Now girls married very young in those days. Grandfather had a friend, a brother Presbyterian to whom he wished to see Rebecca married. The man owned a beautiful, well stocked farm left him by his father. Now the young girl liked this bachelor brother well enough as a friend, but when he came and asked her to be his wife, she refused most decidedly. However, Grandfather thought she could be won over. Little did they know at first that Rebecca already loved another.
Walter Haight often worked for Grandfather. He was jolly, handsome, and kind, and when Rebecca was only fourteen years old she had promised to be his wife. The Osterhouses had all liked Walter very much. He was so quick, so willing to work, and so cheerful. But when Grandfather found that he admired Rebecca, he forbade the young man the house.
Rebecca could only meet him at church or at some mutual friend’s house. Walter says this caused him to press his suit. Though girls married very young, he had intended to wait until Rebecca was seventeen.
Walter was a Christian. Was a Friends, but had been soundly converted. I have wondered just how he could have felt just right to persuade Rebecca to a runaway marriage, but when he was an old man with hair as white as snow, his eyes would twinkle when the matter was refered to and he would say, “I simply had to see my Rebecca. Hence, I had to arrange things so I had the right to take her to my own home. Never liked sneaking and deceit so I was forced to one daring act to claim my treasure.’
Well, a cousin of Rebecca’s lived in the home, one David Vermillion. He was a great friend of Walter’s and agreed to help the young people arrange their affairs.
I do not just understand, but they told me Walter paid high license in order not to have it publicly read out in the meeting house that Walter Smith Haight and Rebecca Ann Frasier were to be married September 20, 1857. Had this been read out the wedding would surely not have taken place.
Now on Saturday before the date for the wedding, David said to Grandfather, “Say, may I take the horse and buggie tomorrow and drive over to Brighton?” Grandfather said, “Yes, yes, take it.” Now it was arranged Rebecca was to be near when he made the request and was to ask to go. This she did and David, as though greatly annoyed, said, “Oh bother. What do I want you always dragging along. I might want to take someone besides my cousin.”
Grandfather brussled up at once, just as they thought he would, and said, “Well, you take Becca along or you can’t have the horse.” “Well,” said David, “if I take her you needn’t blame me for anything that happens”. “Happens! Happens!” said Grandfather. “What’s going to happen. You just don’t want to take her. You just take her or leave the horse at home, so there. God bless my soul and body.”
Well, Sunday morning, September 21, 1857, dawned bright and beautiful. Rebecca had nearly always worn home spun. In summer it is true she occasionally had a bright pink calico with bloomers and sun bonnet to match. But now she had two nice store cloth dresses. I have forgotten what she told me they called the material. One was much nicer than the other and she was expected to wear it only on special occasions. She very much wanted to wear it now on this her wedding day, but feared to do so, so she donned the other, and Dave, pretending to be very angry, drove up to the block for her to get in the buggy.
Off they drove. Now Walter with his sister Jane, met them about a mile from home, and Jane got out of Walter’s buggy and got into Dave’s, while Rebecca got out of Dave’s and into Walter’s. Off they drove for a village some miles distant. And here with David Vermillion and Jane Haight as witnesses, Rebecca became the wife of Walter Haight.
They go to a hotel for dinner, then drive slowly back to the Osterhouse farm. Rebecca had her marriage certificate in her hand. Walter helped her out at the gate and tied his horse to the hitching post, took the arm of his child wife, and walked up the walk to the house. Rebecca opens the door and they both walk in.
Aunt Agnes is sitting by the kitchen window. She has seen them arrive. She says, “Rebecca, what does thee mean.” Rebecca hands her her marriage certificate to read. Agnes reads it and turns deadly pale. She hands it back and says, “Just thee go right away at once. Don’t thee dare wait to see thy grandfather. I would fear what he might do to thee both.”
So hand in hand out they go. They untie the horse, get into the buggy and drive away. The young Mr. and Mrs. Walter Smith Haight.
Walter has a little home all ready prepared to which to take his bride. A forty acres of lovely fertile land with a small house and barn on it. Sister Jane has arranged things nice and tidy and here we find Walter and Rebecca at home.
Two days pass. Rebecca has no clothes except those she wore from home on Sunday morning. Walter has gone away to work. Rebecca has pinned a towel on her to serve as an apron. She has her morning work done up when she hears the rumble of a wagon.
She looks out and sees the Osterhouse horses coming. She sees Grandfather standing up in the wagon and the horses fairly on the gallop.
She is very much frightened. She knows Grandfather has a rather furious temper when aroused. She thinks to lock the door and hide, for she is all alone, but she stands fairly fascinated.
Grandfather slackens the speed of his horses when they near the gate, reins up, reaches down, gets hold of the handle of the cedar chest, and gives it a heave out of the wagon, and then without looking to see if he has been observed or not, he drives rapidly away.
Rebecca goes out when he is out of sight and pulls and pushes and drags the cedar chest to the house. She manages to get in the house. She sits down on the floor, opens it, sees all her clothing neatly packed in the chest, and brave and happy though she was, she burst into tears. And then she vows if ever she has children, she will never, never make it necessary for them to run away to be married.
Oh, old cedar chest, could you speak, what volumes you could tell us.