A Walk Around Town – Walk V – V is for Vows

Excerpt from “Walk V” in “St. Catharines A-Z” by Junius, originally published in the St. Catharines Journal on October 9th, 1856.

This week Junius speaks at length about the institution of marriage.  I find all of it quite interesting and at some points rather appalling, but such is the way with various aspects of history.  So, in today’s blog I have simply included Junius’ writings and am sharing with you some images from the St. Catharines Museum of weddings / brides and grooms who married in St. Catharines.

Happy Reading!

Everett & betty Birchall wedding, August 1, 1931. Bill Sinnett, StCM, 2011.21.8

“Marriage is one of the earliest institutions. We read in the Bible that a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife and they twain shall be on flesh. The first institution of this union between man and woman for life, with certain ceremonies of a binding and solemn nature, is ascribed to Cecrops, King of Athens, B.C. 1556. The prevailing ceremony in most countries was that of a man leading home his bride, after a solemn contract with her friends. To render this contract more sacred, it was made the work of a Priest, instead of being that of a civil Magistrate adopted by several civilized nations. The celebration of marriage in churches was ordained by Pope Innocent III, about 1199.  Marriage was forbidden in Lent 364.  It was forbidden to Bishops in 692, and to Priests in 1015, and the latter were obliged to take the celibacy oath in 1073.  Marriages were solemnized by Justices of the Peace under an Act of the Commons in Oliver Cromwell’s administration 1653.  A tax was laid on marriages; viz., on the Marriage of a Duke 50 pounds sterling, of a common person, 2s, 6d.  Marriages were taxed in 1781. There have been enacted various recent statutes relating to Marriages, and more toleration is now given to Marriages by Roman Catholic Priests in Ireland.” …

Alma Anderson Bastedo on her wedding day, 1911/7/12.  Anne Carruthers, StCM 1996.126.32

Junius goes on to speak of all of the different types of documented marriages throughout history:

“There are also what are called double marriages, but they are very rare, and also forced marriages, which are prohibited by stringent Acts of the Imperial Parliament. There are also marriages by sale recorded in history. Among the Babylonians at a certain time every year, the marriageable females were assembled, and disposed of to the best bidder, by the public crier.  The richest citizens purchased such as pleased them at a high price, and the money thus obtained was used to portion off those females to whom nature had been less liberal of personal charms.  When the beauties were disposed of, the crier put up the more ordinary lot, beginning with the most ill-favored among those that remained, announcing a premium to the purchaser of each, the bidders were to name a sum below the given premium, at which they would be willing to take the maid, and he who bid lowest was declared the purchaser.  By those means every female was provided for.”

Junius goes on to share information about the difficulties of getting marriage licenses in Ontario and recounts some interesting examples of wedding follies in relation to such difficulties.  But lastly he, in typical Junius fashion, he describes the nature of relationships in the Niagara area as follows:

“We have sad this was a romantic region and enchanting ground.  Within the sound of the great Niagara’s roar, battles have been fought the most fierce and bloody contests and the most sanguine and obstinate; hardships of the early first pioneers, the most severe and trying; courtships and runaway matches the most romantic and novel; smuggling and smuggling cases, the most cunning and crafty; fights and rows, the most black-eyed and bloody-nosed ;strikes and canal scrapes, the most unheard of and preposterous; competitious (sic) and contentions, the most enthusiastic and flagrant; Provincial, County and Township Agricultural shows, the most grand and pleasing; incidents and occurrences, the most wonderful; duesl (sic) and dunces the most ludicrous and consummate; each and all of which, if written out at length, would be more bewitching than any novel; more thrilling than any history; more serious than any sermon; more fanciful than any poem, and more truthful than any tale.”

First wedding held at Niagara Camp. Williamina Davey & Sergeant Harry Brown, Lincoln and Welland Regiment, 1940.  St. Catharines Standard Collection, StCM, S1940.19.11.1



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