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Potsdam, NY 13676
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Victorian Wedding

Victorian Wedding Dresses

The fawn-colored wedding gown (c.1860), given to the museum by Helen De LaFleur, was worn by one of her grandmothers: Mrs. Eliza Potts Crosby, her maternal grandmother, or Harriet A.Wakefield Agens, her paternal grandmother.Eliza Potts Crosby of Pennsylvania was born February 8, 1841 and was educated at Rosedale Seminary, Chambersburg, Pa. She married Dr. Monroe P. Crosby October 4, 1866, after he returned from serving in the Union Army. The couple had five children – two sons who passed away before their mother, and three daughters, one of whom worked with her father when she was young and became a respected and much loved nurse. The Crosbys moved to Lowville in 1887 where Dr. Crosby died in 1899. Eliza passed away May 17,1920. She is said to have had a quiet, unassuming manner, possessed of high ideals in the manner of life and right living, loyal and steadfast as a friend, and well respected in the community. Harriet A. Wakefield Agens was born in Lowville, date unknown. A descendant of Revolutionary War soldiers, her father was one of the largest hop growers in Lewis County. She married William Agens in 1865 and died in 1873.
Bertha Chittenden wore her lovely two piece wedding outfit when she married Herbert Jonah Sanford, youngest son of the Honorable Jonah Sanford, at her family home in Hopkinton, June 28th, 1882. She was just 20 years old. The news-paper called the wedding “the event of the summer”. Both the Sanford and Chittenden families were early settlers to the area. Bertha was born 21 March 1862, in Hopkinton, NY to Varick A. and Charlotte A. Risdon Chittenden. She was educated in Hopkinton, attended Potsdam Normal, and studied music in Ogdensburg. After her marriage, she and her husband lived in Parishville, then Potsdam. Her husband, Herbert, was born 1 April 1861 in Hopkinton, and passed away 7 December 1922. The Sanfords had two children, Varick R. and Alice. Mrs. Sanford died in Ogdensburg 21 October 1945 at the age of 83.
“The marriage of Mr. Fred Sisson and Miss Lena Cook of this village took place at the Presbyterian church last evening [28 June 1894] at 8:00 o'clock … The church was elegantly deco-rated for the occasion. The bridal party are now off for a ten days' outing, and after their return will reside for the present with Mr. Sisson's parents in Sissonville.” Lena Cook was born 26 May 1873 at Parishville, NY to Samuel R. and Mary A. Lytle Cook. She was 21 years old when she married. Small articles in the local newspaper tell us that she liked to go camping with her girlfriends “on the Hollywood Still Water”, sang soprano in church choirs and sang soprano in an opera where Fred Sisson's name also appears in the list of performers. Could this be where they met? Fred was born 10 December 1870, the youngest of George Wing and Sarah Ann Hamilton Sisson. Fred and Lena Sisson were the parents of two children, Geraldine and Fredrick. They were very active in the affairs of their church and community. Fred died 7 July 1936 and Lena on 28 May 1957.
Women's Clothing
From the Massena Observer, August 30, 1900: “A Copenhagen correspondent sends the following: At high noon Wednesday, Aug.22 in the Congregational church occurred the marriage of Bessie Louise, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. S. Humphrey, of this place to Frank L. Cubley of Potsdam. It was one of the prettiest and most elaborate weddings that has been solemnized in this town for many a day.” A long and colorful review of the wedding and reception follows. Elizabeth, called Bessie by all who knew her, was 27 years old when she married the rising attorney, Frank L. Cubley who had been admitted to the bar in February of 1900. Bessie had completed high school in Copenhagen then entered Potsdam Normal School where she specialized in English and music, and was a member of the Alpha Society, graduating in 1893. She taught in public schools at Lawrence, L.I., Summit, N. J., and Yonkers. She and Frank had two children; Elizabeth and William. After being in poor health for several years, it was decided a trip to Europe would be made in an effort to find a place that would improve her health. During the trip her health declined and she and Frank returned to Potsdam where her condition seemed to be improving. She died eight hours after returning to her home. She was 58 years old. Bessie was a charter member of the Potsdam Chapter of the D.A.R., and an active member of the 20th Century Club and the Fortnightly Club. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cubley were very active in the community.
