MABEL’S METAMORPHOSIS – PART II – HAPPY 109TH ANNIVERSARY
Spring is the perennial season for weddings and new beginnings. One-hundred-nine years ago Mabel NICHOLS exchanged vows with Dr. John F. HYDE. She entered into matrimony as well as a different social class. The transition commenced with a modest ceremony attended by immediate family members.
The simple wedding required little preparation and minimal cost. Two days before the event, on Thursday, May 6, 1909, Mabel and John obtained their marriage license from the county courthouse. It was duly recorded in the Douglas County Register and posted in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper on May 7th. The two necessary witnesses chosen were Mabel’s older brother Fred, and John’s younger sister Hazel.
A good omen, the sun shone, and mild 55-degree temperatures prevailed on Saturday, May 8, 1909. Twenty-one year old Mabel must have been both nervous and excited. Known for her elegance, Mabel styled her hair in the fashionable low pompadour. Yes, there was a high pompadour style as well. Quite the rage in 1909, the pompadour required time to style, although the look was intended to seem effortless. Perhaps her elder sister Carrie assisted that morning because Mabel looked particularly lovely in her wedding photograph. Afternoon weddings were typical in the early twentieth century. Thus Mabel had time to prepare.
Following a trend set by Queen Victoria in 1840, Mabel chose to wear white. Since she couldn’t afford expensive lace, satin or silk Mabel selected a modest, yet elegant gown in cotton lawn. The high-necked bodice featured an embroidered yoke with narrow tucks. Unfortunately, Mabel’s photograph is not full length so I can’t view her complete ensemble. However, a Sears and Roebuck spring catalog from 1909 provides examples of period clothing.
According to the Sears and Roebuck catalog, Mabel might have purchased her outfit for $5. It sounds inexpensive, but consider purchasing power in the early 1900’s. In 1909 an office worker in Omaha earned on average between $40-$55 a month. Mabel probably worked two days to pay for her dress. She wore no accessories, neither a veil nor jewelry.
I would like to believe Mabel’s complete family attended her wedding but I have no evidence to support this. The NICHOLS family consisted of Mabel’s parents, John and Mary, and her four siblings. Carrie, the eldest, 28, lived at home; Charles, 26 lived a few blocks away with his wife Annie; Fred, 24, also lived at home as did 19-year-old John. Did they go with Mabel on her five-mile trip from their home in north Omaha to the church at the corner of Arbor and South 10th street?
- John Mathews NICHOLS 1857-1929
- Mary NELSON NICHOLS 1856-1931
- Carrie Bertha NICHOLS 1881-1915
- Charles Clinton NICHOLS 1883-1930
- Frederick Mathew NICHOLS 1885-1957
- Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Nana” 1888- 1954
- John Lee NICHOLS 1890-1967
The most accessible means of transportation across Omaha was to use the extensive streetcar system. From the NICHOLS’ home at 1402 Jaynes street, the closest stop was only a few blocks away. For a few cents per person, the NICHOLS could hop on the tram and ride across town.
Their route took them past Kountze park where the Trans-Mississippi Exposition was held when Mabel was a child, through the busy downtown area and beyond the Union Pacific Railroad yards where John Nichols and his sons worked. Their destination was the Grace Baptist Church.
This is the only Baptist marriage I’ve found in my family research. Why did Mabel and John choose a Baptist church when neither of their families practiced as Baptists? The bride came from a Methodist/Episcopalian background and the groom from a Congregational/Unitarian. Could it be that neither family was particularly devout nor attended services regularly? As a married couple, Mabel and John were not churchgoers, although they often read the Bible. I believe the answer is convenience. Dr.John HYDE lived and worked five minutes away from Grace Baptist Church. The Pastor of the church, Benjamin F. Fellman, also lived in the neighborhood. The two men probably met one another over the course of time. John found the minister an amiable chap and concluded the nearby church was the ideal choice for the wedding.
The original Grace Baptist Church, founded in 1893, still exists. I Emailed the current pastor, Greg Ubben, to ask three questions.
- Were there pictures of the church that dated to the early 1900’s.
- Did the church have a record book that listed Mabel and John’s wedding?.
- Did he know what a typical Baptist ceremony included in the early 1900’s?
Regrettably, the answer to all the questions was – no. Several years ago a fire in the church destroyed the oldest clerk’s record. As for the ceremony, Pastor Ubben couldn’t attest to the format in the early 1900’s, but if it followed today’s practices, Mabel and John’s wedding would have proceeded as follows.
