Offering free marriage license and stay in a local hotel




Michael and Nicole Joseph were married three years ago. They will be re-tying their knot April 14 in a dramatic ceremony in which the wedding party will include a cast of bank robbers–so to speak. The last time these desperadoes preyed on Longview was in 1894. These latter-day re-enactors will look the part.

The Josephs are the first couple to participate in the city’s annual Dalton Days event called the Shotgun Wedding. Actors portraying hardened criminals will accompany the nuptials to the altar in commemoration of one of the bloodiest shootouts in the history of 19th Century Texas. The Gregg County Historical Museum will sponsor this recreation of May 23, 1894 when notorious outlaws Bill Dalton, Jim Wallace and brothers Jim and Judd Nite galloped into Longview and robbed the First National Bank. During the ensuing brouhaha Wallace and two citizens who tried to foil the crime were shot dead.

The event keeps getting bigger every year. Besides the re-enactment it now features a Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association competition, live entertainment, a bar-b-q cook-off, children’s area with pony rides, petting zoo, crafts, child fingerprinting by the Longview Police Department and other activities.

Michael, 27, and Nicole, 28, were married 115 years after the bank robbery, and this first wedding was a non-traditional compromise to accommodate their differing religious beliefs.

“I wrote the entire ceremony, so it wasn’t traditional,” said Nicole. “It was in Texas. We had fajitas and Margaritas.”

She is assistant director of the Gregg County Historical Museum, and says she and her husband are “both nerds.” They met while playing the online game Final Fantasy, and were married three years later. After they came to East Texas from Louisiana Michael found work as an engineer with General Cable in Marshall. With a master’s degree in history, Nicole started out as a volunteer at the museum before being hired as assistant director. They believe that renewing marriage vows is a good thing for all couples regardless of how long they’ve been married.

“We think it would be a good thing to tell each other why we got married and what’s expected of each of us,” she said. “It will be fun. We both like to have fun.”

Couples who will be renewing their vows may choose any motif they desire. Their garb can be formal, casual, western or anything else. The Josephs are going with the spirit of the event.

“We’re both going to be going the western route,” Nicole said. “We’ve done the dress, and I’m not getting that out and taking it to the dry cleaners.”

Couples renewing their vows or getting married for the first time still have time to participate in the Shotgun Wedding, which will be presided over by Chaplain Jerry Haymes. As a wedding gift they will spend their wedding night free of charge in a local hotel.

“You get to be married in a community setting,” said Nicole. “On the other hand, with the economic recession, weddings can be very expensive. This will be a fun and virtually free way for people to get married.”

Dalton Days will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. April 14. Requirements are as follows:


* Participating couples must produce proof of marriage license to the museum by April 7.

* Couples must be aged at least 18.

* Couples must pay a $25 deposit that will be refunded after the ceremony.

* Couples who sign up by Thursday may participate in a free Pre-Marital Relationship Workshop to be held 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Saturday at the Gregg County Historical Museum Education Center under the direction of WE VOW NOW.

* Couples participating in the class will receive free marriage licenses (county fees may apply.)

* Call (903) 753-5840 for more information.