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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Boiling One's Sweetheart Away

In 1921, 95-year-old Margaret Serns of Fort Atkinson recalled the strange way she met her first husband.

The year was 1842, and she was just a girl of 16 living in Michigan. One morning as she was preparing to wash the dishes, the dishwater began to boil on the stove. "Margaret, Margaret, you are boiling your sweetheart away!" her mother called out. She then told her daughter to follow an old superstition -- "take up a chair and whirl it around" in the steam, and the first young man to sit in that chair would be her future husband.

This Margaret did, marking the chair so she would remember which one it was.

Later the same day a knock came at the door. It was an Englishman who had lost his path while hunting and needed help finding his way. Margaret described him in 1921 as "a picturesque figure in his hunting clothes" and said that she fancied him from the moment she saw him. When invited in, he sat in the chair that she had marked and she felt "her fate was sealed." When he came back for a second visit, he asked for her hand in marriage.

After this whirlwind courtship, the two were happily married. Her husband was James Beneworth, a wood engraver whose work appeared in publications in Detroit and Madison. They came to Wisconsin in 1847 and settled near the north end of Lake Koshkonong, where they farmed until her husband's death many years later.

:: Posted in on February 13, 2011

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