A Family to Love
I have lived in this house for many years now. I moved in as a Bride with my beloved Michael, in the year 1839. His father owned the General Store and Michael worked with him. We lived on the second floor. We had four children and raised them all here in this spacious building. We had a door out onto the roof of the back half of the building; where we sat in the evenings after it cooled. We lived in the small community of Harrison, Ohio. Michael's family came from Pennsylvania in 1831. They are wealthy and have had much to do with the forming of this country. His great-grandfather was the first Director of the United States Mint.
My father was a farmer who moved here in 1822. Papa came from Maryland and was well off. He bought many acres of land and his brothers helped him do the farming. Then his sons and daughters helped. We hoed and weeded and took care of the animals. We had a vegetable garden for the family needs. It was hard work but it was a very rewarding life. When I met Michael, that life was no longer important. I knew that we were meant to be together.
Michael and I first saw each other at the General Store when I went in with Papa to get some seed. He wanted to try a new variety of wheat, that was supposed to be hardier for this cold climate. I was thirteen that year, and Michael was just sixteen. About a year later, he asked my Papa if he could court me. My Papa, never a man to turn away a good thing, told him yes. He courted me for another year and then he asked my Papa if he could have my hand in marriage.
Papa looked at him for many seconds, thinking about this request. I was his youngest daughter and truthfully, just a little bit spoiled. Papa finally just called into the kitchen. "Abby, come in here a minute please."
I came in to Papa and said with a curtsy, "Yes, Papa?"
"Michael here, has just asked me for your hand in marriage. I do not believe that I should force you to marry someone that you do not wish to marry. I am asking you, do you wish to marry Michael?"
Blushing profusely, I whispered, "Oh, yes Papa, I would be very honored and most happy to marry Michael."
With that, Michael jumped to his feet and wrapped his arms about me, swinging me around the room. I did not know how he dared, with Papa right there, but Papa just laughed and called Mama in to tell her. Mama and Papa were very joyful over our engagement, Michael was quite a catch for me. He was wealthy, hard working and respected in our community. He was also known to be kind and caring to all that he came in contact with. They were very pleased.
Michael's parents were also very pleased. They liked me and thought that I would make a wonderful wife for Michael. I was already a proven worker and had all of the housekeeping skills that I would need. Papa was a well respected man, who worked hard to make our community grow. I was also considered by many to be a beauty, although I did not see it. The freckles just would not go away, no matter how many lemons I rubbed on my face. Some said it had something to do with my auburn hair.
The wedding march
When we married, Papa invited everyone in the area. Mama and I made a beautiful dress. Mama and I decided that we would go all out for the dress and my sisters all spent time sewing on it also. It was a fairy tale dress and I felt so beautiful in it. My dark hair contrasted wonderfully with the white of the dress. My oldest sister, Rosemary, had a knack of doing hair and she curled and pinned until it suited her. It looked beautiful.
We all cooked for days, getting the food ready. We had hams and turkeys, roast beef and every fancy dish we could think of. Aunt Mary made rolls and bread for the whole day. There must have been a dozen loaves and at least a gross of rolls. The day of the wedding finally came and I was a nervous wreck. But I had no doubts. This was the man that I wanted to marry. I would not back out.
Michael came out with his family and the minister. We were going to be married in Mama's rose garden. She had been bringing rose bushes in for years and planting them. They were all in bloom and the garden smelled so wonderful. Mama had one of my brothers working on it daily for the last three weeks. Fertilizing it and making sure that they were the best they could be. She also had him whitewash the arch that the yellow climbing roses were on. The white shining through the rose bushes was dazzling. This was where we would take our vows.
Our friends and neighbors all gathered together and the ceremony started. Mama's spinet was in the parlor, with the french doors open and could be heard out in the yard. My sister, Cleo, was playing. She was so talented at this. The wedding march tinkled out and Papa walked me down the path towards Michael. We had eyes for no one else.
Papa got me to Michael and laid my hand in his. The touch of his hand sent tingles through my skin and the love in his blue eyes made me blush. I had turned sixteen years old a week before and Michael would be nineteen in another month.
Pastor Roberts started the ceremony and all whispering ceased.
"Do you Michael Rittenhouse; take this woman, Abigail Martin, to be your lawful wedded wife? To love, honor, cherish, and respect as long as you both do live?"
"I do, most assuredly." Michael spoke softly, but most earnestly.
"And do you, Abigail Martin, take this man, Michael Rittenhouse, to be your lawfully wedded husband? To love, honor, cherish, and respect, as long as you both do live?"
"Yes, I do," Abby whispered, as loudly as she could.
"Do any see reason, why these two should not be joined?" The pause was for propriety, no one was expected to object. All of our friends and family were delighted that we were marrying finally. They could see how much in love we were.
"Then I now pronounce you Husband and Wife. May God bless your union with happiness and prosperity. Mr. Rittenhouse, you may kiss your bride."
With that, Michael reached for my face. With one hand on each side, he gently tipped my head back and kissed me. Our friends and families erupted into cheers. Then they were all coming up to hug us and congratulate us. I was so elated. I was Michael's, at last.
After the hugs, Mama, my sisters, and my aunts, all rushed into the kitchen and putting the last touches on the wedding feast, carried dish after dish out to the tables that were set up alongside the garden. Boards were placed on sawhorses and tablecloths were thrown over them by our friends. Chairs started appearing from every corner of the yard. We all got into line and filled the plates with food. No one would go home hungry tonight.
After we all were finished, the ladies gathered up the dirty dishes and took them to the kitchen. The food was consolidated to one table, for snacking on later. The cleaned plates and silver, were brought back out and placed on the table with the food.
The Celebrating Continues into the Night
Uncle Charles brought out his fiddle and an accordion was produced from a wagon. A mouth harp was pulled out of a pocket and Cleo went to the spinet.
The music started and Michael came over to me and bowed deeply, "May I have the honor of this dance, Mrs. Rittenhouse?" he asked me, with a twitch of his lips.
"Of course, Mr. Rittenhouse, and any more you wish," I giggled. His manner was unusually formal, and it was done in a comical way.
The next dance was claimed by Papa, and then I lost track. I danced with every man there. It was my day and I was enjoying it immensely. Michael was dancing with Mama and his mother and then all my sisters. From them, he went on to all the other ladies. We still managed to dance several dances together. Our feet were so sore, but we were so happy. It was a wonderful evening, dancing in the light of a full moon, with the fireflies flitting around. It was so beautiful and magical.
Finally, Michael's Papa came over with his buggy hitched to the horses. Papa put my bag into the back of the buggy. It was time for us to go. Everyone gathered by the buggy and Rosemary handed me my bouquet of roses. Michael lifted me into the buggy, where I stood and turned my back to the crowd. The unmarried ladies of the community were behind me. I looked over my shoulder at them and asked if they were ready. They all giggled and said yes. I turned my head back and tossed the bouquet. Cleo, my youngest sister at just a year older, squealed as she caught it. She had been seeing Michael's best friend, Adam. Hopefully, this meant something. She adored him, as he seemed to adore her also.
Michael climbed into the buggy and we drove off. We were going to his father's hunting cabin. It was out away from everyone, where we would not be bothered for a week. Michael and I had gone out the day before and stocked it. Mama had put a bunch of the food from the wedding, in a basket in the back. We would enjoy some time alone before we started our normal life. We could have gone on a European tour, but we did not want to be away from this beautiful country for so long.
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