Blakley – Beckwith Marriage

This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published  between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.  Click on any image to enlarge.


Virgie and John were members of the same church that my grandparents attended.

“A marriage of interest to the many friends of both young people is that of Miss Virgie Dorsette Beckwith and Sergeant John W. Blakely, which was quietly solemnized Mar. 24 1919 at the home of the bride’s father, Mr. P.S. Beckwith, 517 South Street, Rev. E.E. Scott officiated, only relatives being present.

Miss Beckwith is a young woman of sterling qualities and has many friends who regret that her marriage will take her from Montgomery.

Sergeant Blakely left immediately after the ceremony for Evanston, Ill.

At home after June 10th at 1922 Wesley Ave, Evanston, Ill.”


Virgie taught school  in Montgomery for several years before her marriage. She did not work outside of the home afterwards. The couple moved to Chicago and lived there for the rest of their lives. John continued to work as a barber until his death in 1952. Virgie died two years later in 1954. John and Virgie Blakely had no children.

I have found no siblings for John Blakely. Virgie was one of five. Four of them, moved north. Her father eventually moved north also and joined two of his children in Cleveland, Ohio. One daughter moved to Detroit and one daughter remained in Montgomery.


John W. Blakely was a friend of my grandfather, Mershell C. Graham. In 1918 about a year before his marriage, Blakely wrote the following letter to him.

Montgomery Ala Feb 27/1918

My Dear Pal;
Your letter of a few days ago was received, and I can assure you that a line from my old friend was highly appreciated.  I remember writing you some time ago and for some reason I did not hear from you until now, but failing to put my address on my letter naturally would leave you in doubt as to where to write me, all of which I am very sorry.  I was indeed glad to hear that you and the other boys were all enjoying the very best of health and that the government has used good judgment in classing all of you in class A-1 and I only want you to know that when ever you all get there, you can rest assured that you will have the opportunity of seeing me for I am now in the old city taking my examination, they passed me all OK.  So you can see it is very likely I shall soon be somewhere in a training camp, I do wish however that it was possible for me to train somewhere in the Northern camps instead of the southern camps.  I am sure you understand why.  I shall leave tonight for Atlanta where I shall wait until they are ready for me to report for duty.  I was out to see your Mother Monday afternoon.  Found her looking and feeling the very best of health and was very glad to see me and to know that I had heard from you.  Of course she is worried over the thought of you boys having to go to the army, but said that if there was no way to keep out of it, why she felt she would have to make some sacrifice which is indeed a fine spirit.  I also stopped by Gwen and her mother’s.  They were both looking fine.  She was sick when I was here Xmas so I didn’t get a chance to see her and of course you know I couldn’t leave the city without seeing the Fairest Lady of the land.  Glad to say that she is looking just fine said that she would like so much to see you.

Montgomery is as dry as a chip.  There is really nothing doing here, all of the boys of our push have gone away with the exception of four – Adams, Taylor, Gilmer and Nathan.  Mack; I wish it was possible for me to say just at present whether or not I will be able to come west or not this spring or even in the summer but as things are arranged now it is hard for me to say.  But if I am not called in to service real soon, why I shall have more time to think it over.

I am doing nicely in Atlanta.  I have the 5th chair in a 12 chair shop, which, of course is the largest shop there.  So far as getting along OK, why I really have no reason to complain, but there is a desire to have that privilege to breath for once in life one deep breath of pure free atmosphere as a man, as well as meeting again with old friends.

I wish to be remembered to Cliff and Chisholm and to you all.  I hope your every efforts will be crowned with success.

Trusting that I shall hear from you again real soon,
I am your friend,
J.W. Blakely,
#8 Central Ave.
Atlanta, GA


I found this information on in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. News items were found on I also use Google Maps. The letter is from my family archives.

23 thoughts on “Blakley – Beckwith Marriage

  1. What an interesting letter. Don’t see much of that these days, more’s the pity. I used to love getting long letters in the mail, and writing long ones back. Now it’s a quick email and that’s that.
    A to Z blogger…

  2. So heart lifting to read the letter – a real dose of nostalgia. It’s all two line cryptic emails and texts now, sadly. A handwritten long letter was such an event to anticipate!

  3. “Dry as a chip” – HA, that’s something my mother and grandmother used to say too. It never occurred to me that there was an implied seniority or pecking order in the placement of barber chairs. Or maybe it’s that walk-ins tend to stop at the first available so being closer to the door is good. Wow, the psychology of the barber business!

  4. Interesting. I no longer write letters–emails and messages have taken over, but since I do so much writing every single day, I suppose i don’t have anything to share like he did in that letter. See you tomorrow.

    1. I guess we share in bits and pieces as it happens instead of all together. The all together, I think, shows a more complete picture. Unless we cut and paste all those bits.

  5. A nice letter and I am glad you were able to remember them as I think it is sad for people that have no descendants that they might not be remembered. It is hard for us to remember sometimes that our forebears’ friends were important to their health and happiness as well as their relatives.

    1. I thought of that too, there were several friends who had no children. I hope their nieces and nephews remember them.

  6. Has our world lost its ability to communicate by letter I wonder? Neither my wife nor I can remember the last one we wrote or received. The enduring friendship in that letter you have shown us certainly brings it home to us.

    1. I received a letter from my high school Spanish teacher several months ago and answered the letter last month. I send a lot of poetry postcards.

  7. Hi Kristin -how wonderful to have the letter and the notification re the marriage … what fun you’ve had collecting this information … it’s fun – I do write out to friends and family still – but for ease of reading I usually type up the letter and then handwrite a card to add in extras that are pertinent … cheers Hilary

  8. How fun to read the announcement and letter. Gone are the days of filling in a friend on the past year or several months of ones life. I already know what my relatives on another continent did on Easter and saw the pictures, too. Thanks for the fun read Kristin.

    Emily In Ecuador | Boats in Puerto Lopez

  9. A great idea for your blog. The letter is lovely and shows the affection they had for one another. I recently did some research into a relative drafted into WWI in Iowa and learned that being assigned to a camp in the north did not always work out well.

  10. What a wonderful letter! I love that it manages to give so much information about what life must have been like: the barber chair, the preference for camp in the north, the mother worried about her sons in the army, and so many other fascinating details.
    In my family our letters are all by email, but we do still write quite a bit of our news to each other. But I don’t think our grandchildren will be able to look over our emails and see what life was like for us.

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