McEwensville High School Teacher Got Married

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, June 29, 1913: Went to Sunday School this afternoon. Tweet came down this evening.

Source: Milton Evening Standard (June 26, 1913)

Source: Milton Evening Standard (June 26, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Tweet was a nickname of Helen Wesner. She was a friend of Grandma’s .

Did Grandma and Tweet gossip about the latest news in McEwensville a hundred years ago tonight?

An aside–All of the pieces don’t quite  fit  together in this post, so feel free to take the information with a grain of salt, but  here  goes—

Grandma’s former teacher at McEwensville got married. .  .to a former student!

On August 26, 1912 Grandma described Bruce Bloom, her teacher during her senior year:

. . . He is rather wide, wears a pair of pinchers, and has yellow hair. Not so very cross, but I believe he could be.

The newspaper clipping says that Bruce married Mary C. Rothermel of McEwensville on  the previous Monday (June 23, 1913).

I have the 1913 commencement program for McEwensville High School and it indicates that Mary C. Rothermel (as well as Grandma) were members of the class of 1913.

commencement.program.1

Now to the part about all of the pieces not quite fitting together—the newspaper article indicates that Mary C. Rothermel was a graduate of Bloomsburg State Normal School which suggests that she was a little older and not a recent graduate of the high school. . . But in a tiny village like McEwensville how could there have possibly been two Mary C. Rothermels?

I’m probably way off base—and trying to create something to gossip about a hundred years later when there really is nothing of particular interest—but I almost want to argue that the newspaper made a typo and that the groom rather than the bride was the graduate of Bloomsburg State Normal School.

And, while I’m worrying about the details, there’s another little thing that bothers me–Why did Bruce and Mary get married in Renovo on a Monday at the church parsonage?  Mary was from McEwensville; Bruce was from Sunbury which is about 20 miles south of McEwensville.  Renovo is a very remote town way up in the mountains about 75 miles northwest of McEwensville. Did they elope?

Whoa! I need to rein myself in. . . Improbable as it seems, there probably were two Mary C. Rothermels in McEwensville . . .  and the boring newspaper clipping probably accurately tells the entire story.

35 Responses

  1. I am intrigued, but, then, as now, newspapers made mistakes, I am sure.

  2. Considering that teaching has rarely been a lucrative position, especially in small-town America, eloping looks like a definite possibility: her parents may well have objected. Also, notice that there’s no mention of bridal party, at least in the portion of the paper you’ve copied.
    You could really add fuel to the gossip by looking for a birth in the following eight months, either another newspaper article or the 1920 census. (Did he return to town to teach the next year? Or expediently move elsewhere?)
    I’m assuming the normal college reference was to his credentials.
    Your question about two Marys would likely be answered in the 1910 census.
    The small size of the graduating class is equally intriguing. This was a time when many of the boys typically went to work full-time on the farm as soon as the law allowed, so these boys were the exception. As for the girls? And where did they all go from here?

    • Thanks for the many great suggestions! Your comment made me dig out my copy of The History of the McEwensville Public Schools by Thomas Kramm. It contains a list of teachers by year. Bruce Bloom only taught at McEwensville for one year (1912-13). :)

      It would be fun to explore newspapers out in the future. I’ll have to try to remember this in 2014 when I get to digging through 1914 microfilms of the paper.

  3. I work at a newspaper–we never make mistakes (ha ha) and I have a bridge over the Dead Sea to sell you too

  4. This could start a whole ‘nother area of research for you! :)

    • There are way too many interesting things to research. :) Thank goodness the diary keeps pulling me back and keeps me from going too far afield.

  5. My guess is that they family did not approve of the wedding so they were quietly married. I think the newspaper made a mistake in the report. It was probably not that unusual to marry a former student in those days.

  6. Haha an old mystery – love it! When I can’t figure something out I like to tell myself or write a scandulous story about it! …the tweet … perhaps the origin of Twitter? See I can’t help myself!

  7. So much fun to make up stories to try to explain the mysteries of the past. There are a lot of holes in my family’s history and it is so tempting to fill them in with surmise. but often the truth is wilder than even the wildest imagining.

    • I like how to you put it. I’m going to have to try to remember the phrase about the truth often being wilder than the wildest imagining.

      Over time I find more of the missing pieces to the puzzles I’m trying to solve, but I keep uncovering new questions so the overall puzzle keeps getting bigger. I’m not sure that I’ll ever get ahead. But in the meantime I can continue making up stories to explain mysteries of the past. :)

  8. Hahahaha! Gossiping 100 years later! What fun! :)

  9. Ah, the tug of romance. I admire your discipline to stay within the bounds of historical research — but the author in me loves your speculation!

  10. I love the old newspaper clippings. In researching my aunt’s murder in 1924, four different newspapers give four differerent accountings. Additionally, the four newspapers list different names for the pallbearers. I drug out one of my boxes containing research this past week and there’s so much conflicting information – it’s easy to allow the mind to run wild! Even as late as the 1950s primarily rural newspapers were using individuals in the community to collect weekly happenings and then were turning these events into the newspaper for ‘news’ of the community. The info was relayed to different people so many different times, it was never accurate.

    • I’m amazed that there wasn’t agreement across papers for something that seems as straightforward as the names of pallbearers. Your comment confirms what I’ve often suspected about old newspaper articles.

      From what I’ve read on your blog, I know that you are grappling with a very difficult story. Something keeps pulling you back to that story–and I feel certain that you’ll eventually get it sorted out, though it may be very hard on a number of levels. Best wishes, and my thoughts are with you as you work on it.

  11. Great info, article and musing.

  12. I have seen so many errors in the local papers on people I know that I suspect the news article has errors.

    • I can imagine how newspaper writers could have easily gotten things mixed up as they tried to go from the notes they had to the stories they were writing.

  13. I just looked Mary C. Rothermel on the 1910 census in McEwensville. She was 17 years old in 1910 which would have made her 20 years old if she was the same one that graduated with your grandmother in 1913. That seems a little old to me.

  14. I just looked on ancestry.com and found an article that states that Mary and Bruce had a daughter on February 26, 1914 – Martha Bloom. She was born in Herndon.

    I can’t find any other Mary Rothermals born around 1895. Perhaps this Mary is the same as the one in the program and she was held back a few years? The name is just not common enough for there to be more than one!

    I agree that the newspaper made a mistake on the school. Bloomsburg State Normal School looks to have been a prep school for teachers, which would make sense since Mr. Bloom was a teacher.

    • Interesting. . . They probably are the same people. Herndon is in the same county as McEwensville. (It’s at the southern end of the county–McEwensville is toward the northern end.) Since Bruce did not teach in McEwensville during the upcoming 1913-1914 school year, it seems very possible that they moved to Herndon. Thanks for doing the research.

  15. Maybe she didn’t finish high school and came back after graduating from the Normal School. She may have met Bruce at the Normal School and then came back with him to McEwensville. She may have been the reason he came there. Or, maybe I am jet-lagged and just rambling :-).

    • Ooh – that might be it. However, would a teacher school accept her without graduating from high school first? I think it’s possible back then. The whole school system was weird.

    • Welcome back!

      I’m not real sure about the requirements to attend normal schools back then, but it seems like she would have needed a high school diploma to get accepted into the normal school.

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