The Wedding Plans
By Bobbi Spiker-Conley
Editor’s Note: The following is part of a SERIES of articles (that began in November 2020) about Jake Spiker and Gay Zinn’s courtship letters. Links to view previous editions are found below this article.
Gay Zinn lived in Holbrook, West Virginia. In 1906, the family moved to nearby Oxford. Like everyone in the household, she contributed to managing the house and farm. She also assisted in hosting the boarders that often stayed at the Zinn properties.
Her sweetheart, Jake Spiker, lived in Harrisville, West Virginia. In late 1905, he rented a room at a boarding house in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and began working at the Phillip Sheet and Tin Plate Mill.
As we mentioned last month, Jake and Gay were quick to report on the many marriages being celebrated in their communities. But when it came to disclosing their own marriage plans, the courting letters were cryptic. Family, friends, and even the minister were kept in the dark until the weeks and days before the wedding took place.
The first hint was buried in Jake’s letter dated July 8, 1906. ”My dear, you must study on that what we was talking about for the sooner, the better it will suit me now. Don’t put it off till next summer. Write and tell me what you think about holidays. That is a good ways off and will give you plenty of time to think it over. Well I will close for this time. Write and tell me what you think your folks will say. Tell all my sisters I said hello to them and not forget their ugly brother. Well goodbye my little girl, and here is a kiss for you and one for the girls. XXXX Your own true boy, J.S.”
Three days later Gay replied, “I don’t have any idea what my people would say in regard to what we was talking about. So you say Holidays. I always thought I preferred summers, especially the month of June. But that is a good way off, isn’t it. My father and mother were married on Christmas 32 years ago.” (Referring to M.B. and Alice Zinn, pictured at right.)
Typically, Jake would have sent a letter around this time, but I could not find it in the shoebox. The next letter was from Gay in which she wrote several disjointed sentences.
“I am just as fat and hearty as ever…Coe has gone to Harrisville. She went yesterday…We had a nice time at the festival Saturday night, even it if was rainy… Roy is coming over Sunday evening…How I wish you was close so you could come often. I think Katie and I will attend the Convention at Auburn next Friday. Well Dear I will study over the matter and let you know whether Xmas or not. I can’t think of anything more, so I will close. Wish much love to you. I am Gay. Bye Bye.” (July 19, 1906)
“To my own dear little Gay girl. Well, dearest, this Saturday morning finds me trying to talk to you in this solemn way and to answer your nice letter which I received yesterday, and surely glad to hear that you are so fat and hearty. I would just like to put my arms around you and see if you are any larger than you was when I was out there, ha ha. Gay, when you said that you wished that I could come oftener, you just spoke my thoughts. Hain’t that what I have been trying to tell you, that I would like to have you with me always? And I hope you will not put it off any longer than Xmas for I would like to have you for a Xmas present…Write soon and give me your answer. Your own boy with all my love, J.S.” (July 22, 1906)
In a letter dated August 13, 1906, Jake described the things he had done and named the people he’d seen over the past weeks. At the end, he added, “I want to be there the 1[st] Saturday if nothing happens to keep me from it. I want to see you and see if you are getting so gray. You will have to get a good bit white headed than you are now before I will give up. So my love, what size ring do you ware [sic]? [Size] 7 I thought but was not sure. I wanted to be sure. You send me the correct size the next time that you write. I want to know before I come down…Your own true love, J. Spiker. Bye Bye XXX”
Gay wrote, ”I don’t suppose you would know me now for I am just as gray as can be almost…We have been having an awful lot of trouble in regard to our mail. But I think they will get it all right soon. We have free delivery now. Well Dear, news is scarce out here. I will close with a promise to talk and make up for lost time when I see you. I wear ring size 7. From Gay. P.S. address, Oxford W.Va. R.F.D. No. 1“ (August 21, 1906)
Jake replied, ”Dearest love. This evening I will try to answer your short and cold letter which I received this evening. I just began to think that you had clear forgotten me…I have went to the P.O. every day this week to hear from my true one, and was disappointed every day…You can look for me one week from tomorrow if nothing happens to keep me away…And if you think you have gotten so gray that I won’t know you, I will bring some dye along that will make you my own little Gay girl again. Oh, yes, I had an invitation to a surprise party tonight, but I cannot go for I have to work tonight. Gay, I have your ring picked out and I think it is a beauty. I will bring it with me when I come down. Well, I will ring off for this time. Your affectionate boy. J.S.” (August 24, 1906)
At some point, the couple must have agreed that December was too soon and June was too far off. There weren’t any further mentions of wedding plans until Jake’s letter on January 2, 1907. “Hello sweetheart. This evening finds me sitting at the desk trying to talk to you in this solemn way. I surely was glad to hear from my own little blue eyed girl…There is a place in my heart for you that no one else can fill…You must not forget the second Sunday in April. I can hardly wait that long, but it looks like I would have to.” And then he followed with two more letters expressing his love and excitement.
