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Intervention couldn’t deter two young people in love


As is true with the best of school educators, Miss Frankie Connell was astutely aware of the comings and goings of her students. Assigned as a vocational instructor for the Hannibal public schools during the 1919-1920 school year, she was privy to discussions among the students, often serving as a confidant for those with special issues and needs.

Shortly after the school year began, Miss Connell became aware of whispers among her students. A little probing brought the topic to light: The pending marriage of one of her 14-year-old students.

The Missouri statute at the time defined the legal age of marriage for girls at 15. Miss Connell felt compelled to alert authorities regarding the planned nuptials, in order to stop what ultimately could become an illegal union.

Subsequent action taken by Police Matron Ella Garland and Probation Officer Kelly caught the attention of local reporters, and the intervention was reported in the Sept. 15, 1919 edition of the Quincy Daily Whig.

The headline read: “Matron stops girl bride from marrying.”

But census records show differently.

When the census taker came calling on Jan. 12, 1920, Cleve Brown, 18, son of A.J. Brown, living in Ralls County, and Anna Whitman, 14, daughter of Mrs. Eliza Whitman of 2122 Hope Street, were man and wife.

Some 20 years later, the marriage ended it divorce, but one son was born of the union, Cleve A. Brown, in 1921.

By the time the 1940 census was recorded, Anna Brown, son Cleve A. Brown and Anna’s mother, Eliza Whitman, had moved to rural Adair County, near Kirksville.

Cleve Brown Sr. died in 1973, and is buried at Grand View Cemetery, Ralls County, Mo.

Click here to read about Miss Frankie Connell's 50-year teaching career in Marion County, Missouri.

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