Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wedding Wednesday: Louis and Elnora (Cooper) Shepherd

Today’s post is inspired by the Wedding Wednesday genealogy blog prompt over at Geneabloggers.

Louis And Elnora (Cooper) Shepherd with their oldest two children.
One of my favorite family history nuggets is the fact that my maternal grandfather literally fell in love with the girl next door. (Or maybe it’s my grandmother that fell in love with the boy next door.) Either way, it’s definitely the fact that in a world (or at least a city) full of possibilities and potential mates, these two individuals - a girl from rural Georgia whose family came up during the Great Migration, and a boy who was born and raised in busy DC - ended up as next door neighbors, then husband and wife, and then parents to 5 children, including my mother.

Here they are in the 1940 U.S. Census, my 16-year-old Grandmother Elnora Cooper and my 17-year-old Grandfather Louis Shepherd, living respectively at 154 and 152 D Street SE in DC (images clipped from consecutive pages of the census).

I wish I could have known them both, and learned directly from them what their lives were like, and especially about this exciting time in their teenage years. Who eyed who first? Did they first meet on the front steps outside of their houses, or were they out and about when they ran into each other, and only then discovered they were neighbors? Did he court her, bring her flowers and gifts? Did she make the first move? And when he went missing from his Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Maryland (it happened a few times, according to his personnel record, though he was still discharged honorably) was he coming home to visit both his mother and his sweetie?

Unfortunately my grandmother passed away before I was even a twinkle in my mother’s eye, and my grandfather passed when I was only 2 years old. So, I learn what I can from family, and also from the historical record.

I don’t have any photos from Louis and Elnora’s wedding ceremony, but I do have a copy of their marriage license…both of them. Yes, both! You see, they applied for marriage in 1942, and for some reason, didn’t go through with it.

Bonus: Here’s the announcement of their application in the Washington Post.

But notice at the bottom of the 1942 form, the Reverend B.H. Whiting (of Friendship Baptist Church, in DC) has written “Not married by me,” and the Return portion of the page has not been completed, meaning this marriage was never finalized.

Now here’s another application for these same two folks, Louis and Elnora, submitted in April 1944 and fully completed.

What happened in the year and a half between their first application and their second? Right now I can only make guesses.

  • If you look at the top third of the original license application, you’ll see that Louis was 19 and Elnora was 18. Louis’ mom, Katherine, signed the document to show that she gave parental consent for her minor child to marry. Perhaps one side of the family or the other changed their minds soon after, deciding that they were too young to marry?
  • In September 1942, the world was in the thick of World War II. Pearl Harbor had been bombed in December of 1941, and the U.S. had already conducted 4 rounds of draft registration. Family lore has it that Louis was found unfit for duty because of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) – you can always tell my Grandfather in pictures because his head is slightly cocked to the side and one shoulder is slightly raised. Perhaps he was afraid requirements would be relaxed and that he’d be called to serve, and didn’t want to start a family just in case?
  • Or something else, entirely – who knows? I’ll need to see if any of my grandmother’s cousins can shed any light on this!
In any case, my grandparents were married for just shy of 23 years. The union ended only when Grandma Elnora passed of cancer 28 days before their April 29th anniversary. She left behind 5 children between the ages of 2 and 21. Louis followed many years later – leaving behind his second wife, my Grandma Doris - in 1987. Louis and Elnora’s progeny now includes children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren spread across the United States, including 1 nosy curious granddaughter who wants to know more!

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