New Salem sisters’ pledge leads to triple wedding in 1906

  • The three wedding gowns worn by the Paige sisters at their triple wedding on Feb. 5, 1906 are on display at the Swift River Valley Historical Society in New Salem. Contributed Photo/Swift River Valley Historical Society

For the Recorder
Published: 6/22/2022 6:27:55 PM
Modified: 6/22/2022 6:27:36 PM

June is traditionally known as the month for weddings. However, a wedding once held in February is often remembered in New Salem.

Alba Paige and his wife Althea (Haskell) Paige lived in New Salem with their 12 children. Their eldest three children, Harriet “Hattie” Maria, Elvie Mary and Shirley Maud, were always close. Born in 1881, 1882 and 1883, the three girls grew up playing and studying together, and were best friends. Prior to being married, the three sisters all taught school.

So it was only logical that, when it came to getting married, the three sisters planned a triple wedding. According to the Boston Sunday Post of Jan. 28, 1906, the three sisters had made a pledge that “not one of us will be wed before the other two,” said Dot Frye, curator of the Swift River Valley Historical Society Museum in New Salem.

To keep this pledge, two of the sisters were engaged for a while before the wedding.

“Hattie was engaged five years and Elvie for four before Maud became engaged,” Frye explained.

Hattie’s fiancé, William Bullard, and Elvie’s fiancé, Myron Doubleday, waited patiently. Shirley was finally engaged to Harvey Reed and wedding preparations moved forward.

The three sisters were married on Feb. 5, 1906 at ages 25, 24 and 23, with upwards of 200 guests at the event. The ceremony was officiated by George Whitaker, minister of the gospel from Lowell, who had also married the daughters’ parents, Frye said.

Perry Marshall, a New Salem resident as well as a minister, a published poet and doctor, composed two poems “Prelude to Marriage” and “A Triple Wedding” and read them at the ceremony.

An excerpt from “A Triple Wedding” can be found in the wedding book of Harriet (Paige) and William Bullard, Frye said.

“You each have been to me some source of joy,

Not unlike that which your own household knows.

Pleasure with pain must mingle some alloy,

When from old home a triple treasure goes.”

After the wedding, the three couples honeymooned together in Boston. When the couples returned, Harriet and William lived on the Bullard Farm in New Salem, with William working at Bullard Brothers, in lumber. Elvie also settled in New Salem. Maud went with her husband to live in Rockland, Maine.

Eventually, the Bullards had four daughters. The Doubledays had three children; it is unknown if or how many children the Reeds had, according to Frye.

Reminders of this triple wedding are on display at the Swift River Valley Historical Society. Among these items are the sisters’ three wedding gowns, wedding albums, wedding invitations, pictures of the wedding, pictures of going away with horse and buggy, and several wedding gifts — bowls, clocks, pitchers, pillows, assorted furniture, lamps, dishes, housewares and pictures.

The Swift River Valley Historical Society will open beginning June 22 on Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m. by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, visitors can email Frye at dotfryesrvhs@gmail.com

Carla Charter is a freelance writer from Phillipston. Her writing focuses on history with a particular interest in the history of the North Quabbin area. Contact her at cjfreelancewriter@earthlink.net.


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