For lack of information, even the most complete existing biographical sources on Sherwood Anderson pass directly from an account of his marriage to Cornelia Platt Lane in Toledo, Ohio, on Monday, May 16, 1904, to their setting up housekeeping at 5854 Rosalie Court on the South Side of Chicago some weeks later. Although the Toledo Daily Blade reported on the day of the wedding that “Mr. and Mrs. Anderson will leave this evening for a wedding journey,” no information about the honeymoon period has been known to exist, despite the unusually large amount of documentation of Anderson’s life and career that has been retained or uncovered, much of it preserved in Chicago’s Newberry Library.
Several years ago, however, Mrs. Marion “Mimi” Anderson Spear, daughter of Sherwood and Cornelia, discovered among some papers left by her mother a unique and revealing document: a holograph manuscript that includes, along with several previously unknown early stories and sketches by Anderson, his detailed personal journal of the wedding trip itself, which between May 16 and June 2 took the Andersons by train to Cincinnati; to Oakdale, in southern Morgan County, Tennessee; to Chattanooga; and to Memphis, from which they traveled by steamboat on the Mississippi to St. Louis and the World’s Fair. This document not only fills a previously existing gap in Anderson’s biography but also, in both the journal and non-journal sections, provides early examples of Anderson’s imaginative writing from a period when almost nothing beyond some business-oriented essays in the house organ of his advertising agency has been known to survive.
Both the journal of the wedding trip and the eight early stories and sketches are written in ink in a tall, narrow notebook (13 cm X 31.5 cm) of 90 lined sheets (180 pp.) originally bound in flexible brown cardboard. Today several of the sheets are loose; most of the cover has been torn away; and some pages at the front and back of the notebook are badly discolored and damaged, with a resulting loss –luckily insubstantial — of some text. Seventeen of the ninety sheets of the original notebook are missing altogether (counting from the front, sheets 12-23, 36, 37, 50, 61-62), but almost certainly these were not pages that Anderson had written anything on.
Anderson actually wrote his May-June 1904 journal entries beginning at the back of the notebook. Having filled up ten pages at the front with five earlier stories, sketches, and impressions of varying lengths, he made his first journal entry on a new first page, with the notebook turned over and upside down. In this position, the diary occupies 24 sheets or pp. -. For three non-journal pieces dealing with the wedding and honeymoon and written almost certainly in Oakdale, Tennessee, after the wedding, Anderson returned the notebook to its normal position and wrote them on pages immediately following the other five non-journal writings. The position of the three pieces written simultaneously with the journal (pp. -), relative to the other group of five pieces (pp. -), indicates a date of composition earlier than mid-May 1904 for the group of five. Only two of the eight pieces included were given titles; thus I have provided descriptive phrases or sentences (within brackets) to distinguish among them:
pp. - [Tramp killed by train found by girl]
pp. - “The Red Haired Woman”
pp. - “The Can Factory”
pp. - [Afternoon on a slow train]
p.  [Spring fever]
p.  [A Woman is like a river]
p.  [The wedding]
pp. - [Poem to the bride].
Cornelia Platt Lane
The essentials of Sherwood Anderson’s life, from his birth into a family of limited means in Camden, Ohio, on September 13, 1876, to his situation in 1904 as an up-and-coming Chicago advertising man of modest social and educational background, have been reasonably well documented and need not be repeated here. Little has been recorded, however, about the quite different background of his bride.
Cornelia Platt Lane was born May 16, 1877, into a well-to-do family of Toledo, Ohio, with ancestral ties to New England. Her first recorded American ancestor, William Lane, had arrived in Boston in 1651. She was the namesake of her paternal grandfather Cornelius B. Lane. Her father was Robert Heber Lane (called Heber), a prosperous Toledo wholesaler in shoes and rubbers; and her mother was Kate Pepple Lane, who had died in 1892 when Cornelia was fifteen. She was the eldest of five children, including Robert McNeill Lane (b. 1884), Margaret Lane (b. 1886), and two others who died in infancy or early childhood. Robert Heber Lane would marry his second wife Georgia (“Georgie”) Lacy in 1901 and father a second, much younger family of four sons.
After graduating from Toledo High School and spending a year at Shepardson College, Cornelia had entered the College for Women of Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1896, where she received the Ph.B. degree in June 1900. While in college, she showed pronounced literary and historical interests, taking a substantial number of courses in English, history, and Latin, serving as a literary editor of the college annual, joining the Browning club, and writing for the college literary magazine. In June 1901, about a year after her graduation from college, she boarded the Red Star Line’s S. S. Vaderland in New York, bound for Cherbourg and Antwerp. During her eight months of travel and study in Europe, she would add a significant dimension to her acquaintance with the literature, language, and history that she knew previously only from college textbooks.
Landing at Antwerp about July 6, she was in Brussels the next day and reached Paris July 9. After a few days there, she left for Lugano, Switzerland; and by July 20 she was at Como in Northern Italy, with a railway pass that would take her to Milan, Genoa, Pisa, Naples, Rome, Florence, and Venice before she left Italy on August 7. She then passed through Innsbruck, Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, and Cologne, and devoted August 21 through 29 to touring the Netherlands.
After spending the month of September in London, Cornelia was by early October back in Paris, where she lived at 7 Rue D’Assas until mid-February 1902. Judging from the programs and notes retained in a scrapbook, she seems to have attended concerts and theaters regularly and to have led an active social life among a circle of friends and acquaintances. She obtained admittance as a reader at the Bibliotheque Nationale; and it is likely that, beginning in November and December, she attended several classes at the Sorbonne during the winter. In mid-February, 1902, she toured Brittany before sailing from Cherbourg for home on the U.S.M.S. St. Louis.
