It was the spring of 1924 when Doc Watkins and Miss Penelope announced they would be moving away.
Everyone was concerned, even the other two doctors in town, because they all had quite enough business to keep busy.
Between the new-fangled farm tractors and machinery without safety guards, the railroad, the babies,
and problems caused by various germs and viruses passing through, all the doctors in town had plenty to do.
Where were the Watkins' siblings going?
They were going back to Ohio, south of Cincinnati, to look after their widowed mother.
Their parents had been well-to-do, second-generation farmers.
While there was an older brother to look after the farm, their mother was becoming senile, as they used to say.
She couldn’t keep control of her memory, and it was difficult to keep control of her.
There is an old saying: ‘One mother can take care of six children, but six grown children can’t look after one mother.’
Today, her symptoms would make one suspect dementia.
Miss Penelope would help look after her mother, and Doc Watkins would go back, and set up a medical practice there.
Proper notice was given the community to find a replacement for Doc Watkins. Miss Penelope had been splitting her time between Iowa anf Ohio, but their mother's condition now required Miss Penelope be there nearly daily, so they decided to completely rearranges their lives.
The announcement triggered a marriage proposal from an admirer of Miss Penelope.
Mr. Dorman Nibbles, who heretofore could never muster the courage to offer a courtship, was forced to make known his affections for Miss Penelope. Though she never told anyone, she knew he had cast a fond eye toward her.
She would have enjoyed his attention, had he the courage to display it.
But she also believed that a man who lacked the courage to approach a woman, might also lack the courage to defend her,
if necessary. And by now, it was too late to begin anything.
The Watkins’ building was put up for sale.
Strangely enough, it was bought by another pair of unmarried siblings; the Palmer sisters.
Hilda was a chiropractor, and younger sister Lila May, was her assistant. You will meet them later.
Doc rented an entire railroad freight car to carry their personal belongings and things from his medical practice.
The depot manager in Adel wondered why they needed the whole car. Dr. Watkins replied that he didn’t want to share the freight car with anyone because he didn’t want anyone else to have access to it. He alone would have the key to the lock on the freight car door. The freight car would be parked on a unused railroad spur in town, to be loaded as the good Doctor had the time and ambition to oversee the project.
However, Miss Penelope gave Doc 'the look' when he said that Miss Penelope’s things would probably fill the front half of the car.
But Doc had another surprise for the town, and another reason for renting an entire freight car..
He would marry the Widow Carver before they left town, and she would go back East with them.
Her things would finish filling the freight car. Widow Carver was childless and without family nearby, so there was nothing to hold her here. The farm would be rented.
People were astounded, because the Doctor and Eva had never officially courted. In fact, the marriage proposal surprised even Eva Carver. While she felt they were friends and enjoyed his company, she didn’t think anything more would come of it.
She was flabbergasted when he proposed to her in her apple orchard.
Miss Penelope stepped-in and acted as the bride-to-be’s mother.
She rallied certain ladies of the community to help Eva prepare for her wedding.
The photo above shows fancy wedding dresses of that era.
Miss Penelope liked her. She was honest and hardworking; knowing when to speak and when not to speak, even though she expressed to Miss Penelope her frustration about the sudden proposal and her utter lack of preparedness for a marriage, much less a wedding, much less an uprooting.
Miss Penelope suspected something with Doc and Eva, but chastised him that he didn’t let her in on the plan sooner, and that Eva was given such short notice.
“You were the second person I told, and I told you two hours after I proposed to Eva.” said her brother.
Miss Penelope countered: “I’m surprised she accepted, the way you hide your intentions, even though I can now see how you favored her.”
“My business is my business, and I’ll tell it in my own good time. Besides, she seemed quite happy to entertain my proposal.”
They had a private ceremony with close friends and an open reception attended by nearly everyone in area.
The Watkins' brother, John, and a cousin came in from Ohio, though their mother was unable to travel.
Doc paid the train fare for Eva’s sister and a cousin come in from Kansas. They came a week early to help out.
The wedding also acted as a public farewell reception for the Doctor and Miss Penelope.
Doc hired men with autos to transport poor farm residents to the reception, and they gave the reception leftovers to the poor farm. They asked that any wedding gifts, be things that the folks at the poor farm could use.
(the money given, bought enough fabric, etc. for everyone at the poor farm to have one new dress or two new shirts).
Then the Watkins had a separate farewell for the folks at the poor farm. There were a lot of people there who relied on that pair to make them feel better and to brighten their days. And I suspect the reverse was true as well. Miss Penelope took a walk through the cemetery to say goodbye to Barton before she left. Finally, the three Watkins boarded the train to Des Moines to connect with a train bound for Ohio.
The Watkins’ bid farewell to Dallas County and went back East to look after family, and this is where they disappear from this book.
Oh, yes; and the Watkins' male cousin, W.C. and Eva's female cousin, Goldie, began to correspond by mail after the wedding.
Eric J. Rose