pin-striped, what they call a hickory-striped suit. I never owned a suit. I never had a suit until I was getting ready to get married.
No, I don't remember anybody getting married in that church.
It was just a justice of the peace and a preacher in their home. They had no formal wedding. That's a shame. We just made enough to live.
I don't think people knew how to plan a wedding then. It was just not important.
I think getting married was an out. I was not trying. A lot got married to get away from their parents. I wasn't particularly trying to get away from my parents as much as I was trying to get away from Blue Heron. I wanted to have the chance to express myself and do some of the things I saw depicted on television for instance, to be a normal. You were not a normal person living at Blue Heron.
I married first in 1911 and had two kids, a boy and a girl. My wife died. When I married again, I married a girl named Ruby Lewis. We had eight kids; four boys and four girls. So that made me five boys and five girls.
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