Most of Sheldon’s first citizens were single men, who were adventuresome bachelors who hoped to start a new life and make their fortune in the new town. They rented sleeping rooms in boardinghouses and hotels to live in and ate their meals in hotel dining rooms and eating places. Sheldon became a bachelor nation.
After their working hours, these bachelors needed a social life. They started gun clubs, had croquet tournaments, played lawn tennis, held masquerade parties, started skating rinks for ice and roller skating, but they were missing maidens to date or marry. The only way the bachelors could find a girlfriend or a bride was to travel to another place and find one, possibly back to where they came from. Few single women came to Sheldon in the early years, unless they were a bride of a bachelor who already lived in Sheldon.
Among these early-day bachelors were Homer Conant, L.L. Bassett, George Pooler, Ed Parkhurst, H.P. Holyoke, Chas. Stinson, Joe Shinski, George Sherwood, C. Moore and W.L. Ayres. Ayres was known as Doc, who was the most outstanding of them all.
Doc Ayres’ name seemed to be mentioned in the local newspaper quite often. Doc was either entering in a tournament, having a sale of items or helping to host a social event. Doc Ayres, George Sherwood and C. Moore were considered the best dancers on the floor, but the problem was there were few or no eligible ladies to dance with.
Doc made many vacation trips away from Sheldon, but he was vague about where he would go. The newspaper or his friends would say he had gone to Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, or one time to Virginia. They thought he was searching for a bride.
Then the newspaper ran a story that suggested a train load of maidens should be selected and shipped to Sheldon. This would solve many problems for the bachelors. The newspaper suggested that these bachelors were “the jolliest set of bachelors in the state.” The newspaper was hoping this comment would entice some young maidens, who read the paper, to come to Sheldon and meet these available bachelors. A maiden had her choice from a group of bachelors.
Since H.C. Lane, a bachelor himself and a justice of peace, decided to encourage some of the bachelors to get married. He said he would not charge a fee for performing the marriage ceremony and charge no fee for the marriage license, plus he would pay for a banquet.
At this time a newly married couple arrived in Sheldon and spent their first night at the Bradley Hotel. The newspaper commented that the couple was very shy since they were in their first stage of wedded matrimony. This made the front page of the newspaper. Any marriage created community interest, even someone getting a new carriage. If any bachelor purchased or rented a house, it made the front page of the newspaper because the newspaper was positive that the bachelor was getting married.
The Sheldon Band, called the Cornet, serenaded the newly wedded couples that made their homes in Sheldon.
Tom DeLong and Samantha Jones informed H.C. Lane they were ready to get married. Jim Wykoff and Deacon Bradley made the preparations. Thomas Robinson boiled a ham for the wedding feast. A room in the Sheldon Hotel, that had just been completed, was where the wedding was to be held.
The couple dressed in their store-bought clothing for their wedding. Lane found the ceremonial form for the wedding. Since there was no clergyman, there would be no prayer before they began, but there would be a benediction at the close. Samantha was blushing and Tom was asked to stand close to the nervous bride. Deacon Bradley told everyone that the marriage would not be a failure, even though the bride was slightly backward and not quite normal.
When they asked the couple to join hands, Samantha seized Deacon’s hand, but he simply removed her hand and placed her hand in Tom’s where it belonged. The usual wedding ceremony proceeded and was over quickly. Mr. and Mrs. Tom DeLong were husband and wife and the first couple to be married in Sheldon.
Congratulations were made. Everyone kissed the bride. The ham sandwiches were eaten. The wedding was over and everyone went home.
Gradually more available ladies came to Sheldon. More weddings were held. So the problem of the bachelors was solved.
A carload of maidens was never brought to Sheldon, but Sheldon’s population grew throughout the years.
Millie Vos is the secretary/treasurer of the Sheldon Historical Society and the museum director and a board member of the Sheldon Prairie Museum. This is part of a series of historical articles about Sheldon. Members of the Sheldon Historical Society receive a yearly newsletter with articles like this. To join the society, call her at 712-324-3235.