Monday, May 23, 2011

A Silent Wedding

One of the unexpected perks about doing the Civil War Saturday posts is that it has made me go back and research families I hadn't in a long time (and in some cases never).  One of the most interesting re-discoveries to come out of this is Mary Emma Rose, the niece of my fifth great-grandfather, William Lucius Rose.  I knew a little about Mary Emma before, but I soon realized I had only just scratched the surface.  I'll write more about her later, but below is one of the most interesting articles I found on her:
Salem Register, 25 July 1844

"A SILENT WEDDING.  A very interesting ceremony was performed this morning, at the Presbyterian Church in Eighth street - formerly in Murray street.  A ceremony interesting at all times, but peculiarly so in the present case, from the physical condition of the parties most immediately concerned.  It was a marriage. -- The Rev. Dr. McAuley officiated.  A large audience was present, the major portion of it comprising the pupils of an honored and most laudable and educational institution pertaining to our city.  The groom had been for some time a monitor in this institution - the bride for an equal or greater length of time has held the responsible post of assistant matron.  Thus inmates of one dwelling, and engaged in the performance of assimilating duties, it is no wonder that they had become acquainted each with the other's estimable qualities, and that a mutual affection prompted them to link their destinies in life together.  Yet we are assured that word of love was never uttered by his lips or breathed into her willing ear.

And the same reserve was manifested by them at the alter.  They stood mute - the voice of the clergyman alone was heard when the solemn vows of marriage were exchanged.

The parties were Nathan Miles Totten, of Huntington, Long Island, and Mrs. Mary Emma Mitchell, widow, of this city - both deaf mutes.  Mr. Peet, the esteemed principal of the institution to which they have for sometime been attached, interpreted by signs between them and the clergyman; and he also made the concluding prayer, in the same voiceless but impressive language.

At the close of the ceremony the happy couple entered a carriage, with the groomsmen and the bridesmaid, and proceeded to Brooklyn, where the wedding was provided at the house of a friend; and thence they were to depart, by the three o'clock train, for Huntington, where Mr. Totten possesses a modest property. -- NY Commercial, 17th."

What I find most interesting about this article is that it was carried by newspapers all over the country as if it were a major news story.  Was it really that unique for two deaf people to marry back then?

Before I found this article, I had no idea Mary Emma was deaf or of her work to help other people who were hearing impaired.  At the time of Mary Emma's second marriage to Nathan Miles Totten (her first husband, DeWitt Clinton Mitchell, had died in 1830) they were living in New York City but not long after they married they would leave to go work in other institutions throughout the US.

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