Underhill, O'Dell and Katherine

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                                   O’DELL & KATHERINE UNDERHILL
                                        By Bonnie Sweeney


On July 24, O’Dell and Katherine Underhill of Barnettville celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They have lived in Barnettville all their lives.

The Underhills have five children, three daughters and two sons. They have 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Brothers and sisters gathered at the Underhill home to present their parents with a swing.

A daughter composed a poem for her parents, telling of how the couple met. “It was an easy poem to write because my mother would reminisce of her courting days to all us children,” said the daughter.

Unusual Courtship

Mrs. Underhill had an unusual courtship and an unusual wedding day. She eloped with a man 13 years her senior, much to the disapproval of her family. As the poem goes:

“They had to sneak around a lot, And lots of times they never kept their date, For Grampy had other plans For his little daughter Kate.”

Katherine and O’Dell Underhill met at a dance which was Katherine’s first. For Katherine it was love at first sight.

“He did look pretty swanky In his little tight-legged pants, And his hair slicked back with bear grease But he asked her for a dance.”

They had a special reason for presenting their parents with a swing.

“For they always had a yearn, To steal a kiss, like their first one, On the swing in Grandad’s barn.”

At the age of 80, Mr. Underhill keeps very busy. Last week he finished his haying. He sold his horse this year and bought a tractor to aid in his haying. After putting in a long time in the hay field last week, he took a trip to the river. “He fishes every evening,” says Mrs. Underhill, “it doesn’t matter whether it’s sunny or raining. So far his luck this year hasn’t been too good, but he never gives up.”

Three Quick Shots

Last year, Mr. Underhill got his moose license. His daughter recalls the day he tried for his test. “Some of those trying their test were kneeling or resting their gun. Dad just walked out, raised the rifle and took three quick shots – right on target.” Mr. Underhill also got his moose.

Mr. Underhill is looking after three gardens. He has worked on log drives, lumber camps and construction jobs. He built his own home and worked as a carpenter for many years.

It is not all work for Mr. Underhill, however. In his spare hours he may pick up his violin or mouth organ and play for his friends. He is noted for his step dancing and could seen at many of the concerts held in the area not too many years ago.

Mrs. Underhill recalls her wedding “as if it were only yesterday.” That sunny day in July, however, is another story.

Never regretted eloping

Golden wedding anniversaries are special. O’Dell (often referred to as Dell) and Katherine Underhill celebrated fifty years of marriage on July 24.

For the Underhills there are many memories. Mrs. Underhill is formerly from Grey Rapids. Her mother died when she was only 12. At the age of 17, she was at home taking care of the house and her father and brothers. She was very rarely allowed out for an evening. She attended her first dance at Grey Rapids School. It was there she met Dell Underhill and their courtship began.

Father disapproved

“My father disapproved of course. He didn’t want his daughter dating a man 30 years of age,” said Mrs. Underhill. Many times she sneaked out to meet her boyfriend, but there were those times she was unable to keep her date. “After we’d been dating for some time, we made our plans. We would elope.” She regrets the many lies she had to tell, but claims, “they were necessary.” Dell’s parents knew of the planned elopement, but their secret was never revealed.

The wedding date was set. Dell’s cousin, Theodore, borrowed his father’s car for the drive to Newcastle.

In mid-morning of July 24th, 1929, she donned her new dress. “It was necessary to put an old dress over my new one. After all, I couldn’t take a chance on the family finding out. I told them I was going to visit my sister a few miles away. In order to do this, it was necessary for me to go down to the river, get a boat ride across, and catch the train on the other side.

“When I got to the river bank, my troubles began. I had to wait a long time but I finally hollered to a neighbour on the other side. He came over on his dugout canoe. His wife, standing on the opposite shore, began to throw rocks at us as we approached. She was jealous of her husband. More precious minutes were spent and she kept apologizing once she recognized me.

“Arrangements had been made for Dell’s sister to catch the 11 o’clock train. If she missed it, the train wouldn’t be stopping. It could be heard from my home. This would convince my father I had gotten on the train.”

The right thing

She admits the fear of being caught was the utmost in her mind, but felt she was doing the right thing. That sunny day, with a warm breeze blowing, they headed for Newcastle. More trouble. The trip took longer than expected as every few miles the car heated and had to stop for water. “I kept thinking that any moment my brother, who had just purchased a new car the day before, would catch up to us and yank me out of the Model T.” After which seemed like an eternity, she said, they arrived in Newcastle.

Mrs. Underhill went to a hotel where she discarded the dress she was wearing and got herself ready for her wedding. “It was then on to buy a ring, get a license, and see the minister of the United Church, Rev. Bates.”

“The ceremony was ‘a long half hour.’ I expected one of my family to walk into the church any minute. With all the delays we had, I knew for sure they would be looking for me,” Mrs. Underhill recalls.

After leaving the church, they headed for Blackville. On the way they met Mrs. Underhill’s brother. “His new car he had bought the day before certainly got a good try out that day while looking for me,” she laughingly recalls. “I guess because I was now married, I was more brave. I simply told my brother I had gotten married and took off toward Dell’s home.”

Never regretted it

Mrs. Underhill says she has never regretted eloping. “I didn’t go home for four months. My sister, who also eloped at age 25, didn’t speak to me for a year. We’d meet at the post office, but there would be no greeting.”

The Underhills had hard times. “I remember the hours of planting potatoes using smelts as fertilizer. With all the rations during war time, smelts were used as fertilizer as one could catch an unlimited number.” “There were good times also. I had a good husband, never went hungry and always had a good home to live in. We enjoyed going on hunting trips and attended all the dances.”

When asked her reaction had one of her daughters eloped, she says it wouldn’t have bothered her. “If they felt the way I did, then I would have no objections whatsoever.”

The story of her elopement has made for many conversations with the Underhill children. It also prompted one of their five children to compose a poem for her parents. She presented them with this poem at the anniversary celebration of July 24th.


Source: Miramichi Leader – August 4, 1979

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