Marriage as Business Arrangement

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I have a lot of papers to grade today, but before I can focus on them, I came across something in Emmett’s research that is quite enlightening.

It is this:

Marriage License of Dr. Frank Wilson and Kate Langley Jordan. Source:  Florida, Marriages, 1830-1993," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/23C7-JXH : accessed 03 Nov 2014), F C Wilson and Kate Langley Jordain, 22 Sep 1893; citing Washington, Florida, United States, p. Washington, Florida, United States; FHL microfilm 000931851

Marriage License of Dr. Frank Wilson and Kate Langley Jordan. Source: “Florida, Marriages, 1830-1993,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/23C7-JXH : accessed 03 Nov 2014), F C Wilson and Kate Langley Jordain, 22 Sep 1893; citing Washington, Florida, United States, p. Washington, Florida, United States; FHL microfilm 000931851

This is the wedding license of Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson and Kate Langley Jordan, Emmett’s stepmother. On the surface, this is simply a vital record of a wedding; but, knowing what I know about the players involved, the document seems to confirm a lot of what I’ve thought about this relationship.

What’s so enlightening?

  • Numerous scratch-out marks on this document. When I see scratch-out marks in an official document, I tend to think the event was makeshift, or thrown together without a lot of planning. That may not have been the case, but still: This was about a marriage — why not take the time and get this right, so the historic document doesn’t look so crappy, and researchers 100 years later won’t think this looks crappy?
  • Her name is misspelled. The misspelled bride’s name on the wedding license is a big deal. Why didn’t this get ‘scratched out’ and fixed, too? Did she not care?
  • The wedding was in Vernon, not Chipley. Why not get married in your own town, where your family and friends can come, too? Kate Jordan was a devout Baptist; her father (now deceased) had been a Baptist minister in Chipley. Surely the local minister could have done this service for Kate; after all, wasn’t it tradition that the service would have been done according to the bride’s preference? I have a hard time thinking that Kate would have preferred a non-church service. Also: There were judges and other officials in Chipley who could have conducted the service, too. Why go to Vernon?

This strikes me as a rush wedding. But what was the rush? She wasn’t pregnant; in fact, there were no more children, although it was possible. Kate Jordan was 20 years younger than Dr. Wilson; Elizabeth seemed to be pregnant regularly every 18 months, so, there weren’t any problems in that department.

What I think happened was that 18 months — or any stretch of time — without Elizabeth around was very hard on Dr. Wilson and this family. Dr. Wilson needed someone — a woman — permanently to step into the maternal role. He still had 10 children at home, five of whom were under 15. Housekeepers and neighbors were helping out, but the family needed a mother figure. Kate Jordan could fit that bill.

Kate Jordan was wealthy; she was also the widow of a doctor, so she knew what life was like married to a community healthcare professional.

And…almost right after the wedding, Dr. Wilson built a new home in Chipley, and the family seems to have stabilized — at least for the time being. That was the effect of Kate Jordan Wilson on the family.

This marriage strikes me as a business arrangement rather than a romantic relationship. I have no doubt Kate Jordan Wilson was a good stepmother to this family; everything I’ve read about her thus far indicates she was a true helpmate for Dr. Wilson, and she was good to the Wilson children. They were not looking for a replacement for Elizabeth, nor was Kate Jordan Wilson wanting to do that, either. Still, even with Kate Jordan Wilson on the scene, the absence of Elizabeth had long-term, long-lasting effects on the Wilson children, especially on Emmett.

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