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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Marital Mystery: Hannibal baseball star's marriage may not be official

  • Their marriage license was never returned to the Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra. To this day, it doesn’t exist. There’s proof they came and got a license, but nothing that shows it came back.


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  • Jake Beckley married Mollie Murphy in 1891, but just a few months into the marriage she died of tuberculosis.
    No doubt the baseball pioneer from the south side of Hannibal was devastated, but after five years of being a widower, he found love again when he married Georganna Callander in 1896.
    It was a private ceremony at the home of Hannibal resident Chris Walker and after a reception at the Eagles Hunting Club, the couple left town.
    There’s just one problem though, their marriage license was never returned to the Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra. To this day, it doesn’t exist. There’s proof they came and got a license, but nothing that shows it came back.
    “When you purchase a marriage license, it has always been that the license has to be returned to the recorder or the county that it was purchased from,” Marion County Deputy Recorder Julie O’Bryan said. “They could not take it somewhere else and file it.”
    Beckley and Callander married March 3, 1896, according to an article published in the Hannibal Morning Journal. Records at the Marion County Recorder’s Office show the couple’s incomplete license dated Feb. 28. The top portion of the license is filled out, but the information below is blank.
    “All they did is apply,” Anita Marshall, chief recorder, said. “The license would be (in our records) if they had actually gotten married.”
    In the Morning Journal article, the couple took off for Hot Springs, Ark., following their reception and didn’t intend to return to Hannibal until April.
    So whose responsibility was it to turn in the license?
    Was Rev. D.T. Denman, the pastor of Fifth Street Baptist Church at the time, supposed to deliver it to Palmyra? Did the couple mail it and the document got lost along the way? Or did they simply not get around to turning it in?
    “If we didn’t get it, the state didn’t get it,” O’Bryan said. “It’s an unofficial marriage license. My take would be most likely they did not get it turned in. Usually when it comes to things like this, if it’s not in this book (of 1896 marriage records), it never made it to our office one way or another.”
    That alone could raise more questions.
    With no license, was the Hannibal Hall of Famer’s second marriage even legal? The 1896 publication indicates a ceremony and service took place, but does that even mean anything with the absence of a marriage license?
    “It depends on how you view marriage,” Rev. Michael Stoerger, pastor at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, said. “They did make the vows to each other, at the same time, marriage is legal by the eyes of the state. Marriage today, and even in the 1800s, defined by state law, and at the same time scripturally, it’s a vow between a man and a woman. It’s a pledge and commitment.
    Page 2 of 2 - “And of course in scripture there were not marriage licenses.”
    Jake Beckley died 22 years later in 1918. Georganna Beckley died in 1930.
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