“…Dearest one on earth to me, you must write soon for you don’t know how much I appreciate your letters. For I will never be satisfied till you are mine, and that won’t be long, will it dear? Well as I hafto [sic] work, I will close for this time. From one that never ceases to love and think of you. J.S. Bye Bye XX” (January 8, 1907)
“Dearest, it is with the greatest of pleasure that I try to talk to you in this poor way. I surely was glad to hear from my little girl and to know that she is having such a nice time. I only wish that I was with you. We would just take first place, wouldn’t we?…You must not forget what is to take place the 14 day of April. You must bare [sic] in mind it is only about 3 months till then. Have you ever said anything about it to anyone? If you have not, I will when I come down, and that will be about the 2[nd] or 3[rd] Sunday in March. I will bring this to a close for this time. Good bye sweetheart. From your love. J.S.” (January 16, 1907)
Gay answered, “No, I haven’t told anybody about what is going to happen in April. Coe told me you told her about something going to come to pass in April and I asked her what it was, and she said that I knew all about it. That is all was said.” (January 20, 1907)
Jake reassured her, ”Coe was just kidding you when she said that I told her anything, for indeed I never mentioned such a thing. She was just guessing, and what a good guesser she is.” (January 22, 1907)
Gay wasn’t too surprised, writing ”I didn’t hardly think you had told Coe anything, but that certainly was a good guess. She must have overheard us talking. I will tell her myself before very long.” (January 27, 1907)
The serious planning began in February. Jake confided, ”I will be down sometime in March, but the first will be a little too soon. You know what will be my business then, ha ha. Gay, you must get everything as near ready as possible for I will only get to come see you once before the 14 of April. It is hard for me to get off just when I want to, for experienced men are scarce in the mill just now. I have been doing two men’s work part of the time this week. Gay, we will always be true to one another for I could not be otherwise to you for I love you so very much. Now dear, don’t think I am crazy, for you know that one who is in love is off just a little at times, ha ha.” (February 7, 1907)
Gay assured him, ”…Of course I will get everything ready I can. I would love to see you so much, but of course duty before pleasure…“ (February 11, 1907)
The next three letters were from Jake. “Of course,” he admitted, “I can’t expect you to do very much toward getting things ready. I will come down in next month and there we will fix everything all O.K. You just let me know when your father will be home. Well Gay, I am a happy man this evening. I got a better position today where I will make more money and not work so hard. But that is not all what makes me so happy. It is because I have got such a good, true girl, and just two more months from today, she is to be mine forever.” (February 14, 1907)
“My own dearest. This is one of my greatest pleasures, to write to my little girl…I want to come down and see you two weeks from Saturday, if I can get off [work]…I will be at your home Saturday evening [March 16,] and we will make everything ready for what is to take place the 14 of April. You know, that is not very far off now, but it can’t come too soon to suit me for I am getting offal [sic] tired of boarding [at a boarding house in Clarksburg.]…Well sweethart [sic] I will close, for news are scarce just now. And here is all my love to you. From your intended. J.S.” (February 28, 1907)
“To my own dearest, This beautiful March day finds me with pencil and paper trying to answer your letter which I received a little while ago. I surely am glad to hear that my little girl is much improved in health for I want you to hurry up and get well and harty [sic]. Oh, you will be all O.K. when you get up here in the city to live. I have been complaining for a few days. I have had a bad cold. I never saw such a winter as this has been for colds. I have had one nearly all winter. Gay I am sure that you don’t want to see me any worse than I want to see you. I would sooner see my own little Gay girl than anyone else in this world. Gay you must hurry up and get well before I come down, for if you are sick, you can’t love me so much, ha ha. Gay tell all of my sisters that I said hello. Have you told them what is to take place in April? Wish you would just hint it to them and see what they will have to say about it. I am afraid they all will be against it, but you will not go back on me, will you Gay, if ever one [sic] else does. Well good-bye my little (wife) good-bye. Your own lover, J.Spiker” (March 6, 1907)
