by Jeanne Marie Olin
As I walked down the aisle of Saint Mary’s in the Mountains on August 19, 1972, I carried a white bible with a single white orchid. I felt a mixture of anticipation and nervousness. My dad was proudly walking next to me. I felt we were a unit as Nevada, the local organ player Jim and I had hired for $50, was playing the wedding music. Pat, my maid of honor, was walking in front of me. Her hands were really shaking. I saw Jim standing in front of the beautiful altar with his best man, Pete. They also had noticed Pat’s shaking hands and were smiling. Historic old St. Mary’s couldn’t have looked more beautiful with the early afternoon sun streaming through the beautiful stain glass windows.
Jim and I visited Virginia City about a year before our wedding. Jim was showing me around the town he had come to know as a college student at the University of Nevada in Reno. On that visit, Jim and I had stopped at State Line first and were kept up all night by motorcycle gangs going up and down the streets. Pleasantly surprised by the lack of noise in Virginia City we walked along the boardwalk of town. “We need to stop at the Bucket of Blood for a brew.” Jim led me into the old saloon where a group in Western gear was playing lively music. Tiffany style lamps hung from the ceilings and sawdust covered the floor. Slot machines lined the walls. I sat down at the bar next to a gentleman who appeared to be some sort of cowboy. After exchanging pleasant banter, I told him about the motorcycle gangs of the previous night. I shook my head, “I am glad to see they have not traveled up the mountain to Virginia City.”
“Well little lady, we don’t put up with that sort of thing here in Virginia City. We carry these nice shining six shooters and we have plenty of long, wooden boxes to fill.” He appeared to be enjoying himself at my expense.
Later that afternoon Jim showed me the Silver Dollar Saloon which boasted of an image of a lady hanging on the wall wearing a dress composed of silver dollars. We sat at a table with our hot dogs and observed two couples sitting at the long bar. Directly behind the bar was the saloon’s wedding chapel. The ladies at the bar excused themselves to go to the powder room. “Now honey, you told us we were going to have a double wedding. We had better get started soon. The chapel could get busy later.”
“And we will darlin’, as soon as we finish our drinks,” the young man answered.
As the ladies were making their way to the powder room, the young man nodded at the bartender, “Keep the drinks coming.”
You might be curious why I chose rough and ready Virginia City for my wedding. I need to mention that I saw more in Virginia City on my first visit than the Bucket of Blood and the Silver Dollar saloons.
As we reached the top of the long mountain road we took from outside of Reno we looked down on Virginia City which was once a bustling mining town during the height of the Comstock Silver boom. I was struck by the beauty of St. Mary’s as it stood in the distance with its white bell tower reaching for the heavens. I had to make a visit to the church.
In 1971, the church was in need of repairs but its beauty was unmistakable. St. Mary’s in the Mountains is the oldest church in Nevada. It was established on September 14, 1862. A fire in 1875 destroyed most of its structure, but a new church was built on its ruins and dedicated on September 16, 1877. It is said that John Mackay, one of the Silver Kings, contributed much to make St. Mary’s even more beautiful.
St. Mary’s in the Mountains went through some very tough times but is still standing. It was beautiful on August 19, 1972, and was even more beautiful when Jim and I visited it on our 40th anniversary on August 19, 2012. It remains in my memory filed under Nevada.
What are your favorite memories or stories about Virginia City? Do you have any funny (or sweet) stories about Nevada weddings? Leave a comment.
Jeanne Marie Olin cherishes memories of her Nevada wedding. After a successful career as a dependency lawyer in San Francisco, Jeanne pursued her passion for writing. She participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November 2012. Her winning debut novel, Dear Jude, was introduced in 2013.
In November 2013, Jeanne participated in NaNoWriMo and won again, completing her second novel, A Cruise Between. Stay tuned for the introduction of My Darling Spirit, Jeanne’s winner in 2014.
Jeanne has been a guest columnist in the Pacific Grove Cedar Street Times.