She was a schoolgirl at Vail-Deane in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was captain of the Elizabeth Athletic Club baseball team. A high school crush on a red haired second baseman sparked the romance that brought my great grandparents together, and it is fair to say that their many descendants owe a great deal more to what my father calls "that epic poem, told over 162 days."
There were many amateur and semi-pro base ball teams in the late 1880s and early 1890s in New Jersey. These included The "Alerts" and The "Dauntless", the latter of which merged in 1890 with the Elizabeth Athletic Club or E.A.C. This was a reasonable decision on the part of the dauntless, as 8 of its number also played for the E.A.C.
Elizabeth base ball fans were extremely partisan, especially Margaret "Madge" Olmsted and her sister Kate who were staunch supporters of the Dauntless and the E.A.C. It is no coincidence that the red haired second baseman, Archibald Gracie Ogden, played for both clubs. The Olmsted girls took great pleasure in extolling the virtues of their diamond heroes in verse, and deriding their adversaries in equally fervent lines. One of Madge Olmsted's many scrapbooks contains the following item, clipped from the "Town Tattler" section of the local paper:
"The Alerts Base Ball Club requests that those unknown individuals responsible for removing the sign from in front of the Club kindly return and take the nails from which it used to hang as well. A job worth doing is worth doing well."
No record exists in our family archive of the identity of the culprit or culprits, but both Madge and Kate Olmsted were capable young ladies and their brother Ned was a scamp of the first order. My money would be on Madge, though.
This photograph of "The Dauntless "was taken on the 4th of July, 1887. Archie "Mike" Ogden, so called for his red hair although he was not of Irish but of English and Scots descent, is seated 2nd from the right in the second row. The Dauntless wore light blue uniforms, which coincidently is also the color of a modern-day vintage baseball team from their hometown, The Elizabeth Resolutes, that plays by 1870s rules.
Here is Archie Ogden once again, this time with the Elizabeth Athletic Club in a photograph probably taken in 1891. It was cut from a team photo, clearly the only person of interest to my great grandmother Madge Olmsted but as for the rest of the team something of a loss to posterity. He has cultivated the wispiest of mustaches, a facial feature that soon vanished never to grace his lips again. Could that, too, have been the influence of Miss Olmsted?
Their courtship was long even by the standards of the day. Briefly interrupted by the Spanish American War, the real reason for the delay in matrimony was that as a cashier at Brown Brothers Bank, Archibald Ogden felt he had not advanced sufficiently enough to provide for his two maiden, elder sisters and a wife and family as well. This state of affairs stretched into the early 1900s, and yet their interest in each other endured, until quite unexpectedly a wealthy uncle left Archibald Ogden and his sisters a small fortune in his will of $50,000 each, worth over $1,100,000 at the time if one uses a calculation of relative value based on the consumer price index. With this windfall, he proposed and they were speedily wed in 1904.
The Depression swept most of these assets away, but the diamond on the grass, and not the green of money, bought and sealed their love, and still for us today, baseball remains a family passion.