Marriage that wasn’t: Bride abandoned on wedding day



Edna Bridgford, as pictured in the April 23, 1903 edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. newspapers.com


MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


The wooden banister might have been braided in smilax, caught with white rosebuds at midday Tuesday, April 21, 1903, in fashion with home weddings of the day. Edna Margarette Bridgford, 23, had accepted the wedding proposal of Theodore Gagnon, a St. Louis merchant, and, after a four-month courtship, an elaborate home wedding was in the works.

Home for the bride was the double house at 314-316 N. Fifth Street, Hannibal, Mo.

During the week prior to the ceremony, the young couple busied themselves around town, making preparations for the ceremony. Presumably they registered their china and silver patterns with a lucky local jeweler, perhaps Louis Heiser at 114 S. Main, or J.J. Brown’s Jewelry Store, 307 Broadway.

When Theodore Gagnon wasn’t making wedding plans with his intended, he was booked into a room at the Windsor Hotel on Hannibal’s South Main Street. In that neighborhood he made the acquaintance of some of the men about town who frequented the local liquor establishments nearby the hotel.

While the bride and her mother prepared the house for this special day, the bridegroom-to-be went to a nearby barbershop, (Jesse H. Fassnacht, G.E. Niedermeyer and Charles Scott all operated shops at the time on South Main St.) where he most likely sat for a shave and a haircut. Afterwards, he had a single, congratulation drink with two of his fiancé’s former suitors, who may have been unsettled about losing out to a stranger regarding the hand in marriage of one of Hannibal’s prettiest girls.

At least, that was Theodore Gagnon’s story.

As the clock neared the wedding hour, Miss Bridgford, upstairs in her home, was being preened by her attentive older-sister in the bedroom they likely shared since their youth. The Rev. Levi Marshall of the Christian Church on Broadway was lined up to recite the ceremonial vows.

Robert Harry Bridgford, a clerk for Hannibal’s Cobb and Co., (men’s clothing store, 200-202 N. Main) awaited the arrival of his sister’s fiancé. Music was likely; perhaps a violin set the tone, or the soft melodies on a piano.

Wedding that wasn’t

The marriage of Edna Bridgford and Theodore Gagnon is not one you will read about in any archived newspaper, because the hour of 2 p.m. came and went, without Mr. Gagnon’s feet ever stepping on the family’s front porch.

Instead, by his own calculation, that one solitary drink he partook on the morning of the wedding was drugged, leaving him unconscious for the next half day.

When he awoke from his stupor at 2 a.m. the following day, he was at his place of business, 801 S. Second St., St. Louis, having been taken there, he said, by the two former suitors of his intended. Still groggy, he was very remorseful that the wedding hour was far passed, and that he had left behind no explanation for his exit with his intended bride.

Courtship

Edna Bridgford and Theodore Gagnon met in St. Louis on Oct. 23, 1902, while she was visiting her cousin, Miss May Fisher of 2000 Wisconsin avenue. He told a reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he “first saw her as he was driving past her cousin’s home, and through Miss Fisher formed her acquaintance. He called several times and on her departure she promised to write to him. He was invited to visit her at her home (in Hannibal), and after they had known each other four months, she promised to marry him.”

Remorse

“At first I thought it would be impossible for Miss Bridgford ever to forgive me after such a humiliation, even through my part in it had been innocent,” he told the newspaper reporter. “Then I determined to write and tell her the facts and assure her of my devotion.

“If she does not regard me favorable at first, I hope to win her again by continued attentions.”

No wedding

But the marriage was not to be.

Within the year, he was married in St. Louis to a young woman named Annie.

Family ties

Miss Edna Bridgford was the youngest of Rachel Missouri Nicklin Bridgford and Edwin Thomas Bridgford’s three children. Born early in 1880, she was just 1 year old when her father, a Hannibal butcher, died of consumption on March 24, 1881, following a lingering illness. At the time of his death, young Edna “was lying at the point of death,” according to a notice in the St. Louis Globe Democrat of March 25, 1881. Luckily, her recovery was forthcoming.

Rachel, the young widow, and her three children moved into a newly constructed double house (now numbered 314-316 N. Fifth St., Hannibal), and there they would each in turn live out their lives.

Mrs. Rachel Bridgford lost her sister, 40-year-old Sarah E. (Sallie) Nicklin Buchanan, to death on the last day of July, 1881. (Joseph Buchanan, who had worked as an engineer the Jennie Dean’s steamboat, was married to Sallie Nicklin at the Bridgford’s home in November 1879.)

Sadly, Edna Bridgford died just four years after her planned wedding, in 1907, age about 27.

The matriarch of the family, Rachel M. Bridgford, died March 22, 1923, at the age of 69.

Edna’s sister, Elizabeth Bridgford, born in 1877, died in 1952, at the age of 72.

Robert (Harry) Bridgford, who operated a men’s clothing business on Hannibal’s Main street, was married to Lulu May Fuqua (a long-time secretary of the Missouri State Grange), but that union was relatively shortlived, (about a decade) as Lulu May died at the age of 50 in 1934. At that time he moved back to the family’s home on North Fifth Street. By the time of his death on April 22, 1959, at the age of 84, the house had been sold to Charles F. Bowles, a salesman for Citizens Gas Co., and his wife, Opal P. Bowles.

By 1967, owned by Opal Bowles, the building had been converted into a three-plex.

Mrs. Bowles, lived at 314, and renters lived at 316A and 316 N. Fifth. One long-time renter was Willa Wester, who worked at the Hannibal Public Library for 25 years. Mrs. Bowles died Feb. 5, 2001. Mrs. Wester died Sept. 3, 2005.

Today, the house is owned by Tom and Jim Eddy. Barb O’Brien operates Three French Hens bakery out of the Bridgford’s former home, at 314 N. Fifth.



Tom and Jim Eddy are the current owners of a double house at 314-316 N. Fifth. In 1903, 118 years ago, an elaborate home wedding was planned here, which never took place. Photo by Barb O’Brien




Barb O’Brien shares this photo of the staircase at 314 N. Fifth St., on which Edna Bridgford might have planned to walk down to her waiting bridegroom on April 21, 1903. But at the appointed hour for the ceremony, Theodore Gagnon was nowhere to be found.

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 Amazon.com 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 Montgomery.editor@yahoo.com Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com

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