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By Linda Emley
On Dec. 5, 1901, The Richmond Missourian hinted of the the Christmas shopping rush that was coming soon, “One Week More of Clearing the Way for Richmond’s Greatest Holiday Bazaar. We are closing out many lots at ridiculous prices in order to make room for the greatest holiday stock we have ever known. Our entire force is working with might to prepare the greatest exhibit of everything suited for presents in both novel and useful, for old and young, rich or poor, will be found here in great quantity. This store will be in full bloom by first of next week. The Racket Department Store, J.H. Estes manager.”
I thought this was a nice Christmas ad, but it took on a whole new meaning when I turned a few pages and found out the real reason why “The Racket Department Store “was going to be in “full bloom by the first of the week.”
The Richmond Missourian, Dec. 12,1901, “Fowler – Teegarden. Monday afternoon at 5 o’clock was the hour of a surprise wedding in this city, the contracting parties being Mr. Fred D. Fowler and Miss Flo Teegarden, both of Ray County.The marriage was solemnized before a large crowd of the best people in town. The Racket Store was the scene of the wedding, Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Estes being friends of the groom. The store in its holiday dress made a pretty novel ground for the event. The wedding party stood in the millinery section above, and in full view of the crowd on the main floor below, were married by Dr. T.C. Barrett of the Presbyterian Church, who voiced a particularly impressive ceremony. The groom is the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Fowler of Polo. He is a wealthy young farmer, owning one of the best farms in North Ray. Mr. Fowler is a bright man, of one of the first families of the country. The bride is the daughter of Mr. Moses Teegarden of near Knoxville and is a young lady doubly blessed of beauty, intelligence and sweetness of disposition. She is a favorite at home and Mr. Fowler is claiming he won a charming wife. After the ceremony, the bridal pair received congratulations from a large number of friends who wished them a world of happiness.”
Since this was a surprise wedding, one of my biggest questions was how did they get enough people together to have a large crowd? Did they use a “town crier” to stand on the street corners and yell “Come join a wedding at The Racket Store at 5 p.m.”? J.H. Estes had to be a good manager because I can’t think of any better way to get everyone in the store for a Christmas open house. You could even pick them out a wedding present after the ceremony.
Being a hopeless romantic, I had to find out if a wedding held in the “millinery section” would be good enough to last a life time. Did this young couple just get caught up in the Christmas spirit or was it the real deal?
I found Mr. and Mrs. Fred Fowler in the 1910 U.S. Census, still married and living in Caldwell County. They had two sons, 6-year-old Carl and 4-month-old Cliff. This was good to know, but I still wanted to know the rest of the story. With a little more research, I found that Fred and Flora shared 58 years of marriage.
This was in the Ray County Conservator on Feb. 24, 1958: “Rites Held Thursday for Fred D. Fowler. Funeral services were held Thursday at the Lathrop Christian Church for Fred. D. Fowler, who died at 7 p.m. Tuesday at his home in Lathrop. The Rev. Dean Breedlove officiated and burial was in the Cowgill Cemetery. He was a retired farmer and in later years also operated an antique shop in Lathrop until his health failed. He was a member of the Christian Church. Born March 18, 1878, he was a son of Michael and Elvira Moss Fowler. Surviving are his wife, Flora Ann Fowler, two sons, C.C. Fowler of Polo and Carl Fowler of Excelsior Springs, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.”
Flora lived another 14 years and nine days before she went to be with Fred again. Ray County Conservator, Feb. 28, 1972: “Mrs. Fred Fowler dies at 90 years. Memorial services were held at 2 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Polo Christian Church for Mrs. Flora Ann Fowler, 90, of Polo, who died about noon Feb. 24. The Rev. Jim McCollough of Polo officiated at the services. The soloist was Mrs. John McCollough, accompanied by Mrs. Clifford Crist, organist, both of Polo. Burial was in the Cowgill Cemetery. Pallbearers were Paul Parker, Richard Leamor, Jewell Teegarden, Wayne Ellenberger, Forrest Leamer, and John McCollough. M.R. Fowler, Floyd Estes, Charles Ray Banister and Grimes Withers served as honorary pallbearers. Mrs. Fowler was born Aug. 16, 1881 at Mineral City to Moses and Julie Teegarden. She had lived most of her lifetime in Polo. A charter member of the Polo Christian Church, she was married to Fred Fowler, who preceded her in death. She leaves her one son, Cliff Fowler of Polo, a grandson, James Fowler of Leawood, Kan. and two great-grandchildren.”
I was glad to see Floyd Estes as an honorary pallbearer because this gives me hope that the Estes and Fowler families stayed in touch over the years.
I’m sure every time Fred and Flora came to Richmond, they were reminded of that cold December evening in 1901 when they tied the knot in the millinery section of The Racket Department Store. Now that is what I call a wedding to remember.
Have a good story with a romantic twist for Linda? You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her at Ray County Museum Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.