Gay revealed ”I received your letter yesterday. I haven’t told anybody yet what is going to happen in April, but I think they suspect something. I don’t think they will object to you if they find out I am determined it shall be. Of course, I won’t go back on you.” (March 9, 1907)
“Gay, you can look for me Saturday evening [March 16] if nothing turns up to prevent. I will leave here Saturday morning, go down to Harrisville, get a horse, come out to see you, and from there, home time is very precious with me just now. Well sweethart [sic] I will close for this time. I will tell you all I know when I get to see you. So good bye till I see you. From one who loves you. J. Spiker” (March 14, 1907)
The enveloped postmarked for March 24, 1907 contained TWO letters, the first of which read, ”Dearest one to me, this Sabbath morning finds me trying to talk to you in this poor way. The first thing I want to ask you to forgive me for not writing sooner. You will forgive me, won’t you sweetheart? One reason that I haven’t written was because I thought you might write. I knew that it was my place to write but I have worked every night this last week. And I had to sleep in the daytime and of evenings. I just felt too mean. But I just feel fine now I have gotten over my cold and cough. I gained 3 lbs this last week. I hope my little girl is all O.K. and feels as good as I.
I saw Lena last evening and she said that she saw you since I did…There is just lots of your old friends up here [in Clarksburg.] I just think how nice it will be when I get the one I love up here.
Mamma did not whip me, but she acted as if she were jealous. (He was referring to his last visit home on March 16 when he spent more time with Gay than with the Spikers.)
Gay I am going to write your papa a few lines first asking him to state you[r] age so when I go to Harrisville, I won’t have any trouble in getting the papers. You can read what I write to your father and if it suits you, give it to him and tell him that it is from me. Well, my own little girl, I will close for this time. From one who loves you dearly. J. Spiker”
The second letter was addressed to Mr. M.B. Zinn (pictured below.) “Dear Sir, I have one more favor to ask you which I forgot when I were at your house and that is I would like for you to give me a few lines in writing just stating Gay’s age so I won’t have any trouble in geting [sic] the licence [sic] for I suppose that you know that it is our intentons [sic] to get married the second Sun in April. Just give them to Gay and she will send them to me in time for me to get them before the 12 of April. I hope you won’t think that I am asking to [sic] much. Your respect, J. Spiker.”
Gay wrote, ”My Dearest, This beautiful Sunday eve finds me writing my dearest a few of my many thoughts. The reason I didn’t write sooner, I was looking for a letter from you. There wasn’t anything said about who would write. But I owe you a letter. I haven’t anything of any note to write about. I hope you got back safe and hearty…I was over to see Lena Tuesday and Wednesday. We had a nice time. Lena said she was coming home in June and then she was coming over to see me. I thought maybe she would see me sooner than that. She doesn’t suspect a thing. She will be surprised...I told Mama what you told me to. (That the newlyweds would be moving to Clarksburg.) She said it was all right with her. The only objection she makes is she doesn’t like for me to go so far away from home. She doesn’t like the idea of going to town.” (March 24, 1907)
“The kids here have been setting me up a time since they have learned about the wedding. Especially [my brother,] Manley. He has near about teased me crazy. He says if I go to Clarksburg, I won’t get to come back for 18 years. He just goes on all the time and tries to cut a lock of my hair out. He says it will be gray before I get to come back…and of all the nonsense I never heard, he can think of to tease me about.
