How They Hitch
"It was a dull day," the Omaha Daily Bee reporter explained to his readers on November 29, 1881. "The trains were all on time and carried only the usual quota of ordinary passengers. The mud had sufficiently dried up to prevent mysterious disappearances. . . . No one had fallen off the elevator, no one had committed suicide, and there wasn't even a social scandal or a demimonde sensation to help the reporter out.
"In this dilemma one of THE BEE men dropped into the office of a good-natured justice of the peace, and propounded the usual question, 'Is there anything new?'" The justice responded with reminiscences of several marriage ceremonies he had performed, which may be of interest in June, the traditional month for weddings.
"These people who get married by justices of the peace have very funny notions sometimes," the judge said. "They strike in at all hours of the day and night and will never brook delay, if they can help it. Why, a man got me up at 12 o'clock Friday night and kept me up until 5 o'clock in the morning, waiting for his bride. She was coming from the west and didn't get here for the reason that the train was late. But the chap wouldn't turn in or let me do so, and when she finally arrived in the morning he brought her up to the office on the jump. I 'hitched' them in good shape and they started for the depot again to take the morning train east. He gave me ten dollars for my trouble and seemed to be as pleased as a man can expect to be in this world.
"The law only allows us to charge two and a half, but, of course, we are not prevented from receiving whatever extra the groom's generosity may dictate. In most instances, however, of the marriage of working people, they only pay the legal prices. I caught on once to $25 from a stock drover from the west. He was evidently in for making the event a memorable one, for after the ceremony he asked me over to the St. Charles [Hotel] and there opened two baskets of champagne. Everybody-Tom, Dick and Harry-was his guest and he shook it up pretty lively for the boys, I can tell you. . . .
"Once in a while I get some nondescripts before me. A while ago a couple came in and were married . . . Both were ragged and dirty, and, had they not been sober, I should have refused to perform the ceremony. The man gave me a dollar-all the money he had, he said. I told him to keep it and buy some soap and towels. The most unusual marriage ceremony I have performed lately was that between a man thirty-five years old and a woman of seventy-two. He was in his right mind, however, and had the proper documents so I had nothing to do but marry them. They are living together happily, I hear."
John Nelson's stereoscopic photograph depicted two newly wedded couples.
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