Fri, Apr 30 2010 01:55 PM Posted By: Susan Walter
When you live in an old house, you become curious about the former residents. Recently, Dr. Steven Schoenherr gave me an article about J.M. Davidson, the man who had my house built here in Chula Vista. The story reads:
"...Judge Haines ... moved here ... in 1887 ... and he bought some acreage next to the land occupied by Colonel Davidson. Both men ... were good neighbors. The Colonel ... was a cantankerous sort of person. He fell in love with a maiden lady in National City ... married her and brought her to his home.
That evening the young folks, as was their wont, gathered on the grounds to celebrate. Hearing the cowbells and general racket the choleric Colonel went to the porch and angrily ordered them away. The group, disappointed by the lack of the usual treat, left hurriedly.
Attracted by the confusion, Judge Haines hurried over to pour oil on the troubled waters. Just as he arrived at the Davidson home the Colonel, mistaking the judge's approach for the return of the young folks, rushed through the door with a shotgun. Haines did not wait to explain-making a run for the high board fence separating the grounds, he leaped it..."
What was going on here was the "shivaree," a tradition that still lives on, partly, in the practical joke of tying old shoes and noisy things to a newlywed's car.
The custom of the shivaree was prevalent during the 1800s to the early 1900s, and especially popular in rural areas. So, in the olden days the poor newlyweds, during their bridal night, or upon returning from their honeymoon, would be visited as described above by neighbors intent on rousting them out of bed and demanding food and drink before leaving. This was why the fun seekers above were "disappointed by the lack of the usual treat." It could even get worse - in some cases the bride would be "kidnapped" and only released upon her new spouse paying some sort of ransom!
But, this was Davidson's third marriage; and at age 50 he was obviously not in the mood for such foolishness. And Judge Haines was probably concerned that his children may have been taking part in the bedlam at his cranky neighbor's home. He obviously didn't expect to be greeted by the barrel of a gun!
The Chula Vista Star-News article, first printed i 1941, concluded with:
"To fully appreciate the situation one must realize that the judge was a big six-footer and very dignified and he always wore Prince Albert coats so the spectacle of him vaulting the fence in nothing flat must have been a very comic sight!"
John's marriage to Annie was on May 13, 1891. The two houses of this story are pictured in this segment of a landscape photograph taken in 1911. The fence referred to is not visible. The story remained a long time in the memory of at least some Chula Vista residents -this tale told by "Mr. Phelps" appeared in 1941, an exact 50 years later.
Walter writes about historic events and places in South Bay. Her column appears the last week of the month.
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