…I am going out to my sister’s in a few days so I can go to the milliners and no one will know anything about it around here.
If Papa don’t send writing this time, I will send them in the next letter.
You said you would write [Reverend] Robison*. Say, let me ask him and I will make him promise not to tell it. I see him almost every day and he is here nearly every week, and I can have a good chance at him. He tells about wedding sometimes. He always did tell us girls, anyway. Every time you come up, it is reported that we are married.
I told some of the people you got 3 weeks vacation in July and then you was coming up and pay me a nice long visit. The people around here are all gossiping, ha ha.
I received a postal from Lena. She told me about see[ing] you and wished I could be up there [in Clarksburg.] You mustn’t let Bert know anything about the 14[th] or he will write about it. If he does find it out, make him promise not to tell. Well dear, this is all for this time. With much love, your Gay. (March 28, 1907)
Jake responded, “This Sabbath day finds me trying to write you a few lines in reply to the last letter which I received from my little girl. I surely was glad to hear from you. Gay I am sure you could not please me better than for you to ask Rev. Robinson. I am sure you can do it better than I can write it.
I asked [my boss’ wife,] Mrs. Maple about you and staying two or three days till we get our house ready to live in, and she said all right, she would be glad to. She said she thought it was a wise act in me getting married. I have got a nice little four room cottage house, I think. I don’t know whether you will like it or not.
…Bert has cot [caught] on. I could not help it. [My brother] Pearly asked me the other evening if I had got a house yet, right before Bert. Pearly said he didn’t think. And several other little things has happened. [Bert] just kept teasing me till I told him, and he gave his word of honor that he would not tell. And if he does, I will never forgive him.
Gay I will be there as soon [on] Sunday morning as I can get there. I think twelve o’clock will be about the regular time for our marriage to take place, don’t you? If not, say so.” (March 31, 1907)
On April 1, 1907, Gay wrote, “I am out to sister Fay’s. Will be out here till Sunday and then I am going home…I got one of my hats Saturday. I was at 3 milliners before I got one to suit me. I want another one if I find the right kind.
Fay was telling me that if she was us, she would order our furniture from some reliable firm. She said we could get just as nice furniture and save almost half. One of her friends was giving her her experience about buying at a furniture store and pay[ing] double price. Of course, you are the one to decide that. I will have bed clothing, enough pillars [sic] and everything we need in that line.
I will enclose Papa’s letter this time. Just think, only 2 weeks till the 14, almost scares me.”
Jake replied, “Gay, I am glad to know that the 14 of April is so close. I have got a house, but I will wait till you come to buy our furniture. I think it will be a good plan to order our stuff. We will just buy enough here to start with…Gay, you must ask Rev. Robison, and I know he won’t refuse you… Tell your Papa I am much obliged to him.” (April 3, 1907)
“Dearest little girl, I will try to write you a few lines this Sabbath afternoon, not because I owe you a letter, just because I am thinking of you and as I hope it will be the last letter that I will write you in single life. I hope that next Sunday won’t be as bad a day as this, don’t you dear? But I will be there if it rains pitchforks…I hope that you have got everything ready out there.
You know we will want to leave your house as soon afternoon as possible so we can get to my home before night, for we will have to leave our house the next day in time to catch the train. When I told Momma that we could not stay any longer with her, she thought it was offal [sic]. She said that they would not get acquainted with you and I told them that I could not help it.
