I grew up knowing that I was born on my maternal grandparents wedding anniversary, July 2. My grandparents, Ila and Leonard, both grew up in Qulin, MO. This town is located in southern Missouri near the boot-heel of the state. According to Wiki, ‘A post office called Qulin has been in operation since 1881. Qulin has been declared the “most difficult to pronounce” place name in the state of Missouri by Reader’s Digest.’
The town of qulin is pronounced ‘Kew-Lin.’
My grandfather, Leonard Carl Campbell, was one of 6 children and the fourth of five boys known as the ‘Campbell Brothers.’ My grandmother, Ila Mary Hamilton, was one of 4 children. As teenagers they both lived on large farms. My grandfather helped run his family farm and my grandmother helped with household and animal chores and they both were attending school. Leonard was described as being charismatic, athletic and handsome and when he laid eyes on Ila who recently ‘blossomed like a flower that year’ (according to her older sister Nadine) he was hooked.
I asked my grandpa how they met and his answer was as follows:
“Well, Ila went to Qulin school and I went to the country school by my house. When they closed the country school down, us boys (The Campbell Brothers) had to attend Qulin School. That’s when I was starting high school. We had to ride the bus. It was about 2 miles away. Across from school there was a general store and they sold some food and soda. A lot of the kids would hang out there after school. That is where I met Ila. It took me a while to work up the nerve to ask her out on a date. But she said yes. I borrowed my dad’s car and took her to a nearby town because they had a picture show. I took her to Campbell, MO which was a few miles down the road. I couldn’t always borrow my dads car or had the money for a show but we went often. We did that for about a year and we decided to get married. Our families thought we were too young. Looking back we were too young. But at the time we didn’t think so. We ran off and got married without anyone knowing. I was 17 and she was 15.”Leonard Carl Campbell
The young couple traveled six miles south into Arkansas to get married. In Arkansas, at the time, they did not require proof of age or any identification to get married. They both falsified the document with Leonard stating he was 21 years old and Ila stating she was 18 years old.
the newest married couple then traveled back home to Qulin and each kept their marriage a secret.
They returned to their perspective homes and lived their normal lives while neither told a soul about their marriage. This secret stayed a secret until the local newspaper published their wedding information under the recent “Local Weddings” column three weeks later. Everyone was shocked and upset about the wedding but each family made the same choice regarding their child. Both were told, ‘You made your bed now go lay in it.’
Today, I would’ve had that marriage license annulled immediately if this happened with my 15 year old daughter. it was a different time then.
The families were firm but helpful to the young couple in the beginning. Leonard stated:
“We bounced back and forth from my house to her house and then I decided it was time for me to get a real job. I went to the city (St. Louis) and found work. I got us a two bedroom furnished apartment and went back for Ila but she was pregnant. So we waited until she had the baby. I had to hitch rides when I could. The city kind of felt like jail. I was used to open spaces. I was used to the country. I was making $32 a week. We were struggling, but we didn’t even think about it at the time.”Leonard Carl Campbell
The couple went on to have two more children, a girl and a boy. Clay County Arkansas rules for the time of their marriage would have considered it falsified and not valid only under one condition. Mainly, if there was an issue with the falsified marriage license, one or both married parties could prove the falsification at any time and it would be grounds to dismiss the marriage license rendering it null and void. However, this didn’t happen in their case. The government didn’t try and figure out issues with marriage licenses on their own.
Currently Clay County Arkansas marriage license bureau requires a valid government issued ID and anyone can legally marry if over the age of 18.
If you are a male age 17 or a female age 16-17 you need parental consent. If younger parties have parental consent they also need a judge to consent and if a younger couple is pregnant or recently had a baby they only need a judges consent after reviewing all the evidence.
Interestingly, Wise Voter states, ‘In total, there are 36 states that allow marriages at 16 years old. There are 5 states that allow marriage at 17 years old – Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon, and Washington. Three states have a minimum marriage age at the age of 18 – Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia. Two states have a minimum marriage age at 15 years old, Hawaii and Missouri, and two states have the lowest minimum marriage age, which is 14 years old. Those states are Massachusetts and New Hampshire.’
What are your thoughts on these numbers? Did you marry young? This topic does stir quite the debate!
Have falsified marriage records in your tree or some record otherwise? Please let me know!
Do you have a more modern item in your procession that is becoming a family treasure? I did too! Read how I turned a modern item into a family heirloom here!
Jen with pioneer flunkies
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