All you Murphies should take note of this series of letters from the 1860s in which two young people -- Pruda Erway in Pennsylvania, and Mortier Wickham in New York -- carry on a secret courtship by correspondence for more than a year that finally culminates in a surprise wedding. (These seem to have been something of a fashion at the time -- at one point, the young man expresses exasperation because another pair of relations pulled off the same surprise a few weeks before they did.) Had they not managed it, many things might be very different: they were my great-great-grandparents. Among the several daughters later born to them was Catherine (Cassie) Wickham, my grandmother's mother, who grew up here, in the house on Seneca Lake that I wrote about when Grandma Frey and I went on a family history quest in 2008:
Maybe surprise marriages are a family tradition. Mortier and Pruda's granddaughter Edith -- my grandmother -- pulled off a surprise wedding of her own one Christmas in the 1920s when she took a train to Chicago where Grandpa Ober was a medical student, married him on Christmas Day and returned home alone to Ithaca. She told nobody what they had done for months because, as a married woman, she'd have been expelled from her graduate program at Cornell.