January 23, 1908: Wedding of Gertrude St. Clair Wren and Harry Landis Gabel Includes Solemn Remembrance


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

January 23, 1908: The wedding of Gertrude St. Clair Wren, a belle of Boyertown society, and her childhood sweetheart, Harry Landis Gabel of Larned, Kansas, took place this afternoon at the bride’s home at 105 East Philadelphia Avenue. The original ceremony, planned for January 16, was to be one of the biggest social events of the year in Boyertown, but those plans were shattered after both the bridesmaid, Edna Boyer, age 25, and the best man, Newton Lichtel, age 27, perished in the horrific Opera House fire on January 13. Instead of beginning their honeymoon in Washington, D.C., the bridal couple attended their friends’ funerals.

Newton was a hero that night, sacrificing his life to help others escape, and Edna, who had safely left the burning building, went back in to redeem some possessions. It was reported that she had a beautiful dress to wear for her best friend’s wedding and was happily looking forward to the event.

All of the invitations for the January 16 ceremony were recalled because of the tragedy, and a quiet service, attended by only family and close friends, was performed by Rev. John Flint, who had been the Wren family’s minister at the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church.

Gertrude had not attended the Monday evening performance at the Opera House because she was busy with last minute preparations, even though Edna had a starring role in the play and Newton was also a member of the cast.

Although Edna’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jakes K. Boyer, did not attend the ceremony, they sent a gift to the couple, who will reside in Kansas where Gabel operates a flour mill.

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