July 27, 2012

Married by the Mob

By Caitlin Patterson
Data Technician, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

Montana’s newspapers often published brief announcements about town visitors, residents who were injured or taken ill, and guests at private gatherings. Most “personals” were one- or two-sentence snippets, but once in awhile an event was entertaining enough to qualify for more detailed treatment.

This was the case in a November 1865 issue of the Montana Post, recounting a recent event in Helena. A young man and a young woman—strangers—happened to arrive in town on the same day. By sundown, they were married. What is interesting is the role played by Helena’s townfolk.  

Married from force, Montana Post excerpt, November 4, 1865, page 3
This item appeared in the Montana Post (Montana's first surviving
newspaper), published in Virginia City, on November 4, 1865,
page 3. We can identify with some certainty the International
Hotel (erected in 1865 at the corner of State and Main in Helena),
but we are unable to verify the H___ House mentioned in the story.
The hapless bride and groom remain anonymous.

The term b’hoy emerges from a 1948 play about the Irish in New York’s middle-class entertainment district, the Bowery. It came to mean any spirited street lad.

You can find this and many other tales from Montana’s newspapers in the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America, where over 30,000 pages of historical Montana newspapers are available for online searching and viewing.


  1. Fantastic story! Hoping to hear of more just like it!

  2. Great story but I am skeptical. Do the marriage records from 1865 Helena exist?

    1. Thank you for reading our post! It’s wonderful to know we have readers who are as interested in Montana’s history as we are. The Society has, on microfilm, some 1865 marriage records for (then) Edgerton County. Because the couple described in the story are not named, however, we have no way of matching them to a particular entry in these records. Regarding the veracity of this item in the Montana Post, we understand your skepticism. There is no doubt that news reports sometimes included embellishments or even inventions. A major motivator for the National Digital Newspaper Project is to make historical U.S. newspapers available directly to researchers so they can make their own assessments of accuracy. We encourage you to visit Chronicling America and spend some time with the Montana Post, where the entire run is available.

  3. Amazing, both the event and the reporting! Great discovery. I love the long descriptive passage before we find out anything. As for the phrase "Hymen's bower"-- was this original in this article or used elsewhere?

    1. One of the advantages of digitization is that it allows the text of every newspaper page to be searchable. As a result, we easily located in Chronicling America a similar expression (Hymeneal bowers) in a newspaper published a decade earlier. Read the first stanza of the poem "Love and Marriage," in the left column of this page in The Jeffersonian (Stroudsberg, PA), August 3, 1854.

  4. Thanks for the follow-up.

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