Off to Covington
June 20, 2008
parents were married in 1940. Although they were both
residents of Cambridge, Ohio, the wedding took place more than 200
miles away in Covington, Kentucky. Five years ago, I wrote an article
I've learned that eloping and getting married in "Old
Kentuck" was not unusual. It was
a long-standing regional tradition.
guess is that couples chose to go to Kentucky because it was a
nearby state with no residency requirements or waiting period.
Couples from anywhere could show up and get married right away.
Also, teenagers could legally marry at a younger age.
darts and irate parents caused another of our highly esteemed
couples to go to Old Kentucky, where the laws are not so strict on
account of their youth. We wonder who will be next?
The Richwood (Ohio) Gazette, March 25, 1886
easiest city in Kentucky for northerners to reach was Covington,
because it's right across the river from a regional transportation
hub: Cincinnati, Ohio.
received an e-mail last week with the subject line YOUR PARENTS'
It's from a man
about my age whom I've never met. Remarkably, he's the
grandson of the minister who married my parents! Cyrus
a mailman in Fairfax, Virginia. Tonight I looked on my
calendar and saw it was the 53rd anniversary of my grandfather's
death. (I was almost 9 at the time, in Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
tried to look him up on the Social Security death index but wasn't
successful. Since he was a Methodist minister in West Virginia
and Kentucky, I searched his name, Harry F King + methodist.
That led to your article from June 15th, 2003. After reading
it, I realized that my maternal grandfather married Ann Buckingham
and Vernon Thomas in Covington, Kentucky.
mother [the minister's daughter], Eleanor King Creveling, was born
in 1922 in Huntington, WV, and was at Kentucky Wesleyan College in
the fall of 1940. Her father and mother lived in the parsonage
next to the First Methodist Church. As a young girl, my mother
witnessed many ceremonies, as did my grandmother, Grace Yoak
King. Chances are excellent she would have been in the house
and witnessed the wedding of your parents, then signed the marriage
certificate as such.
Kentucky Wesleyan College was founded at Millersburg just after the
Civil War. In 1890, the college moved to Winchester, about 90
miles south of Covington. That's where it was located when
Eleanor King Creveling was a student. Then in 1950, KWC moved
again to the outskirts of Owensboro, just 16 miles from my father's hometown.
often see professional sports teams threaten to leave town unless
the local taxpayers build them a new stadium. For example, the
NFL's Colts abandoned Baltimore for Indianapolis. But we assume
that college sports teams will never threaten to move, because
it's impossible to relocate the whole campus. I guess it is
possible. Kentucky Wesleyan has done it twice.
back to Cyrus Creveling:
mother is still alive, and I just got off of the phone with
her. She pointed out that the church was very close to the
downtown, and young couples getting a marriage license at the
courthouse would ask, "Where is the nearest church?"
They were pointed in the direction of the First Methodist and married
by my grandfather: Harry F. King.
it was not uncommon in those days for eloping strangers to come to
Covington. They'd get a marriage license and then find a place
to make it official.
Valentine's Day, I did a little research on elopements to that city,
using newspapers and the Internet. Besides my parents' wedding
in 1940, here are eight more examples spanning a period of more than
1887, two young Ohioans tied the knot. Twenty-year-old William
Keenan, who worked for his father in the furniture business in
Columbus, eloped with Mary Meehan, who had recently emigrated from
Ireland to Dayton. They were married at St. Mary's Cathedral in Covington.
1890, the New York Times reported under the headline
"They Elope and Get Married":
May 8. Last night William E. Bundy, a nephew of ex-Gov.
Foraker and late clerk of the Board of Elections of this city, was
married in Covington, Ky., to Miss Lodo Leedom, daughter of the Hon.
John P. Leedom, late Sergeant at Arms of the House of
Representatives. It was an elopement, and the story goes that
the lovers met only four days ago in a stage coach in Adams
County. Miss Leedom's father was in the city last night in
utter ignorance that his daughter and her husband were two blocks
away in another hotel.
1908, the newspaper in my future hometown of Richwood, Ohio, reported:
with a mop agent who had called at her door with his wares, Miss
Stella Nowland, aged 50, was married to Alfred F. Bixler, in
Covington, Ky., yesterday. The bride had been keeping house for
her brothers and they resented the attention of the persistent vendor
of floor brushes.
Bixler formerly lived on the McPeck farm, west of Richwood.
While he is about 55 years old, he still looks young and as healthy
as ever. We understand he and his bride will take up residence
on the farm in the spring.
old to be eloping and getting married in "Old Kentuck,"
same as young people.
following year, the same newspaper reported:
local couple had some experience in Kentucky trying to get a
marriage license. They first applied at Covington, where they
made a blunder by telling their correct ages. The license clerk
refused to issue them a license and he also phoned the clerk at
Newport, so when the couple applied there, they were also disappointed.
couple has fitted up a very cozy home which they will occupy as soon
as they can find somebody to marry them.
the year after that, the same newspaper had yet another
elopement to report. Click here.
1924, the parents of an otherwise anonymous "Sue" from
Grant County, Indiana, were married in Covington:
didn't elope as we know it today, that is they didn't just "run
off" . . . they just were married together, as it were, and had
a little honeymoon before embarking on a longer trip to Clearwater,
Florida, where my Dad had a new job awaiting him and where she had
obtained a teaching position. They had both families' approval
and blessing. It apparently seemed such an attractive thing to
do that a few years later her sister did the same thing.
1938, food entrepreneur Maury Feren and Bess Nagelbush, both of
Cleveland, traveled to the far corner of the state and beyond:
got engaged when we were 23. Our parents were so involved with
the ritual and tradition of a marriage arranging for a
ceremony and a reception at the Sterling Hotel that one day I
said, "If we leave it up to them, we will never get
married. Let's elope." We took a bus to Covington,
Kentucky, and found a rabbi there. He married us in the back of
a grocery store on November 14th, 1938. When we came back, our
parents made a reception for us. And we got our deposit back
from the Sterling, too.
1949, Kenneth Baird and 16-year-old Joan Lancaster of Mt. Gilead,
Ohio, near my future hometown, wed in Covington.
of these couples traveled at least a hundred miles to be married in
Kentucky. Covington must have been the Las Vegas of its time!