Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sanctity of Marriage — Old News Division

Marriage. No joke.
I wasn't able to turn up the New York Sun article that the Washington Evening Star claimed to be reprinting, so all I have to go on is the cautionary tale titled, "Mock Marriages are not Funny." Well, I suppose they could be. But it must be taken as the official position of the Evening Star that you take absolutely no merriment in the following account.

The article describes what transpired as a "mixed marriage," and we all know what that means, don't we? Well, I thought we did. When I searched the term, my first hit was the Wikipedia entry on interracial marriage.
Mock Marriages are not funny
Miss Nemann and Mr. Dunne are now repenting their recent sentimental folly.

The New York Sun says: Miss Mamie Niemann, 0f 213 Ogden avenue, Jersey City, and John Dunne, a young lithographer of Sherman avenue, were members of the Hillsdale Boat Club excursion party up the Hudson on June 20, and when Mr. Dunne was introduced to Miss Niemann some one proposed, for fun, tha they be married. Miss Neimann assented, laughingly, and Alderman John Prigge, of Jersey City, volunteered to perform the mock ceremony. Miss Niemann and Mr. Dunne clasped hands on the deck of the barge, and the alderman muttered some jargon, jocularly calling them "man and wife." Miss Niemann passed as Mrs. Dunne among the merry-makers for the rat to the day, and no one regarded the performance seriously.
Well, no "no one," it turns out. After all, it seems mildly amusing at this point.
The joke, however, has taken a serious turn, much to the distress of all the parties to it. The Rev. Father Smyth, of St. Paul's Catholic church, of which Dunne is an attendant, says that the regards the marriage is legal, and could not now marry Dunne to any one else. In his sermon at mass on Sunday last he denounced the conduct of any Catholic would would enter into a mixed marriage (for Miss Neimann is a member of the North Hudson Baptist church), and said that he could not administer the sacraments of the church to any Catholic who persisted in keeping company with a Protestant.
This happened in 1887. Currently, various people made the claim that due to Catholic doctrine they ought to be able to ignore legally contracted marriages (between same-sex couples). It's somewhat ironic that 127 years ago, we have a Catholic priest insisting on taking a mock marriage — one with none of the legal niceties — in complete earnest.

I suspect that part of Father Smyth's motivation was to call Mr. Dunne to heel over his "keeping company" with Protestants.

Mr. Dunne was about 27 years old in 1887. He was 22 on the 1880 census, and lived with his parents. In 1900, he was 40 (the math doesn't work) and was still single and living with his parents, so we can assume he never married Ms. Niemann. By the 1920 census, he's married. His wife's name is Louise; she's 39 years old, so maybe Mr. Dunne was still a catch at 61. Or maybe he was just waiting for Father Smyth to die and the whole ban on his marrying anyone (because I don't think a Catholic priest would have performed a marriage in which one of the participants was a Baptist) to be forgotten.

Ms. Niemann was probably the daughter of Henry H. Neimann. If she's the Mary Neimann (of 211 Odgen, Jersey City), then she was 19 when this happened. It's not clear what happened to Ms. Neimann after this, though she didn't have a Catholic priest saying that there was an impediment to her getting married. I'm not sure what Ms. Neimann had to repent.
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