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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Matrimonial Agencies Run Amok in Oregon

In the next several posts I digress from the narrative of the 1920 primary election in Portland to report about the early twentieth century version of internet dating -- matrimonial agencies, matrimonial papers and an organization called the "Interstate Introducing Society: The Most Reliable Marriage Club in the World."

It is impossible not to notice these headlines while reading microfilm from early twentieth century Portland newspapers. Next to an article on "one of the most animated meetings ever held by the state board of health" from the Oregon Journal for March 20, 1905 p. 8 is the irresistible headline "Says His Wife is a Fire Worshiper":

Oregon Railroad and Navigation section foreman Ballard Brooks and Nellie Cooper met after he subscribed to a "matrimonial paper" and read her "advertisement." Brooks lived in Weatherby, Oregon in Baker County because the OR&N required that he live near his section. He "decided that it was necessary to annex a wife" and, because there were "no women in that section" he got a subscription to a "matrimonial paper" featuring entries from women describing themselves to potential mates. 

Ballard and Nellie corresponded, arranged a meeting on October 24, 1903, and married that same day.

There were "numerous trivial and incidental charges and counter-charges of infidelity and similar things" the Oregon Journal noted. But Ballard could not abide Nellie's "fire-worshiping" and filed for divorce. We yearn for Nellie's side of the story here. Perhaps Baker County historians can locate it for us.

Stay tuned for more, including the "Interstate Introducing Society" and why Portland decided to take action against them.