Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sarah & Will: A Romance Begins (1898)

In the early summer of 1897, Sarah Eva Howe was 13 years old. William Levi Salyers, known to all in Carrollton, Kentucky, as Will, was 18. We might assume Will paid little attention to Sarah in those days. From Sarah's writing, though, we discover that Will treated her with respect (and maybe a little flirtation), much as he might treat a girl his own age. I treasure this vignette about Sarah and Will at the soda fountain.
It was in the spring, rather early summer, of 1897 after M.A. Geier and Co. opened their soda fountain for the summer, that I went in to get a soda. The front window had been taken out (I mean the shelving) and a seat ran around, next to the glass (there were little tables, a couple of them, to rest your glasses on). I was sitting there when Will Salyers (one of the Big Boys) came in. He spoke to me, as always not as an insignificant Child but as a Person. He got himself a soda and chatted informally with me as he drank it. As he left, he tossed two nickels on the counter (sodas were just five cents then!) saying “I’ll pay for hers too.” I never forgot it – it was his first “treat.”

On 28 August 1897, Will's brother Bob died at the age of 16. Until that time (and for a short time after), Will had been known as a gregarious young man – maybe girl crazy, a bit of a ladies' man – who would ignore his responsibilities at his father's shop if there was fun to be had elsewhere. Will and Bob were two years apart in age and were, from what I can tell, buddies as well as brothers. To start the story about Will and Sarah, I need to repeat bits of a previous post (September 25). Sarah wrote this journal entry to her children.
People said it [Bob's death] would "sober Will down," but it had the opposite effect. He hid his bitter grief down in his heart and was gayer than ever, going to parties again as fall came on . . .  He stayed with his father faithfully at the store, and really began to be interested in the business. Bob had been learning to "service" the bicycles that everyone was buying and riding; so Will took up that task as his own; and that, my children, marked the second link in the chain that began to faintly be shaped between us.
Sarah continued her story, telling her children how their parents' romantic relationship began. She talked about her new "wheel," her bicycle, a gift from her parents. Remember reading that Sarah's bicycle became a catalyst to romance? This paragraph from her scrapbook explains:
My beautiful new wheel needed no working on in 1898, but of course there were little gadgets to get for it, a bicycle lamp, a pump – and I used to linger to talk a little to the friendly young man (had he not bought me a soda once?) before I left the store. Mr. Salyers[1], too, called me “his girl,” we bought a good deal at the store and I was generally the errand girl. I knew Mrs. Salyers [2] quite well too, she went to the Methodist Church and used to tie her sorrel, blaze-faced mare, old Lil, to our “mountain ash” tree out front. Jake . . . frequently came with her and sat in the buggy till church was over. Old Lil had a bad habit of slipping her bridle and bit off her head when tied (to rest herself), and Papa frequently helped Mrs. Salyers put it back on.
Will was twenty that October – Bob would have been 18.[3] The King aunts[4] gave him a watch, with Bob’s picture on the face of it.  . . .   That late August and early September, when Papa went to New York, Mama and I had a good visit at Grandma's[5], they were still at the Baymiller Street house but were planing to move to Price Hill, out of the heat and dirt of the city, and indeed they did early the following spring, to Ellison Ave. right across the street from Mama’s and Papa’s old friends, the Harpers (the man Chandler[6] was named for).
In later pages, Sarah referred again to her bicycle and its connection to Will . . .
About this time [referring to 1896], bicycles came in force to Carrollton, but I didn’t get mine till 1898, which was also when I began seeing so much of Will Salyers as he had the bicycle shop. Will says he remembers me as always having Solon [her dog] with me . . . . ”
Sarah wasn't the only young woman in that day to benefit from the introduction of the bicycle. We'll cover that topic in a later blog. For now, we have a glimpse into how a bicycle launched (or at least helped along) the romance of Sarah Eva Howe and Will Salyers.



ENDNOTES
[1]  Charles David Salyers, Will's father, born circa 1849, possibly in Mississippi, to David Hillis Salyers and Amelia Haskell Lamson, who married 12 September 1847 in Vevay, Switzerland County, Indiana. (Source: Switzerland County, Indiana, Marriage Records 1846-1849, pg 169; county courthouse records office)  
[2] Katherine "Kate" King, born 2 July 1857 in Carroll County, Kentucky, to James Guthrie King and Mary Catherine Mayfield, who married in Trimble County on 13 August 1856. (Source: Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records, Microfilm (1852-1910); Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky.) Kate married Charles D. Salyers on 4 November 1874 in Carrollton, Carroll County, Kentucky. (Source: FamilySearch GS Film 414690; online database Kentucky Marriages 1785-1979) 
[3] Sarah's memory or her math is a year off here. The ages would have been 19 and 17.  
[4] Based on the limited research I have done on this line, the "King aunts" would have been Kate's sisters Nannie (b. 1863), Josephine (born about 1866), and Mary (born about 1870). I welcome corrections and details.  
[5] Sarah's maternal grandmother, Sarah Evaline Arnet Cost. She and her husband Richard Henry Cost lived in Cincinnati, Ohio.
[6] Chandler Harper Howe, Sarah's brother, who died in 1889 at the age of 18 months.



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