Ponder's quarterback sneak to Hudson was nothing new
Minnesota Viking quarterback Christian Ponder's sneak across the border to get married quietly in Hudson Dec. 17 is nothing new for the city.
Back in the day, Hudson was known as a Greta Green for the Twin Cities because Wisconsin did not have a waiting period or license requirement for marriage when Minnesota did. The situation created a niche for commerce in the town because a number of Minnesota residents, particularly from St. Paul and Minneapolis, who fell in love and couldn't wait to tie the knot, took the train to Hudson for the ceremony.
Christian Andrew Ponder, 24, married Samantha Saint-Claire Steele, 27, an ESPN reporter, in a civil ceremony at the St. Croix County Government Center. Court Commissioner Stephen Dunlap officiated at the afternoon wedding.
Amy Hanson, deputy clerk of court who filled out the application for marriage license for the couple said they were very gracious, nice people.
Two law clerks, picked at random who didn't know the couple, acted as witnesses, a court official said.
The term Gretna Green goes back to the 1700s in Scotland. English law prevented very young couples from getting married if anybody objected. The law did not apply in Scotland and Gretna Green in the south of the country just across the border from England, was the place where many a run-away marriage took place.
Tradition says anybody could perform the ceremony and many took place before the anvil at a local blacksmith shop. Blacksmiths became known as "Anvil Priests".
In the 1890s Hudson established a Gretna Green reputation. The late Star-Observer publisher Willis Miller referred to the situation in his column "Historic Hudson" in the May 17, 1990, issue quoting from the Jan. 19, 1894 newspaper.
"In 1893, 956 persons (478 couples) were married in the city of Hudson. Considering the place has less than a 3,000 population, it is doubtful that any village in the world of the same size can show so excellent a record."
"Aside from the 24 residents from Hudson who were married there last year, most of the couples ran over from St. Paul and Minneapolis," the 19th century article said.
A change in the law around the turn of the century apparently severely reduced the niche economy.
"Since a change in Wisconsin laws, Stillwater has exchanged with Hudson in the distinction of being the Gretna Green of the St. Croix," The May 4, 1900, edition of the Hudson Star & Times said.
Only two ceremonies were performed in 1900 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, a popular place for Gretna Green ceremonies. In 1892 some 89 weddings took place there.