The Grace United Methodist Women met recently for a dinner and program to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the church by discussing weddings performed through the church over the last 150 years.
The program shown to the women of GUMC attending the meeting was about the various weddings that occurred at the church since the middle of the 1800s. The program began with a short history which explains that they became a station charge, a term that means the church had a single pastor instead of being on a circuit, in 1856 when Thomas Phillips was appointed the pastor of 60 members. Despite the amount of time that has passed as well as a fire which destroyed the church, several record books have survived since 1857.
The earliest marriages recorded in the official book were not held in the church, but were usually held in the home of the bride or groom’s parents or at the home of the pastor. The first marriage recorded in the book was performed in 1861 by E P Hall, who received a $2 fee. The going rate for these fees were between $2 and $5 to have the marriage performed.
Following the war years were big wedding years. In 1865 there were eight, in 1866 there were 10 and in 1867, 12 weddings were held.
During the program, several dresses were on display which are the property of the Fayette County Historical Society. The history of the dresses were discussed, including the wedding and going-away dresses of Iva Haines who, in 1915, married Hays Dill at the home of Iva’s parents on Creek Road. The program also had Iva’s daughter-in-law’s dress (Jane Seibert), who married her son Frank Dill in 1941, but the presenters remarked that they did not have a portrait for the wedding as the photographer failed to show up.
As World War I ended in 1920, the amount of weddings increased greatly. In 1925, the list of marriages filled all available pages in the record book, being 28 weddings. The first wedding recorded as being held at the church was in June, and was performed by pastor F M Evans and was the wedding of Marie Shephard and Carl Smith. Three of the 28 weddings that year were held at the church.
Also on display during the program were a multitude of photos from weddings that were held throughout the last 150 years. One of the photos was of the 1948 wedding of Ruth Adams and Harris Willis, who convinced pastor Allan Caley to marry them on Easter Sunday afternoon. In September of the same year, Ruth’s sister, Helen, was married in the same dress at GUMC.
One interesting story retold at the meeting was about three generations of weddings that occurred at the church. The first was in April of 1952 when Patti Maddux and Guy Briggs were married by pastor Swengel. The next generation was Robin Briggs who married Robert Dolphin on Aug. 8, 1980 with Mark Dove. Finally, nearly 30 years later, the third generation, Courtney Dolphin, married Ryan Siegal on June 16, 2007.
At the current structure of GUMC (following a fire which destroyed the second before 1960), the first wedding was held in November of 1961, the same month the congregation moved into the completed church. The wedding was between Joyce Hamilton and James Newbry. In December of the same year, Jeannie Persinger and Birch Rice were joined together in holy matrimony.
Finally, the presenters showed off the oldest dress in the display, the handmade wedding gown worn by Leonora Schwind, grandmother of Pat Parsons, when she married Charles Wagner at a Catholic service in Cincinnati at 6 a.m. on June 22, 1910. The lace on the dress was hand-crocheted by the bride’s two great aunts and after the wedding the dress was altered into a morning dress that Leonora could wear that summer.
Special guest Maria Pickerill had a surprise for the women at the program when she was presented wearing a dress from 1958. The dress was from the wedding of Mary Louise Highfield to Phil on Feb. 8, 1958. The group was taken back to the wedding as the presenter explained that Mary entered the church from North Street, shared some funny memories of the wedding and described the look of the church prior to the fire in 1959.
The information in this article was provided by Karen Bernard for Grace United Methodist Church.