“Happiness While You Wait"

While I’m not nearly finished with the history of Marshall County, Kansas, or even the ghost town of Irving, I was pretty sure I could at least wash my hands of John Gail and those twister-tossed sisters Nellie and Alta Gail, before diving into new information uncovered by Keith Jones.  Admittedly, I had gathered up a few more scraps concerning the Gails.  Some brief press clippings shared by relatives on Ancestry.com help to tidy up the timetable of John Gail’s comings and goings, for instance, the fact that he moved to Washington State from Nebraska and did not relocate to El Toro, California, until 1902.  It was news that hardly seemed to merit a brand new blog posting.

Still, I did keep fishing for an obit that would snugly tie the Gail family to the devastating 1879 storm at Irving, and to that end I indulged in a long shot:  I logged in to my account at Belleville Newspaper Archive.  Locating John L. Gail within the pages of a Republic County newspaper seemed a stretch, but I reasoned that there was a narrow chance of finding some mention of his daughter, Nellie Gail Moulton.  After all, she was a millionaire who had spent her first six years in northern Kansas, only two counties east of Republic.  It never hurts to ask.  When my query turned up a match for Nellie’s father instead, you could have knocked me over with a Tuesday issue of my own town’s Morning Sun (these days, a featherweight edition).  The quoted passage below is from the May 27, 1897 issue of the Belleville Telescope.    

Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Gail were pleasant callers at this office Friday last.  Mr. Gail’s home is at Hebron, Neb., to which place he was taking his new bride, having been married Monday of last week at Los Angeles, Cal.  The bride was a resident of Belleville when a little girl, some eighteen years ago, and was Miss Minnie Raymond, daughter of J. B. Raymond, who owned and conducted a harness shop on the south side of the square.

It seems that after the Civil War, James Benjamin Raymond came to Kansas and filed a homestead claim on land a mile northwest of the town of Norway in Republic County, where Minnie was born in 1871.  James operated a harness shop in nearby Scandia in the early 1870’s, moving to Belleville later in the decade, eventually pulling up stakes for California.

As I mentioned previously, John and Prudence Gail moved their family from Irving to Hebron, Nebraska, a few years after being pummeled by the one-two punch of twin tornadoes, probably leaving Irving in 1886, the same year a third Gail daughter, Carrie, was born.  Prudence Gail died at Hebron in 1894, and John married Minnie May Raymond three years later.  She was 23 years younger than he.  Despite what the Telescope says, they were not actually married in California, however, as a jocular article in the August 1897 Arizona Sentinel makes clear.  The Arizona writer also seems to imply that one of the two newlyweds was only recently divorced.  If the writer employed his terminology carefully, the divorcée was Minnie.


Yuma’s Probate Judge a Promoter of Domestic Bliss.

Judge A. Frank, Dispenser of Happiness.  Fond hearts welded and guaranteed not to be affected by cruel California divorce laws.  Call early and avoid the rush.  Hours from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m., including Sundays.  

Yuma, A.T.

That wicked California law, recently passed, that requires a divorcee to have been a resident of the State a year before a marriage license will be issued, is just now causing a lot of trouble in the warm climate of that State.  Sleepless nights, tears, schemes, are all of no avail, for the law is inexorable until Arizona is thought of.  The trip is made, the line is crossed, and the Probate Judge our Abe is located, and right here is where the Judge gets in his fine work, as per advertisement.

 The last to engage the Judge’s services was on last Monday.  Shortly after the train pulled in from the west, a man came hurrying up Madison avenue, with that I-will-have-her look on his face, inquiring for the Probate Judge.  Upon finding the Judge, his first request was for a marriage license, which was immediately issued to him. Then he inquired the way to the minister's. The Judge said, "Young man, Yuma just at present is short on ministers, but if you will engage some lady to help you out in this matter I can fix you up in the latest permanent shape.”

"All right," the young man replied, "I'll have her here in a minute," and he kept his word.  The minute was scarcely up when he returned with his blushing intended. Then the Judge proceeded as per ad., the impressive words were spoken, and the couple departed with their hope fulfilled.  The names of the high contracting parties in this instance are John Lockwood Gail and Minnie May Raymond.  They registered at the S. P. Hotel after marriage and returned to California the next morning.

In case the item in the Sentinel caused the new Mr. and Mrs. Gail insufficient embarrassment, it was reprinted the next week in larger cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, although the Herald withheld the names of the newlyweds, fortunately, since it was a paper which Minnie’s father undoubtedly read. 

There is, by the way, a cornucopia of information on Ancestry about Mr. James Benjamin Raymond - an album’s worth of photographs of him posing with descendants, pictures of his medals, pension documents, a copy of his homestead record, and at least one letter to a niece proudly describing his wartime experiences.   Before his death in 1936, a few weeks shy of his 97th birthday, he was celebrated in the press as the last Civil War veteran in Covina, California.

It occurs to me that quite a few persons in this story attained unusually long lives.  Nellie Gail Moulton was born in 1878, the year “HMS Pinafore” had its London premiere, and lived 93 years, long enough to take in the first act of America’s own comic operetta, the Watergate affair.  Her daughters Charlotte and Louise also lived into their 90’s.  Louise Moulton Hanson died only about two years ago, a month after celebrating her 99th birthday.  Minnie Raymond Gail, who probably seemed more like a sister to Nellie Gail than her stepmother, was born the year Henry Morton Stanley found Dr. Livingston, and died the year I graduated from Mankato High School.  

Makes history seem much more personal if you measure it like that.

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com