Saturday, August 17, 2019

Online Dating, Anyone?

By Davalynn Spencer

People have looked for companionship through various means for centuries. Perhaps millennia. From cultural matchmakers to parentally prescribed arrangements, the hunt for heart connections is nothing new. However, it is the mail-order brides of the American West that seem to conjure hope for romance in a way that other nuptials have not.

Without women, Wild would have taken West in a stranglehold. The "fairer sex" brought stability, gentility, and probability that there would be a next generation. Not that these gals were short-winded or weak. Far from it.

However, the original commentary on singular man rang truer in the West than perhaps anywhere: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18 KJV). As it turned out, the American West clearly proved that people who needed people were the most eager people in the world, (with a nod to 20th-century lyricist Bob Merrill).

In the mid- to late 1800s, many men, from miners, farmers, and loggers to the lonely not wanting to be alone simply did not have the time or wherewithal to go a’ courting. Instead, they wrote personal advertisements in newspapers seeking women willing to partner with them in often less-than-desirable situations.

The western Promised Land lured many men from eastern states with the hope of limitless farming acreage, timber for the taking, and mountains of gold. For example, the fledgling mine-supply town of CaƱon City along the Arkansas River in what would someday be Colorado boasted 720 residents in 1860. Six hundred of that number were men.

Hearts West by Chris Enss
Chris Enss’s national bestseller on the subject, Hearts West, catalogs “true stories of mail-order brides on the frontier.” But, according to Enss, it wasn’t always the potential groom who did the advertising. 

“Our Purpose,” Matrimonial News (Kansas City, MO), January 8, 1887
Though many newspapers carried personal advertisements for those seeking a spouse, one specialized in matchmaking, the Matrimonial News, printed in both San Francisco and Kansas City, Missouri. Historical records show that persons advertising could do so anonymously as far as their names were concerned, and they were assigned a number to keep things straight. However, they had to offer information regarding their appearance, weight, height, and financial situation, as well as the type of person with whom they wished to correspond. Enss records such personal ads cost men twenty-five cents for forty words or fewer; women’s advertisements were published without charge unless they exceeded forty words. (Could this have been the genesis of verbiage limitation imposed in social media today?)
Solicits Correspondence,” The Democrat (McKinney, TX), February 27, 1902
Terms such as honor, love, and willingness to work often were included in the advertisements from women and men alike. “Ordering” a bride was no simple task. 

Other publications also ran personal ads for souls seeking companionship, and several entrepreneurial-minded individuals promoted agencies and bureaus promising incomparable matches. Some of those agencies were honorable, some were not.

Some mail-order marriages worked out, some did not. But many resulted in loving unions nourished by kindness, faithfulness, and a common vision for a better future
the stuff of every mail-order bride romance novel.


Was his daughter Gracie so desperate for a mother that she’d write for a stranger to come? Good Lord, you didn’t just order a wife like you did a shovel from the mercantile.

Mail-Order Misfire
Author Davalynn Spencer can’t stop #lovingthecowboy. As the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, she writes romance for those who enjoy a Western tale with a rugged hero, both historical and contemporary. She holds the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction, teaches writing workshops, and plays the keyboard on her church worship team. When she’s not writing, teaching, or playing, she’s wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Learn more about Davalynn and her books at


  1. Hi Davalynn! I love the mail-order brides plots for books and your new book sounds like a winner! Will Mail-order Misfire release in printed format, also? I have a Kindle, but sometimes I like to hold a book and enjoy the smell and feel of it. Ha! If it doesn't, I'll order it in Kindle version. Thank you!

  2. So glad you enjoy these stories as much as I, Karen. Print version of Mail-Order Misfire is being discussed. All I know for certain is the ebook is available Sept. 3. Blessings!

  3. One of the most fun novellas I've written was about a mail-order bride, Christmas Blessing. I hadn't thought of it being much like our on-line services of today, but I suppose email correspondence would be similar to letters written back and forth between the man and woman back then. Sorta goes with the idea that there's nothing really new under the sun. :) Thanks for an interesting post.

  4. Oh, by the way, I've enjoyed your books on my Kindle this past year. I will look for this one.

  5. Thanks for your post! Mail order relationships do provide the fodder for many a good story!