Dear grandmamma, when you were young And grandpa came a-courting Did you feel sure when love begun? Or did you let it slowly come? Did grandpa give you roses fair To deck your gown, or twine your hair? Did everybody whisper; “There? The man has come a-courting!”¹
She was a petite, pretty girl. She was born in 1883 on the windblown lands of the conquered prairie north of Fort Scott, Kansas. Her name was Lola Pope. Tom Ferguson, as handsome as Lola was pretty, was born three years earlier. They lived not too far from each other.
They walked the dusty roads with friends or siblings to their one-room schoolhouse. There, their teacher welcomed them at the door. It was a sturdy frame building, built to withstand storms, but hard to heat. They placed their dinner pales on the shelves in the back of the room. When it was cold Lola and Tom hung their coats and hats on hooks. Lola sat at the dual seat, with a friend or sibling, as would Tom. The teacher wrote instructions on the slate blackboards that lined the walls of the room. The cast-iron stove warmed the room as best as it could against the cool spring and fall mornings and bitterly cold days of winter.
Through their brief time at school together, did he notice her? When the teacher dismissed class for the noon hour, did he try to catch her eye? Did he pull her pigtails or chase her around the schoolyard? Or did he hang back with his guy friends? After all, he was three years older than she. As she got older, did she take special care with her dress, and wear pretty ribbons in her hair? We don’t know. However, they established a friendship during their school years; a friendship lasting well beyond school.
Tom graduated from high school in 1896. Lola graduated in 1899.³ In the following years, everybody whispered, “There. He’s come a-courting”.
On 10 Aug 1901, eighteen-year-old Lola married twenty-one-year-old Tom.⁴ The next day they left for their new life in Cripple Creek, Colorado.⁵
¹Becky’s Query, Mary O. Emmons, printed in the Clyde Herald, Clyde, Kansas, 25 Jan 1893, Page 3, Column 3
² The Fort Scott Weekly Tribune, 15 Nov 1894, p. 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (hppt://www.newspaper.com : accessed 17 Jan 2019). Monthly reports appeared in The Fort Scott Weekly Tribune listing the number of males and females enrolled, average daily attendance, and those who had perfect attendance and were not tardy.
³ Lola Devin Ferguson, Graduation Flyer, 24 May 1899; privately held by David and Tonya Ferguson, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Webster Groves, Missouri. 2013.
⁴ “Kansas Marriages, 1840-1935”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FWLQ-DQX : 14 January 2020), Thomas Ferguson to Lola Pope, 10 Aug 1901.
⁵ “From Tuesday’s Daily,” Fort Scott Weekly Tribune, 15 Aug 1901, p. 4, col. 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 3 Dec 2020).
One thought on “Tom Ferguson Came a-Courting”
Such a fitting poem you’ve found! I like how you described their youthful days. And they sure were an attractive couple!