Monday, January 17, 2011

The Elopement, by Grace Newton

by Grace Cornell Newton, Sept. 30, 1978

[Commentary by Greg Newton are enclosed within brackets]

Mattie as a young girl, 13 years?

Mattie Gruetzmacher, clerk at Nat Jacobs' Dept. Store in Galveston, and the good-looking floor walker, Hutt Newton were going to be married this evening, September 15, 1903, a Tuesday. Both had already resigned from their jobs. Excitement must have fluttered in their hearts as the workday drew to a close.

Augusta Gruetzmacher had always opposed any talk of marriage. Not that she had anything against the likable fellow from Little Rock; she just dod not want her second daughter to leave home. Mattie was a dependable, efficient person, and Grandma leaned on her. This daughter, a bright scholar, quit school when she was thirteen to help with the cooking and housework. At seventeen she got herself a good job at Mrs. Houlihan's embroidery shop, but after work she still cared for the younger brothers; and she also brought her salary home to add it to the waning family income. In the chaotic days following the 1900 storm, she found a better paying job in the big department store. And when little Arthur came down with a raging fever, it was Mattie who went to the John Sealy Hospital on her way to work to chalk a note on the appointment slate requesting a visit of a doctor.

Nat Jacobs' Department Store, circa 1900.
"Jerry says Mamma is with the group of sales-ladies on balcony"
In spite of Dr. Ruhl's attendance the child died, of scarlet fever.[In the aftermath of the storm contagious diseases were epidemic, and diptheria claimed another brother, Eddie, before a year had passed. [Grace evidentually mis-remembered these events, as Arthur was born March 1896 and, according to his death record, died January 20, 1905, aged 9 years, of diptheria. Eddie, who was born in March of 1893, died November 15, 1900 of "Malignant Scarletina" or malignant scarlet fever, according to his death certificate.]

Each time tragedy struck Grandma looked to her daughter for help. And Mattie pushed the thought of Marriage aside. Especially since her father seemed to be settling into a deep depression. He had lost his private printing business to the storm when his press fell through the upper floor of the two story building on Mechanic St. [Paul Gruetzmacher's printing business was actually on the second floor of the 4-story Clara Lang Building at 2109 Strand.] Unable to start anew, he was forced to go to work for another print shop.

The Gruetzmacher home at 1910 Avenue N.
 Meanwhile the floor walker's patience was running out. He told Mattie in effect, " If you love me, leave them." Mattie agreed and the date was set. They decided on elopement as the least painful method of breaking the family ties. The night before she unobstrusively packed a suitcase of essentials. And next morning wore an outfit suitable for traveling. All that day long whenever their eyes met, silent messages of promise and reassurance must have passed between the two "conspirators".

When Mattie came home from work, she took off her hat and tied on an apron as usual to help her mother get supper on the table. Then she slipped upstairs to freshen up. As the family sat around the big table in the dining room, they did not notice Mattie, suitcase in hand, pass swiftly through the hall and quietly let herself out the front door.

The Old Mule Drawn Trolley
At the corner she met her lover and to-gether they boarded a "trolly-car", (actually the old mule-drawn car reactivated since the storm.) and rode to the train station. At 7:00 P.M. they sttod in old St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Fannin and Orleans in Beaumont exchanging their marriage vows.

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