Week 50: #52 Ancestors – Tradition

By Eilene Lyon

I can’t think of too many traditions that have survived down to my generation, but one of them is age-old and nearly universal: marriage. When I look back through my ancestry, I find a surprising number of winter weddings. I think people were always looking for excuses to celebrate during the darker days. Or maybe just permission to have someone to cuddle up with!

For this prompt, I decided to share my ancestors’ wedding portraits. Not all of them were formal, or on the actual wedding day.

Let’s start with our wedding, 20 years ago in June 1999. It was a stormy day, cold and cloudy, making us question our decision to hold the ceremony outdoors in the mountains. But the skies did clear in time for the 5:30 p.m. event. Everything about the wedding and reception went according to plan, though it was rather chilly. The next morning we hosted all the out-of-town guests at our house for brunch and the present opening.

LyonPat and Eilene Wedding 6-12-1999

My parents had a formal wedding at the Methodist Church in Corvallis, Oregon, in August 1957. The maid-of-honor is my Aunt Barbara. The best man is Uncle Tres. I don’t know any of the other attendants. I find it interesting that my father has a female attendant and my mother has a male. Their marriage lasted 25 years, ending in divorce.

Halse-Smith wedding Aug 1957 Corvallis, OR


This isn’t a wedding portrait, but these are The Putterer’s parents at an early day. Clifford Park Lyon and Frances Mary Struss married November 15, 1941 in Peoria, Illinois, and remained married until Fran’s death in 1986.

Cliff and Fran

All the following are my ancestors. Neither set of my grandparents had formal weddings. My maternal grandparents, Laurence Smith and Clare Davis tied the knot in Colfax, Washington, on May 24, 1934, officiated by a Methodist Episcopal minister.

Grandma said about the day, “We’d been going together for three years and had it all set up to get married as soon as possible. He had a job in Glacier Park Montana and I had to finish my exams at college where I was a graduating senior. Sister, her husband, and Mother came across the state to Colfax. Mom had arranged a minister.” Her brother-in-law, Paul Wickward, seeing Clare empty-handed, rushed to a flower shop in town.

Portrait of Clare R. Davis and Laurence M. Smith. Married 62 years.
Despite the rushed wedding, the mother of the bride made sure to send announcements.

My paternal grandparents also had a hurried wedding: Reatha was a couple months pregnant. Reatha’s father refused to have anything to do with it and reportedly told Everett he would have to buy Reatha a dress. Her mother signed a permission form. The application for a license gave incorrect ages for both the bride and groom – his younger, hers older.

A Lutheran minister in Watertown, South Dakota, officiated. This photo was labeled as a wedding photo, but clearly taken at another time. Their wedding date was December 31, 1932.

Reatha Gusso and Everett Halse. Married 29 years until Everett’s death in 1961.

They had a belated honeymoon trip to Wisconsin in 1934 and took some “wedding” photos while they were there.

Reatha and Everett and Reatha in Wisconsin, Sept. 1934.

Of my four sets of great-grandparents, I have photos for three.

Mabel P. Cutting and Guy Halse married February 4, 1897 in Codington County, South Dakota. Married 49 years until Mabel’s death in 1946. (Courtesy of N. Ingram)
Walter E. Gusso and Stella A. Crandall married June 10, 1914 in Codington County, South Dakota. Married 46 years until Stella’s death in 1961.
Sterling Davis and Clara P Ransom
Sterling P. Davis and Clara P. Ransom married June 4, 1905 in Idaho. They got their marriage license in Lewiston, Nez Perce County, but married in Moscow, Latah County, where they lived. Married 27 years until Sterling’s death in 1933.

Though I don’t have  a portrait to share, Charles Edward Smith and Mary Lila Reams married in Johnson County, Missouri, on September 2, 1888. They were married 29 years until Mary Lila’s death in 1917. It seems a little unusual that in three of four of these couples, the wife died first, from non-childbearing causes.

The only wedding portrait I have of the next generation back is that of Olive Springer and Charles Gusso.

GussoCharles 002
Olive Springer and Charles Gusso married March 28, 1889 in Codington County, South Dakota. Married 42 years until Charlie’s accidental death in 1931.

Feature image: Our custom-made wedding rings, 1999.

36 thoughts on “Ceremonies

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  1. That’s a pretty neat little photo legacy Eilene. Hey, I was just in Colfax again yesterday. Great place to drive through… One of these days I’ll stop and check out the Codger Pole.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Last month I drove a couple of the back roads and wound up in Pine City. I’d never heard of it. The town was beautifully nestled in a valley beneath crags and outcroppings, and laden with pine trees surrounded for miles by the desert. It was beyond misplaced, but very nice with unique geography. But, nothing at all to do but carve codger poles and grow wheat

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I used to travel a lot for my work and I’d go the back way for years. Some of these off the map places are pretty neat and have great cemeteries. Last month we were out by Cedonia along the Columbia. Just nothing there really but had a beautifully kept cemetery. My wife loves to walk them whenever we can.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Liz. I think we had a fun wedding. I hadn’t learned about Reatha and Everett’s honeymoon or seen that photo of both of them with the flowers until just a few weeks ago. Every time I visit my aunt and uncle, I learn new things and discover more stuff they have tucked away.


    1. Did you see my comments on such a wedding? I don’t recommend it. You have to expect people will be partying well beforehand. Even our early evening wedding in the mountains caused at least one couple to get pulled over on their way back to town.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your photo display, though besides your grandmother’s hat, I have to say the backdrop to your picture is the best, even if it was cold. 🙂
    Also, kudos to you for having custom made rings. I don’t think it ever dawned on us we could do something original like that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the rings, but they are ridiculously heavy and we take them off at home. We’re thinking of getting something simple that we can wear all the time.

      I do love the backdrop on our picture. It’s one of my favorite photos of that day and hangs on our bedroom wall.

      Liked by 1 person

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