by Delbert Trew
Strict, religious Mexican laws
allowed for unusual ceremony
was a time in Texas history when our grand state still belonged to
the law required all Colonists to adopt the Catholic faith to become
Mexican citizens. Plus, you had to be a bonafide Mexican citizen to
own land and, of course, all Colonists wanted to own land.
Complicating the problem, only marriages performed by a Catholic priest
were recognized. The remoteness of the frontier left few if any priests
available. Not to be constrained by technicalities, a process was
adopted whereby couples could be bonded. They merely signed an agreement
to be married by a priest at the first opportunity and meanwhile could
live as legally wedded couples. Passion triumphed again.
As time passed there were a lot of children born, many bonded "pregnant"
wives, a few couples who decided to "unbond" by splitting the sheet
and tearing up the agreement and going on about their way in the singular.
Finally a priest arrived in the area to rescue the bonded colonists
from "heresy and infidelity" and to baptize the children. Now, if
you haven't attended a Catholic wedding recently, it takes awhile.
Also, entertainment and fun was hard to come by on the frontier. This
opportunity was too good to pass up.
The priest was overwhelmed by the number of couples needing his services
and decided to marry them in groups of six. Not only were the number
of waiting couples astonishing, there were swarms of unbaptized children
running wild up and down the creeks. He asked the Comisario of the
Colony, Henry Smith, who later became the Provisional Governor of
new Texas, to assemble a crew of associates to help with the gathering
of the sinners for the ceremonies. Smith described the melee as follows.
"Some two-hundred or more colonists gathered for the occasion. Barbeque
pits were dug, food prepared, musicians hired for the all-night dances
and a plentiful supply of 'exhilarating libations' were on hand. Needless
to say, there were few nuptial jitters among the couples as most had
been living together for years."
As the wedding party began and the festivities reached an accelerated
tempo, the priest realized the Church had an opportunity to refurbish
its meager coffers and decided to charge $25 per wedding.
Most were so happy from the exhilarating libations they paid the fee
willingly so they could return to the party.
The baptismal of the children turned into wholesale sprinklings with
whichever could be captured by the crew and of course donations being
accepted from the parents.
Smith and his crew were hard-pressed to muster the proper wife, husband
and brood at the proper ceremony. Near the last almost any willing
substitution was accepted.
The priest tried to ignore the blushing brides in "delicate condition"
and finally, after a frantic day of frustration and praying, the last
couples were conjoined legally "until death do us part." The Colony
was now legal in the eyes of the Church and Mexico.
The wedding party lasted until the food and drink were gone.
Tired, hungover and broke, the newlyweds loaded up, gathered their
broods and drifted homeward without much excitement. After all, for
most, the honeymoon had been over for years.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" May 13, 2008 Column
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