February 29, 2012

A 19th Century Quaker Marriage

John T. Hambleton came across his parents' marriage certificate during the 1920s while sorting through some family documents at his home in Iowa.  The certificate, dated 1844, was issued in Salem, Ohio, and was signed by seventeen witnesses to the marriage, including family members and fellow-members of the Salem Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

John's parents were Levi and Mary Heston Hall Hambleton.  Their parents' families had originated in Pennsylvania and their parents eventually migrated to Ohio where Levi and Mary were married. From there, Levi and Mary moved west to Iowa with Levi's brother and sister-in-law, Osborn and Philena Cooper Hambleton.  Levi and Mary were considered Iowa pioneers and, having been the founders of the town of Forest Home and prestigious residents of Oskaloosa, the discovery of their marriage certificate raised sufficient interest to warrant an article in a local newspaper.

Partial newspaper article with photographs of Levi and Mary
Heston Hall Hambleton.  Published in the 1920s (actual date
unknown) in an Iowa newspaper, probably the Montezuma Weekly
Republican.  Courtesy of the Jerome Walker family.

The mid-19th century marriage process followed by the Hambletons was less complicated than that required of Sammy and Hannah Callender Sansom a century earlier.  One month before they planned to be married, and after obtaining written permission from their parents and  being "cleared" by the Women's and Men's Meetings, Levi and Mary publicly had to announce their intentions in a Meeting of their congregation.  Anyone knowing a reason why the marriage should not take place was expected to voice concern at that Meeting.  According to the newspaper account, if no one objected to the marriage at this time, a wedding date was set.

Levi and Mary married on October 10, 1844 by taking each other's hand and repeating these words in turn:  "I take thee to be my wife [or husband] and promise with divine assistance to be unto you a faithful and affectionate husband [or wife] until death do us part."  The witnesses to the marriage then signed the wedding certificate.  This act signaled that the ceremony had been fully solemnized.  Unlike the Sansom marriage, the Hambleton marriage proved to be a long and loving partnership of mutual support.

Mary Heston Hall may have made or received a marriage quilt prior to her wedding.  Given the prominence of the families involved, it is likely that a Quaker-style whole-cloth or pieced wedding quilt made of silk, such as the one shown below, was made for the occasion.

Sawtooth Bar silk quilt made in 1886 by members of the Short Creek Monthly Meeting
(Ohio) as a wedding gift to Gilbert McGrew and Eliza Hall.  Known as the Starr Quilt,
it measures 80" X 80" and is a holding of the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio.
Photograph courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

The wedding dresses worn by Quaker brides in the 19th century were generally, but not always, made of silk and ranged in color from dark browns to light creams.  Many of the pieced silk quilts made by Quaker women of the period were made by reusing the fabric of their wedding dresses in a quilt intended to be a family heirloom that passed to later generations.

The dress worn by Mary Heston Hall in 1844 might well have resembled one worn by Mary Elizabeth (Walker) Williams in 1845.  It's simplicity of style gives it a quiet elegance.

Mary Elizabeth (Walker) Williams' wedding dress.  It is seen on display at the
Virginia Quilt Museum in front of a silk quilt made by Mollie Dutton (subject
of  our January 4, 2012 posting).  The dress was worn again in the 1920s by
Mary Elizabeth's granddaughter, who may have shortened its sleeves.

The style of a wedding dress forty years later, as seen below with its accompanying bonnet and shoes, displays an elaborately made jacket with sleeve ruffles and buttons, and a generous ruffle on the skirt.

Wedding dress, bonnet, and shoes worn by Sarah Mintern Bacon of Germantown,
Pennsylvania, who married Jacob V. Edge of Birmingham Meeting on the
12th day of the 3rd month, 1885.  Given to the Downingtown Friends Meeting  by
the Jacob V. Edge Family.  For more information about this Meeting

In discussing the fashion of the "Quakeress", Mrs. Amelia Mott Gummere comments that 18th and 19th century urban and well-to-do Quaker women of both England and America tended to follow the fashion trends of their day but approached these with more simplicity.  In so doing, they used the finest materials available to them but reduced ornamentation better to adhere to Quaker tenets.  It must be noted, however, that it is difficult to generalize about historical Quaker clothing styles.  The "fashions" worn by Quaker women were influenced by the strictness of religious dictates from group to group, by geographical location, and by their rural or urban environments.


Chenoweth, Lynda Salter.  Philena's Friendship Quilt: A Quaker Farewell to Ohio.  Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009.

Frost, J. William.  The Quaker Family in Colonial America, A Portrait of the Society of Friends.  New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973.

Gummere, Amelia Mott.  The Quaker, A Study in Costume.  Philadelphia: Ferris & Leach Publishers, 1901.

Undated newspaper article, probably published in the 1920s in the Montezuma Weekly Republican, Montezuma, Iowa.

(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare 2012


  1. Another great post! Thanks for sharing this information. Those wedding dresses are beautiful!

    1. Thanks for your comments and support! It's gratifying to know that you're enjoying our posts.

  2. Thanks for revealing this super valuable resource!Probably one of the more interesting reads in awhile.!@boseMarriage Certificate Template

  3. Fascinated by Mollie Dutton's quilt. Love that layout.