Monday, October 13, 2014

Gretna Green of Caswell County, North Carolina

Eleven Eloping Couples Married at Pelham Christmas Day
(Special to The Times-Dispatch)

Danville, VA., December 27 [1904] -- Justice of the Peace S. A. Pierce, of Pelham, N.C., the gretna green of this section, did a rushing business Sunday, uniting various couples in the bond of wedlock. On that day alone he performed eleven marriages, which is a record breaker.

The couples began to arrive in vehicles early in the morning, and Mr. Pierce was kept busy until a late hour that night. All of the brides are described as being young and pretty and most of the contracting parties were run-away couples.The following were united:

 1. Mr. Joe H. Holley and Miss Lillie Dixon, of Danville
 2. Mr. Cecil L. Marshall and Miss Alice Heffinger, of Danville
 3. Mr. John W. Knouckles and Miss Gertrude Elliott, of Danville
 4. Mr. Walter Bass and Miss Sallie Lane, of Danville
 5. Mr. John R. Yeoman and Miss Lillie R. Blankenship, of Pittsylvania County
 6. Mr. Edward A. McCaleine and Miss Cora Hicks, of Caswell County
 7. Mr. Thomas C. Collins and Miss Kate Aaron, of Pittsylvania County
 8. Mr. Samuel Guill and Miss Ola Loftis, of Pittsylvania County
 9. Mr. Phillip Booth and Miss Annie L. Smith, of Danville
10. Mr. Whit Williams and Miss Laura McBride, of Danville
11. Mr. Robert L. Gabler and Miss Bessie Turner, of Danville

During the past month the justice of the peace at Pelham has married thirty-five couples.

Source: The Richmond-Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 28 December 1904, Page 5.

Gretna Green is a village in the south of Scotland famous for runaway weddings. It is in Dumfries and Galloway, near the mouth of the River Esk and was historically the first village in Scotland, following the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh. Gretna Green is one of the world's most popular wedding destinations, hosting over 5,000 weddings each year in the Gretna/Gretna Green area, and one of every six Scottish weddings.

It has usually been assumed that Gretna's famous "runaway marriages" began in 1754 when Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act came into force in England. Under the Act, if a parent of a minor (i.e., a person under the age of 21) objected, they could prevent the marriage going ahead. The Act tightened up the requirements for marrying in England and Wales but did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 with or without parental consent. It was, however, only in the 1770s, with the construction of a toll road passing through the hitherto obscure village of Graitney, that Gretna Green became the first easily reachable village over the Scottish border. The Old Blacksmith's Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith's Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith's opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887.

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for "irregular marriages", meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as "anvil priests", culminating with Richard Rennison, who performed 5,147 ceremonies.

Since 1929, both parties in Scotland have had to be at least 16 years old, but they still may marry without parental consent. In England and Wales, the age for marriage is now 16 with parental consent and 18 without.

Gretna's two blacksmiths' shops and countless inns and smallholding became the backdrops for tens of thousands of weddings. Today there are several wedding venues in and around Gretna Green, from former churches to purpose-built chapels. The services at all the venues are always performed  over an iconic blacksmith's anvil. Gretna Green endures as one of the world's most popular wedding venues, and thousands of couples come from around the world come to be married 'over the anvil' in Gretna Green.

In common law, a "Gretna Green marriage" came to mean, in general, a marriage transacted in a jurisdiction that was not the residence of the parties being married, to avoid restrictions or procedures imposed by the parties' home jurisdiction. A notable "Gretna" marriage was the second marriage in 1826 of Edward Gibbon Wakefield to the young heiress Ellen Turner, called the Shrigley abduction (his first marriage was also to an heiress, but the parents wanted to avoid a public scandal). Other towns in which quick, often surreptitious marriages could be obtained came to be known as "Gretna Greens." In the United States, these have included Elkton, Maryland, Reno and, later, Las Vegas.

In 1856 Scottish law was changed to require 21 days' residence for marriage, and a further law change was made in 1940. The residential requirement was lifted in 1977. Other Scottish border villages used for such marriages were Coldstream Bridge, Lamberton, Mordington and Paxton Toll.

No comments:

Post a Comment