Sunday, January 13, 2008

They Don't Make Them Like This Anymore

My great grandparents, Ole Martin and Malla Johnson, were wed on February 28, 1886, in Granite Falls Township, Chippewa County, Minnesota. This is a copy of their marriage certificate--beautiful, isn't it? The image may appear a bit too small to read the proverbs, so I've written them out.[1]

What therefore God Hath Joined Together, Let Not Man Put Asunder

Man is the head of the Woman

Let the Husband Love His Wife

Woman is the Glory of the Man

Let the Wife Reverence Her Husband

The Wife is the Crown to Her Husband

A Prudent Wife is from the Lord; Her Price is Far above Rubies

(Image detail)

(Image detail)

The justice of the peace who performed the ceremony, pictured at the bottom of the certificate, was Eric L. Winje, the groom's stepfather. In 1874, Winje married Thibertine Johnson, Ole Johnson's widowed mother, and the couple had eight children together.

For the wedding, the groom dressed in a sack suit—the standard fashion for a modest and frugal man during the 1880s. [2]

The bride, Malla Larson, wore a two-piece dress of dark silk, which her mother probably helped sew by hand. The focus of the design was multiple layers of ruffles peaking out from beneath a top skirt and carefully draped along Malla’s corseted waist. Her jacket was fitted with a matching peplum, and dark collar and cuffs, and had no fewer than 16 buttons down the front. Underneath the jacket she wore a white blouse to protect against February’s chill. Her long hair, the same rich brown as her father’s, was arranged in a knot on the back of her head, and her bangs had been curled tight with hairpins the night before. It was a style she would keep all of her life, though as she grew older, she found it easier to give up the fuss and fashion of curling bangs, and let them grow out instead.

Ole Martin Johnson weds
Malla Vigesaa Larson,
Feb. 28, 1886

The bride’s jewelry included a bar pin that held together the collar of her blouse, and two rings that adorned her left hand: a wedding ring, and another band worn on her index finger. A locket hung around her neck at the end of a golden chain, probably a wedding gift to Malla from her parents, since it contained miniature photographs of each of them. On the left locket face was a tiny image of her father, Erik Vigesaa Larson, who had quite a dapper appearance with his large, intense eyes and full moustache. On the right was her mother, Kjersten, a plain, no-nonsense woman, who read from her bible each day.

After the marriage, Ole Johnson and his new bride continued to farm the homestead that Ole's mother deeded to him along the banks of Hawk Creek in Granite Falls Township, where the Johnsons lived until 1901.

Copyright © 2006-2008 by Chery Kinnick

Original material and images may not be reproduced without permission.

[1] Johnson-Larson marriage, 28 February 1886, Granite Falls, Minnesota. Certificate supplied by Justice of the Peace, Eric L. Winje, for Chippewa County. Copy held in 2006 by Chery Kinnick.

[2] Definition of “sack suit”: a 19th century men’s fashion, typically a wool suit of black or gray, with matching pants, and usually four buttons on the coat. The sack suit began as a rather baggy garment in the 1850s, but became more fitted in the 1860s and after. It was considered casual day wear for businessmen, but more formal for the average farmer or worker—something worn to church, for example. Description derived from The Gentleman’s Page, (accessed 19 October 2006).


  1. Chery, What a wonderful family document you shared with us. And the article you wrote to go along with it is so full of historical information. Thanks for this glimpse into styles and customs of yesterday. I enjoyed the look and the read. Thanks for sharing your family.
    Terry Thornton

  2. Hi Terry,

    Thanks! I hope to share lots more this year. Sadly, for needing to be organized with family & genealogical research, my life is topsy turvy right now. The house is for sale and all of my books and documents are spread to the four corners of the earth, it seems, or tucked away behind furniture in boxes, at least. It is my dream to have my own office space at home after the move; now, wouldn't that be grand?!

  3. Chery, that has to be the most beautiful wedding certificate I've ever seen! What a great thing to have. Regards, Donna