December 12, 2012
The Sedalia Democrat of December 1901 presented news of a festive Christmas. Articles announced Christmas programs at various schools and churches, advertisements hawked the most wanted toys and gifts, and society pages detailed parties and entertainments.
Stories about Christmas, however, competed with stories of romance gone awry. One account told of a bride who failed to appear at her wedding. The other account told of a couple who eloped while one of them was already married to someone else.
The story of the missing bride involved an unusual meeting and a long-distance romance. The prospective groom, E.A. Ashbrook, of 632 E. Fifth St., Sedalia, had worked in Kansas City as an egg candler for the Armour Packing Company. While examining a crate of eggs, he found several eggs labeled with the names and addresses of young ladies.
Ashbrook selected a name from one of the eggs and wrote to the woman, Emma Hayden of Holwell, Kan. He and Hayden exchanged photographs and letters for some time before meeting. After a time, believing theirs was a “heaven-made match,” they agreed to marry.
Ashbrook returned to his home in Sedalia and secured employment at the Economy Steam Heating Company. Hayden also moved to Sedalia and began to work as a clerk at Cannon’s Grand Central, one of Sedalia’s most popular department stores.
In late November, Hayden returned to her home in Kansas to prepare her trousseau. Ashbrook arranged for a wedding ceremony on Christmas Day, sending Hayden a train ticket, securing a marriage license from County Recorder Lee Looney, inviting friends and relatives, and hiring Judge David Kinsey to perform the 5 p.m. ceremony.
Hayden telegraphed Ashbrook on Dec. 24 that she intended to arrive in Sedalia on the 4 p.m. train on Christmas Day. When Ashbrook met the train, however, Hayden was not there.
A Democrat reporter interviewed Ashbrook the day after the uncompleted wedding. Ashbrook seemed to accept the situation, telling the reporter, “My heart’s not broken. It’s just cracked.” He further said he believed Hayden’s parents had persuaded her not to marry, and that he intended to write her to find out exactly what had happened.
Ashbrook did not, in the words of the Democrat reporter, “seem to be grieving himself into his grave over the occurrence.”
The other story had a more dramatic ending, with the couple running afoul of the law. Laura Mitchell, a fashionably dressed woman who had respectable relatives in Sedalia, was the 20-year-old wife of Charles C. Mitchell, of Higginsville.
Mitchell was in poor health, and left Higginsville on Dec. 8 to visit Colorado, where he thought the mountain air would improve his health. He did not like Colorado’s climate, however, so he returned to Missouri, stopping in Kansas City. He wrote his wife, asking her to join him there. She did not respond. He then telegraphed her. Again, she did not respond.
On Sunday, Dec. 22, Mitchell went to Higginsville, where he learned his wife had left on Thursday for Sedalia. Frank Hagood, her 26-year-old first cousin, followed her. The Democrat’s description of Hagood suggested the reporter found him a man of questionable character; he “would pass for a successful businessman,” but was the son of a “woman who was mysteriously murdered by unknown parties a few months ago.”
The couple met in Sedalia and established a love nest in rooms they rented in a business building on Main Street.
Mitchell notified the Sedalia police, who arrested the couple. Judge Kinsey presided over the arraignment where the couple was charged with adultery. Hagood paid a fine of $15 plus court costs and Mrs. Mitchell paid $10 plus costs.
The Democrat did not comment on the failed elopement, other than to note that Mrs. Mitchell was overcome with emotion and fainted in Constable Robb’s office when she was arrested.