Just as this past Wednesday was the twenty first of August, so it was on her wedding day one hundred six years ago when Catherine Stevens said those two words, “I do,” to the man of her dreams. Fred Stahl—the other party to that event in 1907—had been described as “genial,” “much liked” and “a young man of excellent character” who was “well known.”
Despite these glowing editorial accolades, newspaper reports indicated that the Stahl-Stevens wedding was to be “a quiet affair.” Why, when the papers raved over the bride’s “hosts of friends” and the groom’s “more than a common degree of popularity,” would the couple choose to celebrate their wedding in such a sedate manner?
Agreed, the sacrament of marriage always has been a serious occasion, especially within the realm of the Catholic church. And our modern choices about how to celebrate that occasion are considerably ramped up, compared to the more modest attitudes exercised in past ages, including Catherine’s younger years.
In the past, I’ve speculated about somber occurrences that had recently affected the Stahl family, like the tragic death of Fred’s older brother Charles—known to many of that time as “Chick” Stahl of the Boston Red Sox team that had played in a recent World Series. Out of respect for what a family could go through in such sobering times, one might expect subsequent joyous occasions to take on a more subdued tone.
However, that occurred about five months prior to the wedding. I often wonder if the choice of a “quiet affair” had its root in other reasons. I search through Fred Stahl’s family tree to see if there are any indications, but find nothing telling.
Frederick James Stahl, a Fort Wayne native, was born to “Rheuben” and Barbara Stadtmiller Stahl in—depending on which document you choose to believe—1881, 1882, or 1883. He was apparently one of the youngest of many Stahl children, for the 1900 census shows Barbara as mother of twelve children, ten still surviving.
Speaking of the 1900 census, it unveils another mystery: Barbara is listed as head of household, but not listed as widowed. While Reuben could be found for the 1870 census and the 1880 census, I can find no record of his death in Allen County records, nor in the Catholic cemetery in town. There is a Reuben Stahl in the Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne, but as far as I know, that is not a Catholic cemetery. Barbara, incidentally, was buried in the Catholic cemetery, though their unfortunate, famous son was buried in the same cemetery as, I presume, his father. Perhaps not only was there a tragic death in the family in 1907, but also a rift in family relationships. Such deaths as these can be difficult to bear.
Then, on the other side of the equation, there was the strained relationship between Catherine and her step-mother, Theresa Blaising Stevens. I do know a bit about that from later letters from Theresa to her step-son, Catherine’s half-brother Will.
Interestingly enough, the bridal party was comprised of two young people of whom I know nothing—Mr. and Mrs. Jack Ryan. The customary spot often reserved for siblings or in-laws-to-be, that of maid of honor and best man, seemed in this case to be bestowed upon two friends.
Even the choice of hostess for the wedding reception seems to want to tell a story. As we’ll soon see when we explore the family of Catherine’s other step-mother, Mrs. P. H. Phillips was the short-lived Catherine Kelly Stevens’ younger sister, and aunt to Will. Why the affinity with the family of the step-mother she no longer had, rather than the family of her current step-mother?
With questions of relationships swirling around four sets of families—the Stahls, the Stevenses, the Blaisings and the Kellys—somehow, Catherine Stevens opted for a “quiet” wedding. She married a steady man who remained employed for forty seven years at the same company in which he worked at the time of their marriage—the Pennsylvania “shops.” For whatever reason, despite their likeability, Catherine and Fred never had any children of their own, and passed rather unremarkably within a few years of each other in the 1950s in the same town in which they were born.
Wedding announcement published in The Fort Wayne Sentinel on Wednesday, August 28, 1907, on page 19, column 1:
The Cathedral was the scene of a pretty wedding Wednesday morning when Miss Katherine Louise Stevens became the bride of Mr. Frederick J. Stahl. Rev. P. F. Hoche sang the nuptial mass, the hour of the ceremony being at 9 o'clock. Mr. and Mrs. Jack Ryan were the attendants. The bride, who is an extremely pretty young woman was becomingly gowned in a light silk with trimmings of lace insertion. A beautiful hat in yellow tones and gloves to match were worn by the bride and her bouquet was of ferns. Mrs. Ryan wore a cream silk net over pink silk, a hat with pink plumes and carried pink asters. After the wedding service the bridal party and immediate relatives were driven to the residence of Mrs. P. H. Phillips, 1910 Hoagland avenue, where the breakfast was served. The house was tastefully decorated with garden flowers and the bride's table was done in pink and white. The wedding was a quiet one in deference to the wishes of the bride, who is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Kelly Stevens. Mr. Stahl is a son of Mrs. Barbara Stahl. He is a machinist in the Pennsylvania shops, and a young man of excellent character and enjoys more than a common degree of popularity among his acquaintances.