If books connect us to the past, than I am connected to a young couple who got married more than 150 years ago. I found them in the pages of a book of love poetry, with the following inscription:
A truly romantic gesture.
“Presented to Mrs. Mary M. Griffin by her affectionate husband on their wedding day June 28th, 1853.”
The book is called: Lyrics of the Heart, With Other Poems, by Alaric A. Watts (published in Philadelphia by E.H. Butler & Co. 1853).
To be truthful, I didn’t buy the book for the poetry, and it is by no means valuable. I bought it for the inscription. I found it in an old bookstore that was closing, and heeded the warning that any books not purchased were doomed to disposal. How could I let that happen to Mary and her affectionate husband?
Since then, I’ve done a bit of research, only to find this story of love and loss:
“Mary M. Griffin” is Mary Margaret Spohn, born in 1832 in Ancaster, Ontario. She is descended from a respected family of United Empire Loyalists (the Bowman family) and was one of nine children. As a teenager, she studied at the Burlington Ladies Academy. She married at age 21.
Her “affectionate husband” is Reverend William Smith Griffin, a Methodist minister.
They were married on a Tuesday in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada.
In the first three years of marriage, the newlyweds were busy raising two children, Herbert and William Griffin, while moving often to work at different churches in small-town Ontario.
But then, sadly, Mary Margaret died on November 16, 1856. She was twenty-four years old.
She is buried in Bowman Cemetery, Ancaster, Ontario.
William Smith went on to have a long life (91 years) and a successful career in the clergy. He remarried shortly after Mary’s death, and had three more children.
I’m sorry that I couldn’t give you a romantic, happy-ever-after love story for Valentine’s Day.
But I thought it appropriate to remember Mary Margaret and William Smith today.
Their love, or at least the memory of their love, is still alive in the well-worn pages of a book.
The Day Will Come
The day will come
When my body no longer exists
But in the lines of this poem
I will never let you be alone
The day will come
When my voice is no longer heard
But within the words of this poem
I will continue to watch over you
The day will come
When my dreams are no longer known
But in the spaces found in the letters of this poem
I will never tired of looking for you”
― Sapardi Djoko Damono (Indonesian poet)
[illustration credit: Wedding Vows by Edmund Blair Leighton (1852-1922)
Update (February 22, 2014):
I am still doing research on this couple, and have this to add to Mary Margaret’s biography:
Mary Margaret’s mother was Elizabeth Bowman Spohn, whom wrote compellingly about the loyalist experience in this 1861 article.
She must have come from a respected society family as she attended “finishing schools” for girls in Hamilton, Ontario. A friend of mine, whom is studying genealogy, found Mary Margaret’s name in the 1846 register of the Burlington Ladies’ Academy (where young ladies studied courses delineated as “useful or ornamental”, including history, languages, literature, flower arranging, and etiquette.)
Her brother Philip Howard Spohn (1842-1918) was a respected physician and Liberal Member of Parliament. Another brother, Arthur Edward (1845-1913) was a distinguished physician, with an hospital named in his honour.
Thank you for the Vonnegut quote!
Goodness, what a story behind the book you bought! And how did you track all of it down? It’s worthy of a feature this, and is a lovely piece. Thank you so much for sharing. (I also buy books because of inscriptions – makes them much more personal 🙂 )
Hi! It all started with a simple google search of Mary M. Griffin and her wedding date. There I found a link to her grave (sadly), which listed her husband’s name, and then I just kept digging. I am still searching…and hoping to find more as I believe her to be related to a very interesting family. I also want to know why she died so young…and the ultimate would be to find a photo. But…I should be studying!!
p.s. Also, thank you for the kind words. And I hope your studies are going well!
Lovely. Happy Valentine’s, Booksy!
You too!! Enjoy the snow. ;-(
We haven’t got much (so far, anyway)- and at least it’s warmer. Reason for optimism, anyway. This winter MIGHT decide to end!
Not so optimistic here…it’s snowing and we’re expecting a cold weekend. Looking better for next week. But I’m starting to lose hope of ever seeing the grass again. I hope you have a lovely, warmish weekend.
How sad! I wonder how she died at so young an age.
I know. I am trying to find out!! Somehow I think it will haunt me if I don’t find out more. Take care.
Perhaps after childbirth? Historically, a lot of women died from what used to be known as ‘child bed fever’.
She died a year after her last son was born…though it could have been a miscarriage?
What a touching and moving little story and a beautiful post, both the pictures, your words, and the exquisite Indonesian poem… lovely thank you
Hello Valerie, thank you so much for your comments. This post came from the heart.