Gustava’s Unworn Wedding Dress

In Chapter 1 of Anna’s Home, the character Eva tells the story of her mother’s beautiful, but unworn, wedding dress.  This is a real story is narrated by Eva Tilderquist in the family history, P.O. Tilderquist Family, which she published in 1952.  Eva implies that her mother never told the story; it was Jane Berggren, Gustava’s younger sister, who disclosed it after Gustava died.

Eva tells the wedding dress story

Eva in Gustafva's dress
Eva Tilderquist modeled  her mother’s wedding dress many times for church events and for photographs.  No one knows what happened to the dress after Eva died in 1953.

Mother’s wedding dress was made in Red Wing—every stitch by hand.  It is two-toned grey taffeta, and it tells more than one tale of woe.  She bought the cloth from an Irish woman in Wacouta during the summer of 1860.  She paid $15 for the pattern and material.  The cloth was very expensive and had been brought by the woman’s lover from Ireland.  He smuggled it into this country by folding it up and wearing it as a scarf.

A tale of woe

The lover died before they could be married, and the woman married another man.  Meanwhile, she kept the cloth, intending to use it as a wedding dress for her daughter, who was twelve years old at the time. 

Unfortunately, the woman’s husband was a drunkard.  The family suffered such want that she entreated my mother to buy it in order to buy food for herself and the children.

Gustava has many admirers

My mother was in service for several years, first in Red Wing and then in Wacouta. Gustava made friends easily, and she had many admirers.  A certain one, Andrew Reed, was very persistent and he would come to grandfather’s house very often. 

Anna in G's dress
It became a rite of passage for girls in the family to have their photograph taken in Gustava’s dress.  Here, Anna Tilderquist Anderson shows how beautiful the dress is from the back.

Once after he visited, Grandmother walked all the way to Wacouta– about 30 miles round trip—to persuade her daughter to come home to see him. 

But Mother had an independent spirit, and she was already fixed on my father, who had been visiting her in Wacouta.  Perhaps Grandmother thought she could persuade her more easily than the lover could, for he had been refused constantly.

Gustava chooses Peter O. Tilderquist

Although Mother had many admirers, father won out.  The wedding was on July 29, 1861, in their new home, which Father had built on land he purchased from my grandfather. 

Her father is too busy cutting hay to attend the wedding

We don’t know if guests were invited nor how many of her family were present, but we do know that Grandfather was busy cutting hay in the meadow that day and wouldn’t come in for the wedding. 

Iva's wedding
The only one to wear the dress for her wedding was Gustava’s granddaughter, Iva Tilderquist, when she married Robert Kvam in Vasa, Minnesota, on June 7, 1947.

So Gustava refuses to wear the dress

My mother was my grandfather’s favorite child, and he was hurt that she refused the man he had picked for her.  But she must have been hurt as well to find her father so contrary on this, her happiest day.  For this reason, she refused to put on her pretty wedding dress.  We don’t know if my father wore his handsome outfit–he also had fine clothes for the occasion. 

See the Historical Photographs page for more photos.  Gallery

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