Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Shotgun Wedding

Today’s guestpost was written by Keith Jones.

North georgia mountains appalachia shotgun wedding


Shotgun Wedding written by Keith Jones

When my Dad Grover Jones was a boy, my granddaddy Jones and the family lived way out in the country. It was the middle of the depression, so they got by just about any way they could. They didn’t own their own farm, but were sharecroppers. Quite a few folks, black and white, lived in the general vicinity, but no one lived within sight of their house. The R.E.A. hadn’t yet strung electricity into their part of the country, so nights were lit by lanterns, flashlights, and firelight. Folks went to bed early.

One night the family was all in bed…Daddy and Momma Jones in the main bedroom, with their numerous daughters and preteen Grover, the only boy in the family, scattered around the rest of the house. Something woke Daddy Jones about 10 or 11 at night. He thought he heard several quiet voices out in the yard, but when he pulled back the edge of the roller shade to look out, he really couldn’t see anything. It sounded like several people in the yard, but he just couldn’t tell.

There was not a lot of crime in their part of the world, but certainly crime was rampant during the depression, so Daddy Jones was not going to take any chances that a gang of bad men was coming to rob their meager possessions. He slipped into the room where Grover slept and shook him awake.

“Here, son, you take this and stand behind that door over there while I see who it is coming up toward the porch.” He put the “Long Tom” 12-guage shotgun into Grover’s hands, then slipped across the front room toward the door. As he did so, they heard the front steps squeak, and a loud knock came on the door.

“Who’s there?”

No answer, just a shuffling sound as several people moved back from the door.

“Who’s there!!!???”

Finally, Daddy Jones cracked the door open and peeked out. On the porch was a crowd of Black people. In those Jim Crow days, segregation was not as strict in the country as it was in some towns, but it was highly unusual for anyone to come to someone else’s home after dark, and doubly unusual for Blacks to approach a white family’s house at night.

With no flashlight and no lamp lit, it was hard to recognize anyone. Finally, Daddy Jones asked (rather more loudly than he normally would have,) “What do you folks want?”

An older gentleman took a half step toward the door.

“Is you the Mister Jones that’s the preacher?”

“Yes,” said Daddy Jones. “I’m a preacher, but mostly I farm and do a little blacksmithing and carpentering. That still doesn’t tell me what you want. Is somebody dead or something?”

From the back of the crowd, a lady said, “Hummph! If’n he don’ do right, somebody fixin’ to be!”

The man at the front of the crowd reached back and pulled a frightened young lady up onto the porch.

“Preacher, this here’s my oldest daughter. And that…” Someone shoved a young man from behind, causing him to stumble up the steps beside the young lady.

“That is the young scoundrel I caught in the hayloft with her tonight! We’s here for you to marry ‘em.”

About this time, Grover noticed that he was outgunned. A couple of men—one old and one young—were also carrying shotguns.

“Grover, light the lamp.” Daddy Jones went back to the bedroom, pulled his overalls on, and slipped into the coat of his Sunday suit. There in the front room, the young couple said their vows, with Grover and Momma Jones as witnesses, plus two or three of the crowd, who stepped in to see that the couple were “married proper.”

Satisfied, the bride’s grandpa and brother shouldered their shotguns. Her momma, crying by now with the emotion of the moment, leaned on the stern daddy who had led the procession. The bride held to the arm of the bewildered-looking groom as the whole group moved slowly across the clean-swept clay of Momma Jones’ front yard. Grover and his dad watched the family until they disappeared down the starlit dirt lane.

And that was the end of the story…except for how I heard it. Decades later, we happened to be in the city that had grown up from the small town that was nearest to the sharecrop farm where all this happened. Dad picked up a newspaper and glanced through it to see if there was any news of people he’d grown up with or known as a child. Of course, he checked the obituaries first “…to make sure I’m not dead!” as he always explained to me. And there it was, on the social events page that faced the obituaries across the fold of the newspaper…a 30th wedding anniversary announcement, with a picture of a handsome Black couple, listing their many children and grandchildren. “What do you know?!” said Dad. And that’s how I learned about the real shotgun wedding.


I hope you enjoyed Keith’s guestpost as much as I did! It made me think of several things:

  • How Granny and Pap celebrated their 50th Anniversary last April…even though they courted less than 3 months before marrying.
  • How Granny and Pap ran off to just across the Georgia line and got married at a preacher’s house without telling Granny Gazzie .
  • How Granny Gazzie gave Pap a stern talking to about taking her daughter off and marrying her without her parents knowlege and about how he better honor those vows and her daughter or she’d be coming after him. I’m betting it only took Granny Gazzie a few months to figure out her daughter marrying Pap was the best thing that ever happened to her daughter.



