Emily’s Marriage with a Surprise Wedding Witness

Twenty years ago I searched the name “Leoria Carolyn Wilbur” online to help my son with a family tree assignment. Athough I presumed I would discover material on my grandmother, the first result, a news item from a 1900 paper transcribed by the Tioga County historical site, astonished me.


Leoria Carolyn Wilbur marries Albert Landis Meeker

It’s my great-grandmother. The young Edwardian woman comes to life on her wedding day in an appropriately formal description with the traditional use middle of names. “Two popular young people”.  Leoria Carolyn becomes larger than the tragic woman I recall from her daughter’s stories.

My grandmother arrives three years later.  Her twenty-one-year-old mother perishes from eclampsia after childbirth the same day. Unlike modern times, there is no commonly known prevention and solution for this pregnancy condition in 1903.  Leoria Carolyn Wilbur Meeker was the sole surviving child of Stephen and Lovina. The sadness on the occasion is unfathomable.

Stephen and Lovina lost their little Lottie at three in 1879, now “Ora”.  The baby’s twenty-two-year-old father is incapable of caring for a child without family to help. Under the circumstances of the times, the maternal grandparents legally adopt the child and name her Leoria Carolyn after her mother. Baby Leoria is precious to the Wilburs.

Leoria,  the second, plays with “Little Emily Barber”, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Barber,  and the flower girl we meet at the wedding described by the newspaper writer.  The Tripp sisters, Lovina Wilbur and Mrs. J. C. (Carrie) Barber, live within walking distance of each other. Lovinia, the older of the two, is 51 years old. Carrie, her youngest Tripp sibling, is fourteen years her junior with a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. Oddly, they now have young children at the same time.



Seventeen years after Leoria Carolyn Wilbur wed Albert Landis Meeker, the flower girl, Emily, becomes the bride, and Leoria (the second) participates in the wedding. Leoria Carolyn Wilbur, along with Emily’s younger brother, Archie J. Barber attend Emily Leona Barber’s wedding ceremony on January 12, 1918, two teenagers, the witnesses.

William E. Davis performs the rites for Emily and Harland Bigelow.  He is the pastor of the Boulevard Methodist Episcopal Church, the same church started 11 years prior in the Wilbur home next door where Leoria lives.

Rev. Davis, minister to the congregation at 99 Grand Boulevard, would contract influenza during the epidemic and succumb on Christmas Eve eleven months later.