From the Potsdam Courier and Freeman, 3 June 1903: “At half past two this afternoon at Trinity Church Gouverneur, will be solemnized the marriage of Mr. Bertrand Hollis Snell of Potsdam with Miss Sara Louise Merrick of Gouverneur … After the ceremony a wedding reception will be held at the home of the bride and Mr. and Mrs. Snell will leave at 4:30 for their wedding trip. On their return to Potsdam, they will have apartments at the Albion until July 1, when they expect to occupy a part of the Erwin residence on Elm Street. Mr. Snell is one of the prominent young businessmen of Potsdam. Miss Merrick became known to Potsdam through her connection with the Crane Normal Institute. The fortunate possessor of a very sweet and well trained voice, she has on many occasions delighted Potsdam audiences with her singing, while her charming manners have won for her many friends.” Sara Louise Merrick was born 7 January 1880. She was 23 years old when she married Bert Snell; he was 32. They were married for over 50 years. Together they entered the political arena and for the rest of their lives they were actively engaged in politics. It is interesting to note that her wedding dress was altered in 1906 so it could be worn as a ball gown. Sara graduated from the Crane Institute of Music in 1901 and later in life established a scholarship and in other ways supported Crane School of Music. She was a charter member of the Potsdam Chapter of the D.A.R. The Snell family have been great contributors to Clarkson College. It is fun to note that in newspaper articles about her you discover she was a doll collector and loved to play Whist with friends. Mr. and Mrs. Snell had two daughters; Helen and Sara Louise. Mr. Snell passed away 2 February 1958, and Sara on 27 September 1964. She was 84.
The Welch-Larkin two-piece wedding outfit reflects the practicality of the Victorian bride. Made for (possibly even by) Sara Welsh for her marriage to Ferdinand Potter Larkin, sometime inventor, in 1882, it was of a color and style that allowed it to be worn on other occasions. The wedding was held in Worcester, Massachussetts. We know very little of Sara or Ferdinand. Sara Welch was born 17 August 1846 and died some-time in 1910. Ferdinand died at his daughter Ada's home in July of 1913. Mr. and Mrs. Larkin had two children: Chester Crandall and Ada Welch. Ada Welch Larkin was born in Worcester, Mass., the 26th of October 1886, grew up and attended schools in Worcester. On the 1st of September 1910 she married A. Raymond Powers wearing the lovely gown with the cord decorated bib. She was 24 years old on the day of her wedding. In 1911, the Powers family moved to Potsdam when Dr. Powers became a member of the Clarkson faculty. He would, in time, became head of the electrical engineering department. Ada must have been an accomplished pianist for, according to many newspaper articles, she was an accompanist for a variety of musical programs. She was an active member in the Presbyterian church, the 20th Century Club, the Fortnightly Club, and the D.A.R. She was also active in the Red Cross during WWII. Ada and Dr. Powers had three sons; Gordon K, Allen, and Lawrence. Sara passed away suddenly 7 February 1951 at the age of 64. As for the wedding dress, it was worn one more time by her future daughter-in-law, Dorothy Parkhurst, when she married Allen Powers in July of 1937.
From the Potsdam Courier Freeman newspaper, Wednesday, 28th September 1910: “Clyde McEwen and Lovina Giles of Dickinson were married Sept. 17. Congratulations.” In the Potsdam Courier Freeman, Wednesday, 26th October 1910: “Dickinson Center and Deer River Granges united in a reception for Mr. and Mrs. Clyde McEwen in honor of their marriage, at the Grange hall here Friday eve Oct. 21. The hall was prettily decorated. The bride and groom assisted by several ladies received the guests. Fred Shepard, on behalf of the Granges, presented Mr. and Mrs. McEwen with a desk and book case and two pieces of cut glass as a reminder of the good will they bear the young couple. Mr. and Mrs. McEwen responded gracefully.” Miss Lavonia (also spelled Lovina and Livonias) Ellithrope Giles was born to Azro M. and Anna C. Sanford Giles the 22nd of April 1885, attended schools in the Dickinson area, and graduated in 1905 from the Crane Institute of Music. She took piano classes from Professor Hathorne while she was there and it was a skill she used all her life. She was associated with the W.C.T.U., the Order of the Eastern Star, the Home Bureau (Cornell University - Panerai replica watches) and the Women's Union of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. and Mrs. Clyde McEwen had two children; a son, Giles, and a daughter, Martha. She died in July of 1970 not long after celebrating her 85th birthday.
The off-white silk gown with pom-pom trim was made as well as worn by Mary E. Jackson (also known as Mamie, Mammie or Mayme) when she married Herbert R. Wheeler November 15th, 1911. She was 29 years old. They married “Under a canopy of trailing vines and chrysanthemums … surrounded by ferns and flowers” at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ziba Ellis in Canton. She carried a bouquet of white roses and lilies of the valley. After “a western wedding trip” they settled on a farm in West Potsdam. Herbert passed away in 1941. Mamie never remarried and she and Herbert had no children. Mamie came from early pioneer stock that settled in the western section of the town of Potsdam. She attended local schools then St. Lawrence University. She was active in the Morley Grange, the Wesleyan Home and Foreign Missionary Society of the Morley Wesleyan Church, and was a member of the West Potsdam Kings Daughters for over 50 years. Mary Jackson Wheeler passed away the 16th of February 1968.


Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 and Queen Victoria's wedding was a memorable occasion.

Queen Victoria’s dress was of rich white satin, trimmed with orange flower blossoms. The headdress was a wreath of orange flower blossoms, and over this a beautiful veil of Honiton lace, worn down

Wedding Attire
Queen Victoria’s dress was of rich white satin, trimmed with ora flower blossoms. The headdress was a wreath of orange flower blossoms, and over this a beautiful veil of Honiton lace, worn down. The bridesmaids or train-bearers were also attired in white. The cost of the lace alone on the dress was £1,000. The satin, which was of a pure white, was manufactured in Spitalfields. Queen Victoria wore an armlet having the motto of the Order of the Garter: "Honi soit qui mal y pense,” inscribed. She also wore the star of the Order.
The lace of Queen Victoria’s bridal dress, though popularly called Honiton lace, was really worked at the village of Beer, which is situated near the sea coast, about ten miles from Honiton.  It was executed under the direction of Miss Bidney, a native of the village, who went from London, at the command of her Majesty, for the express purpose of superintending the work. More than two hundred persons were employed upon it from March to November, during the past year.
The lace which formed the flounce of the dress, measured four yards, and was three quarters of a yard in depth. The pattern was a rich and exquisitely tasteful design, drawn expressly for the purpose, and surpasses anything that has ever been executed either in England or in Brussels. So anxious was the manufacturer that Queen Victoria should have a dress perfectly unique, that she has since the completion of the lace destroyed all the designs. The veil, which was of the same material, and was made to correspond, afforded employment to the poor lace workers for more than six weeks. It was a yard and a half square.

The Wedding Story of Fanny Gurley and William Elderkin

  • Noble Strong Elderkin: Born August 28, 1810 in Potsdam, NY.
  • Emma Brooks: Born 1815 in Parishville, NY.
  • Phineas Densmore Gurley: Born November 12, 1816 in Hamilton, NY. Shortly thereafter moved to Parishville, NY.
  • William Anthony Elderkin: Born May 15, 1839 in Potsdam, NY. 
  • Gurley graduates the Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J. in September 1840.
  • Gurley marries Emma Brooks October 9, 1840.
  • In 1840 Mr. and Mrs. Gurley move to Washington, D.C. where Gurley becomes pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.
  • Frances (Fanny) Mary Gurley: Born July 9, 1841 in Washington, D.C.
  • In 1859 Gurley becomes the Chaplain of the United States Senate.
  • March 1861 President Lincoln meets Chaplain Gurley and begins attending New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.
  • March 1861 Fanny Gurley and William Elderkin become engaged.
  • April 12, 1861: Battle of Fort Sumter. First shots fired, beginning the Civil War.
  • April 15, 1861 Elderkin receives word that West Point cadets will be leaving for Washington in the wake of the fall of Fort Sumter.
  • President Lincoln calls upon Gurley for prayer and spiritual advisory. Lincoln inquires about the engagement of Gurley's daughter Fanny to Elderkin. The President expresses a personal interest in facilitating the union of the two young loves before Elderkin goes off to war.
  • Lt. Elderkin graduates West Point Class of 1961 (May). 
  • Elderkin receives a dispatch from the President granting him a 3 day furlough to come right away to Washington to be married to Fanny Gurley.
  • June 9, 1861: Fanny Gurley marries Lt. William Elderkin in Washington, D.C.           President Lincoln made all arrangements for the wedding dress and accoutrements. Rev. Gurley performed the ceremony in the presence of many of the best-known people of the city, after which a large reception was held. President Lincoln himself received guests alongside Mr. and Mrs. Elderkin.