February 14, 2017
You are reading “Our Past Is Present” from the Geary County Historical Society. Today’s story is about a “Valentine’s Day Wedding." One of Geary County’s earliest love stories began during the turbulent days of July 1855, when the first territorial legislature met in the little town of Pawnee, which no longer exists. That area is now a part of the Fort Riley reservation. New settlers were pouring into the new town every day. A 16 year old girl by the name of Ruth Barry, had come from Pennsylvania with her brother-in-law and his family. Arriving at the same time as the delegates to the legislature, the Barry family was recruited to assist with the efforts to feed the delegates, even before they had found lodging or shelter for themselves. Young Ruth was put to work making over 70 pies under the most primitive conditions.
Among the dignitaries was Governor Andrew Reeder and a young man by the name of Gabert Fischer Gordon. Gabert was placed at the Governor’s table that night when Ruth served pieces of the pies she had made. According to family accounts, it was love at first sight. Even though Mr. Gordon was considerably older than Ruth he courted her persistently during the cholera epidemic and destruction of the town of Pawnee and… he eventually won her hand.
On a February night in 1856, Ruth and her sister crossed the frozen Kansas River in an ox-drawn sleigh made from a converted lumber wagon. Their destination was the former Territorial Capitol building which had become the quarters of the Post Chaplain and his family. It was in that building and on Valentine’s Day 1856 where she and Gabert Gordon were married. The wedding took place in the same room where just months before the issues of slavery, freedom and the future of Kansas had been debated.
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Geary County Historical Society.