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By Linda Emley
The best Christmas memories are made from traditions we shared with our family and friends. Some of my favorite memories are opening one present on Christmas Eve and my grandmother’s oyster dressing.
I still have the old baking dish she used and will treasure it always.
Another wonderful memory is sharing Christmas Eve candlelight services with my grandmother at our little church. There is always something magical about the soft glow of candle light.
This reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas stories of Richmond’s past and I’ve decided to start a new tradition. I’m once again sharing this story about the Racket Department Store because I know the store’s lamps burning softly made in a very beautiful place at 5 p.m. Dec. 12, 1901.
The Richmond Missourian hinted of Christmas Dec 5 that year.
“One Week More of Clearing the Way for Richmond’s Greatest Holiday Bazaar. Our entire force is working with might and main preparing 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.”
This ad took on a whole new meaning when I found the following article and learned the real reason why The Racket Store was going to be in “full bloom”.
This from the Dec. 12 Richmond Missourian in 1901: “Monday afternoon at 5:00 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, I wanted to know how 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!” J.H. Estes knew how to get people in his store and you could even pick out a wedding gift after the ceremony.
Being a hopeless romantic, I had to find out if the “millinery section” wedding would last a lifetime. I found the Fowlers in the 1910 Census, living in Caldwell County, Mo. with their two sons, 6-year-old Carl and 4-month-old Cliff. This was good news, but I 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 Feb. 24, 1958: “Funeral services were held at the Lathrop Christian Church for Fred. D. Fowler, who died at his home in Lathrop. The Rev. 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, according to the Conservator of Feb. 28, 1972: “Memorial services were held at 2 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Polo Christian Church for Mrs. Flora Ann Fowler, 90, of Polo. 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, Mo. 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 makes me think 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.