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  • Reply
    Keith Jones
    February 18, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    I’m glad my Mom (Ethelene) added the detail that Daddy Jones was a JP, and so could have issued the license. I imagine that the family gave a ham or something similar (maybe some shared work) as a ‘fee.’ Dad never told me that part. And Tipper’s comments reminded me that from the fall of 1957 to the summer of 1960, Dad while pastor at McConnell Memorial Baptist in Hiawassee was the closest minister to the Towns County GA courthouse. He performed a lot of weddings for couples from North Carolina who were ‘running off to get married.’

  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Shirley-thank you for the comment and CONGRATULATIONS on 54 years!!!! Just wow : )

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    February 10, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Tipper & Keith:
    The night is mighty cold and I am late reading your post! But it shore was a gooden!
    Thanks a lot, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    February 10, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Just love your stories, I was married in 1962, and I only knew my man for 4 months and 20 days….but will celebrate 54 years this coming May….and they said it wouldn’t last…LOL

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    February 10, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    This is the best story! A true shotgun wedding.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 10, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    I got 8″ of Snow up at my house, had to find my Jeep again and little Whisky, when he went out to do his business, just made a groove in the snow. Ooshie, it’s cold today. When I got to the shop, the TV showed 25 degrees, but it was only 16 up in the holler. There ain’t but just a skiff down here…Ken

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 10, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    And Keith,
    My wife and I eloped and got married at the Blairsville Courthouse (where Tipper and her family holds their concerts). I went around that thing twice before I found out how to park. But we had our blood test and had to wait on the results for awhile (about 3 days, I think) at a Catholic Hospital in Murphy. They were all nice to us, and that was the first time either of us had seen a Nun up close. Anyway, at the Courthouse we found a woman who stood in as Justice of the Peace. As she was reading our Vows and every time the phone would ring, she would give that thing a good cussing. We wasn’t no Saints, but we thought that was highly inappropriate at this Special time for us…Ken

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 10, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I never know what my son Keith will be writing about later. He is a Storyteller, and so many of his stories are from “real life.” His father, Rev. Grover Jones, was a storyteller before him, and could entertain his grandchildren with tales that others might think inconsequential, but he would bring out such memorable details that the little ones could hardly forget them. And grownups, too, liked his stories, like this true story of the near-midnight wedding. As I recall, and a fact Keith forgot to include, Rev. Mack Duffie Jones was not only an ordained preacher, but a Justice of the Peace, too, and would therefore have the authority to grant marriage licenses and do marriage ceremonies, as JP (as well as an ordained minister).

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 10, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Grandpa used to tell us about courting Granny. He said she was allowed to walk to the edge of the porch with him when he left. He said he would have given anything to put his arm around her waist. They had a rocky early marriage –including her taking the buggy whip to him when he came home drunk but they stayed together (I guess there wasn’t much choice back then) and eventually had 19 children together.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2016 at 11:45 am

    I’m glad this story had such a happy ending 🙂

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    February 10, 2016 at 10:25 am

    A fine story, and nicely ended by the newspaper thirty years afterward.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Gracious, I had not thought of that expression for many years. Thank you, Keith Jones, for a great story. It still amazes me how very short courtships made such strong enduring marriages. Lifelong decisions sometimes made at a time of immature youth–seems people were more durable back in the day.
    This reminds me of my Grandmother who married at sixteen, and she oft repeated her reason for marrying so young was, “I was afraid if I didn’t marry him somebody else would grab him.”

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 10, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Keith, that was a fine story telling job….and as Miss Cindy says, times sure are different now, and in my view, not for the better.
    There were a lot of western NC folks who ran across the Georgia or South Carolina line to get married. Our parents got married in South Carolina and bumped into another couple from Swain County doing the same thing (for the life of me, I can’t remember who the other couple was).
    I’ve not searched to verify this, but it was reportedly (I believe Pearl Cable mentioned this to me) because there was a required waiting time – I want to say two weeks – in North Carolina. Tipper, you might ask Pap if that was a factor.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    February 10, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Loved the story and how he found out about the couple 30 years later. Wonderful that they stayed together committed to their vows. Unfortunately, its a different world today for many but I still see young Christian couples fully committed to their vows and raising their children believe it or not without 200 channels or more of television.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 10, 2016 at 9:05 am

    That sort of thing went on around here until the 60’s or longer. Minus the shortgun most of the time though. It was heard around school and at home.
    I for one am glad it doesn’t happen much anymore. Sometimes the story doesn’t turn out well

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 10, 2016 at 9:03 am

    I wondered if Grover’s grandpa received any monies or compensation for his marriage services…especially after waking them up in the middle of the night? You’d think they might bring back a ham or some produce as gratitude at least!
    Also, how were these type weddings legalized…with no paperwork, license, etc…? Maybe the preacher kept marriage documents/license at home for the signing of witnesses, etc. ?
    Great story…happy ending
    Thanks Tipper
    and Keith

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 10, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Great story Tipper! Thanks for including it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 10, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Times sure are different now!

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