After the guests sat down, Pastor Fellman and John HYDE took their places at the front of the church. Mabel’s father escorted her up the aisle in the traditional “giving away of the bride.” Next, Pastor Fellman led the couple as they repeated their vows and he pronounced them man and wife. After the quick ceremony, the witnesses signed the wedding certificate. Sadly, I don’t have the original, but I do have the county court records.
A more personal record is Mabel’s wedding book with the signatures of the bride, groom, the two witnesses, and the pastor.
The male witness was Fred NICHOLS. He was three years older than his sister Mabel and at 24, the same age as the groom, John. Hazel HYDE, John’s younger sister, was the second witness. Like Mabel, she was twenty-one years old and engaged. Her June wedding to Theodore Kiesselbach took place in Lincoln where the HYDE family lived.
- Frederick Albert Hyde 1851-1926
- Florence FOLLETT HYDE 1860-1940
- John Fay HYDE “Doc” 1885-1950
- Hazel Hortense HYDE 1886-1975
- Sarah Elizabeth HYDE 1891-1955
The HYDES probably traveled the 60 miles from Omaha to Lincoln by train. Similar to the NICHOLS family, I wonder if all the HYDES were present. Mabel’s small marriage book includes a guest list. 
Under the title “Guests” one name appears, “Mother Hyde.” Does this imply that only Florence HYDE attended or that she was the only one designated a “guest?” John’s parents separated in 1902. Florence settled in Lincoln, Nebraska with her three children. They all attended and graduated from the State University. John’s father, a former school superintendent, moved to Colorado and taught at schools in Walsenburg and Silverton. Was he unable to attend because of schedule conflicts? As I wrote this article more questions arose than answers, but there’s no one left to respond. I can only surmise that after the wedding, the family members gathered together to celebrate with a small reception.
Mabel’s eyes shine with hope and joy in her wedding photograph. Her marriage to John brought her the love and devotion she craved as well as the creature comforts associated with middle-class status. She settled into her new life, moved from smaller homes to increasingly larger ones, traveled, and established a family. Although I don’t have information about the young Mabel’s personality, I do have many stories shared by my mother and grandmother (Mabel’s daughter-in-law.) Their memories reveal her strengths and flaws.
(Yes, Mother, you will have to wait a few more weeks for the conclusion.)
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY NANA AND DOC
As a side-note, the connection between the newly married HYDES and KIESSELBACHS deepened as they shared holidays and family reunions. They captured their memories in photographs and established strong family bonds. It is a direct result of these family connections that led to my research and blogging about my family history.
John HYDE’S mother, Florence FOLLETT HYDE, had a keen interest in family history. Both she and her husband had Revolutionary War ancestors, including Captain William MEACHAM who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Her father, John Meacham FOLLETT, was a Civil War veteran, as were his two brothers. The transcribed letters and diary of the FOLLETT brothers are available online at Ohio State University ehistory website.
Florence researched and recorded family history in a small notebook. Her daughter, Hazel HYDE KIESSELBACH, shared her mother’s interest and preserved the family documents. She, in turn, passed them on to her daughter, Helen KIESSELBACH GREENE (my 1st cousin 2x removed). Like her grandmother, Florence FOLLETT, Helen passionately researched family history. I met Helen in 2010 at a family reunion in Washington D.C.. She generously offered to loan Florence’s compiled family history book to me.
As I gingerly turned each page in the book, fascinated by the names and stories, I wanted to know more about their struggles and triumphs. At the time, I lived in Washington D.C., so access to the Library of Congress and the National Archives prompted me to request the Revolutionary War records for the HYDE and MEACHAM ancestors as well as Civil War records for the NICHOLS and FOLLETT veterans.
Knowing, sharing, and connecting with family, both close and distant is a continuum of life. Which leads me back to the focus of this blog, Mabel’s story.
To be continued in part III.
© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.
“Marriage Licenses.” Omaha World Herald, 7 May 1909, http://www.genealogybank.com.
 “Sears and Roebuck and Co.” Ancestry.com. http://www.ancestry.com : 2010. Spring 1909.
 Nebraska. Douglas County. Marriage Records, Douglas County Clerk’s Office, Omaha.
 Nichols-Hyde Marriage Record. May 8, 1909. In possession of author.
 Myers, Herbert, ed. The Cornhusker : The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1907. Print.
 Nichols-Hyde Marriage Record. May 8, 1909. In possession of author.