Love in the Archives


By Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger

coll-2941-valentineI recently processed a collection which warmed my heart on a cold winter’s day: Alice Gehring’s diaries. Alice, and her physician husband Edwin, lived on Ocean Avenue in Portland, and had three children: Marcia (born in 1906), John (born 1908), and Jane (born 1915). As with many of our family collections, the love shines through the pages of these diaries, tenderly kept by Alice over the years, with some additions by Edwin.

coll-2941-letter-to-alice-from-her-mother-in-lawI love the sweet note written by Edwin’s mother Catharine upon their engagement in 1901:

“Dear Miss Chamberlin,

Words can hardly express the joy and satisfaction that thrilled my heart, upon learning that yours and Edwin’s first and only real and sincere love for one another, had after years of suspence and agony, taken its natural and legitimate course, and ripened into an engagement. Ever since I met you for the first time, I have always admired you, and wished that your affections for one another might have been uninterrupted. Although the course of true love never did run smooth, all’s well that ends well. I am very happy over Edwin’s good fortune in winning such a pure and lovely girl, as a companion for life, and very grateful to your parents and yourself, that you have all forgiven and accepted him, into your heart and home again. May our heavenly Father protect, guide and bless you both, is the sincere wish of Edwin’s mother. In extending you a most hearty welcome into our family, I am sincerely yours

Sept 18/01                            Mrs. Catharine Gehring”

In one volume, Alice talks about her wedding presents, including a gift from “Dear Edwin” who gave her an “exquisite crescent pin, with a diamond in the center and pearls graduating to the tip ends.” (The donor, Alice’s granddaughter, still has this pin). Thecoll-2941-jane-and-john-bouker-wedding-photo wedding on September 10, 1904, after a long courtship, was captured not only in Alice’s diaries, but in newspaper clippings and photographs.

The love between Alice and Edwin continued over the years. In 1908, as Alice celebrated her 30th birthday, she notes: “Marcia was excitedly amused on my birthday when Edwin kissed me 30 times, adding he wished I was 50 yrs. old, that he might add 20 more kisses (decided to anyway).”

coll-2941-nancy-smith-weddingLove continues into the next generation, as the Gehring daughters marry. A photo of beaming Jane and her new husband John Griswold Bouker is accompanied by a newspaper clipping with the headline “Miss Jane Gehring will be wed Friday in navy and white dress.” This simple wedding in 1938 is in contrast to Nancy Smith’s wedding (Marcia’s daughter) – Nancy married Donald Durkee at a candlelight service in a Unitarian Church in Lynn, Massachusetts. Nancy’s gown was “ivory candlelight faille taffeta with butterfly bustle back cap sleeves, and long matching mitts.” Nancy and Donald were happily married for 62 years until her death in 2011.

Maine Historical Society has many family collections full of love – not only romantic love, but love of family. Click here for more on this collection.

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