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Bride wore black satin gown during Civil War ceremony

Dabney and Sarah (Sally) Singleton Gaines. Moberly Monitor Index, Jan. 25, 1933. accessed via


Dabney and Sarah (Sally) Singleton Gaines, who farmed 200 acres of previously native land near Maud in Shelby County for much of their married life, celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary on Dec. 9, 1934. They were recognized at the time as the longest-married couple in Missouri, and were suspected of holding that same record for the entire country.

Mr. Gaines died the following April at the age of 96, and his life partner followed him in death Feb. 21, 1937, at the age of 95.

Thanks to the notoriety gained from their longevity, and to the ingenuity of Edgar White, news editor of the Macon Chronicle-Herald (who interviewed the aged couple in 1933 and documented their memories for inclusion in area newspapers) the story of their Civil War-era wedding, and details of their life as a farm family in Missouri’s Marion and Shelby counties, live on for perpetuity.

Oakwood legacy

Sarah (Sally) Singleton Gaines hails from a family of particular note, as a granddaughter of William Darr, a Southern-sympathizing slave owner whose purchase of 81 acres of farmland in 1833 (E1/2 of SW 1/4 of Section 31, Township 57, Range 4W) evolved - over the years - into the development of the Hannibal neighborhood now known as Oakwood.

Upon Mr. Darr’s death in 1855, he bequeathed his estate in eight equal segments among his children.

One of Mr. Darr’s daughters (and Sarah Singleton Gaines’ mother) was Sarah Darr, (1813-1894) and was married to Samuel Singleton (1810-1905). Another of Mr. Darr’s daughters, Mary B. Darr, died in 1858, and bequeathed her inherited share of land to her previously named sister. Sarah’s husband, Samuel Singleton, in turn, played a pivotal role in the development of this farmland into residential lots. To this day, a key north/south street in this neighborhood bears the Singleton name.

Gaines wedding

Dabney Gaines (1839-1935) and Sarah (Sally) Singleton (1841-1937) met in Shelby County, where Dabney was working as a farm hand and Sarah was living with her parents, Samuel and Sarah Singleton. Dabney Gaines’ death notice in the Clarence newspaper in 1937 described the scene:

“It was a Civil War wedding and was characterized by difficulties of the times, such as the undesirability of a Yankee minister who was the only one of the community empowered by the federal government with legal rights to perform a wedding ceremony.”

The young couple rode to the preacher’s house in a brand-new buggy, and were followed by 14-young friends on horseback.

Mrs. Gaines told the Macon newspaper reporter in 1935:

“I wore a dress of black silk, the fashion in the Civil War days, and I was mighty proud of it. After the ceremony we returned home, where we had a wedding feast and then a charivari, after the manner of the times, the shooting of guns, riding of cowbells and other music of the sort. Ah, me! How happy we were, weren’t we, Dabney?”

“Yes, and we are yet, Sarah,” nodded the husband. “But those were dangerous days - you never could tell what was going to happen.”

Farm life

Mr. Gaines sold their farm near Maud, Shelby County, in 1910. Up until that time, he and his wife had shared in the duties of making a living off the land.

She told the Macon newspaper reporter in 1937:

“You see there was as much for a woman to do on the farm as for a man. There were no luxuries then, not the sort they have now. The women and girls spun their own cotton, made their own clothes, baked their own bread and often helped in the field work during the rush season.

“I had a spinning wheel and a loom, and kept them busy,” she said.

The story continued:

“On the farm we would get up at 4 in the morning and work until dark. Read? There was not much time for that, but later on, with improvements, came a little more leisure, and we would gather about the hearth and read by candlelight.

“Do you know,” she went on with glowing eyes, “that in spite of all our hard work on the farm we were healthy and happy. We women took pride in our weaving and carding and loom work. Some of the prettiest rag carpets and rugs you ever saw were made by those old-time looms. I have a beautiful counterpane, (bedspread) over 100 years old, made by a member of our family. When we have company and want to put on a little style I spread that counterpane on the bed and you may be sure all the visitors admire it.

“One year Dabney and I raised a crop of tobacco, and I suckered it. Not a very pleasant job for a young woman, but then we didn’t think about that. If there was anything to be done, we did it.”

William Darr

During her interview with Edgar White, Mrs. Gaines shared memories of her grandfather, William Darr, recalled of the years of her childhood, before emancipation.

“She remembers visiting in the home of her grandfather,” in Hannibal, Mr. White wrote, “and especially hearing her mother say to the old slave who waited on her grandfather: ‘Now, Sime, take the children upstairs and put them to bed.’ The slaves lived in cabins on the place.”

William Darr died in 1855. In his will, which was probated in Marion County, Mo., he mentioned two slaves.

“It is my will and desire that my negro slave Margaret be set free of bondage servant at the period of my death, and I hereby manumit the said slave Margaret accordingly.”

In addition he made provisions for the aforementioned slave, Sime.

“I give and bequeath to my son Willis F. Darr, my deaf and dumb negro man, named Simon, but this gift is for the sole use and benefit of the children of William F. Darr.”


Willis and William Darr were brothers, and both lived in Carroll County, Mo.

Mr. Darr’s will was accessed via

Tobacco typically grows an inch a day, so removing the “suckers” or smaller leaves, can begin as early as six weeks after planting. It’s a necessary process to help make room for new and larger leaves, but also a delicate one. Source: Farmworker Clinical Care Resource

Veteran newspaperman Edgar White, who wrote the Gaines’ anniversary story in 1933, died Feb. 9, 1937, at the age of 75. (Just 12 days before the death of Mrs. Gaines.) He was memorialized by the Shelbina Democrat: “… his stooped figure, Kodak and secretary being a familiar sight all over this section. … Mr. White had done everything there is to be accomplished in the news field, carrying papers, setting type, writing news and editorials … Greatness was never a part of Edgar White, but instead he held the respect and admiration of Missouri Newspaperdom as none other than the late Walter Williams ever did.

Mr. and Mrs. Dabney Gaines of Shelbina, Mo., celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Friday, Dec. 9, 1932. At the time, Mr. Gaines (1839-1935) was 93 years old and his wife, Sarah, (1841-1937) was 91. Tribune photo. Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill., Dec. 4, 1932,

William Darr’s acreage at what is now known as Oakwood, a subdivision of Hannibal, Mo., was platted after his death in 1855. Plat obtained from the Marion County Recorder’s office, and illustrated by Mary Lou Montgomery

This land deed, dated 1831, represents the sale of 81 acres of land to William Darr of Marion County, Mo. The land consists of much of the subdivision known today as Oakwood, in Marion and Ralls counties.

This 1913 plat map shows the land known today as Oakwood, primarily in Marion County, Mo. Much of this land was originally owned by William Darr.


dgar White, noted newspaperman from Macon, Mo. Photo from Editor and Publisher, Vol. 51, Part 2, Google e-book.

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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