Back in Toledo, Cornelia resumed living with her family in the Lane home at 2428 Robinwood Avenue, a quiet upper-class street. Her meeting Sherwood Anderson around May 1903, came about through a connection with Clyde, Ohio, where Anderson had grown up. A friend of Anderson’s from Clyde named Jane “Jennie” Bemis had married a man from Chicago named Charles Weeks; and the couple had settled in Toledo next door to the Lane home. Jennie Bemis Weeks and Cornelia became good friends; and when Sherwood, on one of his advertising trips, stopped off in Toledo to see Jennie, she introduced him to her friend Cornelia Lane. She and Sherwood corresponded after his return to Chicago, and presumably he made other visits over the following months. By early 1904 they were engaged to be married. On Saturday, May 7, the couple were honored at an “informal evening” given by Cornelia’s friend Eunice Alexander and attended by fifteen other couples.
Although Anderson’s social and educational attainments were at the time inferior to those of his intended bride, not only did his prospects in the world of advertising and business seem rosy; but he by this time had literary ambitions himself, and he and Cornelia shared strong interests in such authors as Stevenson, Carlyle, Browning, and Borrow. They were both attractive young adults in the bloom of early maturity. And as some of Anderson’s early writings printed here for the first time will show, his love and respect for Cornelia at the time were even more intensified by his idealized and romanticized idea of “woman” as something more unfathomable, “greater,” and more “earnest” than man.
Sadly, within a few years the great expectations of the spring of 1904 would fade for both, as her instincts for insuring a secure and respectable future for their three children came more and more into conflict with his equally strong urge to become an artist. Separation in 1914 would be followed by divorce in 1916. Although not part of the present story, it is worth remarking that Cornelia, who never remarried, went on through life with dignity, grace, and determination. She supported her children by teaching school, graciously encouraging them to respect and honor their father. She spent her last years living quietly near her daughter Marion Spear in Madison, North Carolina, where she died near the end of her ninetieth year in the spring of 1967 and where she is buried on a pleasant hilltop.
But all this was in the future when the young couple were married on May 16, 1904, (Cornelia’s twenty-seventh birthday) in her father’s house in Toledo. Featured prominently as the lead item in the “Social” column of that day’s Toledo Daily Blade, the wedding was small but traditional. The pastor of the First Baptist Church performed the ceremony, and Eunice Alexander at the piano played “the Lohengrin and Mendelssohn wedding music.” Margaret Lane, Cornelia’s sister, “attired in white,” was the bridesmaid; and Marco Morrow, Sherwood’s close friend and Chicago advertising agency associate, was best man. Anderson’s artist brother Karl came from New York and his sister Stella from Chicago to represent the Anderson family. Among the few other guests was Jennie Weeks, who had introduced the couple a year earlier. Cornelia’s gown was “a handsome creation of white chiffon,” and after the wedding supper, which followed the ceremony, she changed to “a dark blue tailored costume” for the wedding journey.
The Wedding Journey
The newlyweds boarded a late evening train for Cincinnati, where they stayed at the St. Nicholas Hotel and were “out about the city” on Tuesday, May 17. On Wednesday the 18th they traveled by the Cincinnati Southern Railway — the busy main line between Cincinnati and Chattanooga — to Oakdale, Tennessee, where they spent a full week of their honeymoon. Oakdale was in 1904 the site of the Cincinnati Southern’s main switching yards, on the east bank of the Emory River (earlier name “Babahatchie”) at the foot of Walden’s Ridge, one of the towering peaks of the Cumberland Mountains in rural Morgan County west of Knoxville.
Oakdale owed its prominence on the line to the fact that, in the days of steam engines, long trains going north from Chattanooga had to be broken up at Oakdale before attempting the steep grades north between Oakdale and Somerset, Kentucky. Since at the time as many as twenty trains an hour passed through Oakdale, it was the scene of much activity. Workers’ small frame homes and boardinghouses nestled thickly on the hillsides above the river and the tracks.
The Andersons stayed at the Babahatchie Inn, Oakdale’s most prominent hostelry and landmark. Situated facing the railroad tracks with a bend in the river at its back, this rambling, three-story Victorian structure with its distinctive square steeple mainly existed to house and feed the many trainsmen in Oakdale. Although the Babahatchie Inn became after 1906 for many years one of the most famous, largest, and best-kept of the Railroad YMCA’s, before that it was apparently an unkempt and unruly place. Before its cleaning and renovation under YMCA operation beginning in 1906, the Babahatchie is reported to have been the scene of drunken brawls, gamblings, and shootings; a place where the sheets might or might not be changed every thirty days; an inn where “Practically the only women who dared to enter … were those picked up by men along the road.”
It seems surprising that Anderson would have taken his cultured young bride to such a place. Although he reports in the journal that Cornelia did complain mildly about the place being “southern,” Anderson does not dwell on any negative aspects of their stay. Either the prevailing accounts of lawlessness and lack of respectability are exaggerated or the Andersons were not aware of all that went on. One reason for stopping may have been Anderson’s previous acquaintance with Oakdale. He would have passed through this hamlet more than once during his army service a few years previous, in 1898, as his unit was shuttled by train among encampments in the vicinity of Chattanooga and Knoxville. And he may have passed through Oakdale even more recently in his travels by rail as an advertising solicitor. Perhaps his earlier observations of the great natural beauty in this environment outweighed the consideration of less-than-ideal lodging accommodations.