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REV. W.O. GIBSON -- THE WEDDING THAT DIDN’T TAKE PLACE

Rev. William Owen Gibson (1852-1938) who spent his life in Charlton County was possibly one of the most well known, distinguished and universally loved persons who has ever lived in our area. A minister of the Alabaha River Primitive Baptist Association, he was often asked to preside over many of the most important events of the county’s history – the marriages and funerals of the citizens. But there was one time, in the early 1900s, that he refused the honor of marrying a young Charlton couple. According to Rev. Gibson’s nephew, Madison Gibson, this is what happened:

A nice-looking young man and very pretty lady who lived in a community near the great Okefenokee Swamp had been courting a short time and had decided to get married. She was much too young to marry and he was not very intelligent. Once after buying a nice pair of gloves he was invited to Rev. E.F. Dean’s home for Sunday dinner. Thinking he looked very stylish he didn’t remove his gloves, even to eat. When Mrs. Dean suggested that he would be more comfortable if he took them off he politely refused.

Asking Rev. Gibson to marry them, the young couple added that they wanted a quiet wedding and that not many friends or relatives knew about the plans. The ceremony was to be held at her home but when Rev. Gibson rolled up with his horse and buggy, several other wagons and buggies were already there. Standing near the cane mill in the back yard, a small crowd of young men was sharing a bottle of whiskey.

Several neighbors were gathered with the couple in the parlor when the minister entered the home. The groom nervously told him to proceed with the ceremony. But Rev. Gibson said to the bride, “Well, where’s your daddy?” She replied, “Oh, he’s in the bedroom. It doesn’t make any difference whether he’s in here or not.”

Rev. Gibson exclaimed “Now I can’t marry you people with your daddy not knowing anything about it! I just can’t do that!”

When the father came in and discovered what was about to take place, a fistfight erupted, together with loud screams and shouts. Rev. Gibson tried to separate the groom and his future father-in-law, and then when the front door was jerked open the fight exploded out onto the front porch and into the yard. Other men took sides and a general free-for-all developed, helped along in an exciting way with the spirits they had been sipping.

Rev. Gibson left at the first opportunity, for he had little reason to stay, saying as he climbed into his buggy that there’d be no marriage ceremony there that night!

Tempers were a long time cooling down and feelings were so wounded that the groom sought grand jury action against one of his opponents. The young lady never did marry that stylish man who wore gloves to dinner. When she did, she picked one of the finest men in Charlton County and they raised a large family on their farm on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp.

--- Lois Barefoot Mays

Source: “Memories of Charlton” by Madison Gibson, pages 88, 89; Charlton County Herald, December 16, 1938.

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