Gay, I have got you a nice ring but I don’t know whether we will have any doings over it or not. I think the quicker way to get through will be the best. What do you think?
I want to talk with the preacher a few moments before we get married so I won’t make any big blunders, ha ha.
Gay, you must write just as soon as you get this so I can get your letter. If you write as soon as you get this, I will get your letter Friday noon. Your own boy, J Spiker” (April 7, 1907)
In the days preceding the wedding, Gay began to fret. “My own dearest, I received your letters and was glad to hear from you. I came home this morning. I have had the blues all day….Kate is playing the organ and Coe is sitting rocking herself. Manley is laying [sic] on the floor here just beside me, teasing me. Papa and Mama are reading. I can’t hardly keep from crying to think that this will be my last Sunday evening at home for maybe a long while.
I will hafto [sic] work night and day this week nearly to get things just as I want them. I expect this will be the last letter you will ever receive from Gay Zinn. I don’t know anything to write this evening so I will close expecting to see you Sunday morning. With much love and best wishes, Your own true love, Gay Zinn Bye Bye “ (April 7, 1907)
“My own Dearest, I received your letter this morning. I wrote you Sunday evening and I thought it would be the last letter Gay Zinn would write you. But this evening I will write you a few lines…Yes, I agree with you, the quickest way to get the ceremony over, the best. I know I will be scared almost out of my wits anyway. We will try to have everything ready but we will have such a short stay at home. But maybe it will be all the better. Of course you can have a talk with the preacher. I also want a word with him so I can tell him to make his speech as short as possible.” (April 9, 1907)
This was the last “courting letter” in the shoebox, written just five days before Miss Gay Zinn and Mr. Jacob Spiker became husband and wife.
The Wedding Ceremony
By Bobbi Spiker-Conley
By the time their wedding date rolled around, Jake had a new house and had purchased the wedding ring. Gay had home linens and had purchased the rest of her trousseau. They planned to get married at noon in a very brief ceremony at the Zinn home in Oxford, immediately travel to the Spiker home in Harrisville where they would spend their first night together, catch the train for Clarksburg early the following morning, and spend the next two or three days in the home of Jake’s boss and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Maple, until they could get the new house ready to live in.
As we all know, things don’t always go as planned. Apparently, that was the case when it came to their minister; Rev. Robison did not perform the ceremony.
The couple referred to him many times over the years (although they were not consistent in the spelling his surname – as in Robinson and Robison.) Our research shows this minister was most likely Rev. Andrew Jackson Robison, (without the “N”) a well-known circuit preacher in the area.
Perhaps Gay was unable to reach Brother Robison or perhaps he had been otherwise engaged on April 14, for it was Gay’s uncle, Rev. L. S. Vannoy, who performed the ceremony at the Zinn home(see license at left.) Lemuel Stump Vannoy (1842-1930) married Mary Bush (1846-1905,) the daughter of our 2nd great-grandparents, George Farley and Joanna Goff (Springston) Bush.
Here’s some Trivia as it relates to this author:
Jacob Spiker and Missouri Gay Zinn are my paternal grandparents. They were married on April 14, 1907.
Ernest Ray Bonnell and Elsie Ota Maxson are my maternal grandparents. They were married on April 14, 1921.
My mother pointed out these entirely coincidental dates to me after my husband and I returned from our honeymoon. Yes, we were married on April 14, 1989.
The First Home
By Bobbi Spiker-Conley
In his letter dated 31 March 1907, Jake told Gay, “I have got a nice little four room cottage house, I think. I don’t know whether you will like it or not.” This photo from my mother’s collection is marked “Jake and Gay’s first home.”
Gay and Jake Spiker are standing on the porch. Jake’s brother, Pearly, is on the right. Pearly boarded with them at this house before moving to Baltimore. (More about Pearly in an upcoming edition.)
Or go back to the very beginning of the series — turn to the November 2020 edition of the Spiker Family Gazette.
Spiker Reunion 2021
High School Graduations