PERRYSVILLE -- There's always a buzz in the air when the circus comes to town. But in 1912 it created a different kind of stir at the Perrysville Homecoming Celebration.
The first Homecoming had been held in 1910 as part of the Centennial celebration. It was such a hit that it was held for a series of years afterward. The event included carnival rides, brass bands, food, and of course a traveling circus with dangerous animals, daredevils, and more.
When the 1912 celebration was held, a 14-year-old Grace Rowe attended the circus with her parents and became enthralled ... both with the novelty of circus life and, more importantly, with a handsome 22-year-old man named Elmer Parsons.
Parsons was the high-wire act for the circus, and certainly didn't mind the attention from Rowe. In fact, when the circus packed up and left town so did Rowe ... sneaking off in the night without so much as goodbye.
The two lovebirds met up in Mansfield, where they took the train to Fort Wayne. Her mother, Jane, and brother, Wayne, quickly headed for Fort Wayne, where officials there did recognize the couple, but said they had already departed for parts unknown. Her family returned home, defeated and depressed.
On Sept. 16, two days after running off together, Elmer and Grace eloped in Peru, Indiana. From there, they caught the train to Michigan where they joined another circus, and Grace finally wrote home to tell her parents of her marriage.
Her mother, however, was less than pleased and quickly took the train to Michigan to plead with her daughter to return home.
As it turns out, the circus life wasn't quite as fun as Grace first assumed, and she readily agreed to come home ... just one week after running off and marrying Elmer.
According to the Mansfield News Journal, "The glamour of carnival life having lost its attractiveness for her after a week of actual association with it ... the show business had not been good and the girl was much disappointed at the demolishing of her air castles."
In 1913 Grace and her family petitioned to have the marriage annulled, on the grounds that Elmer did not sufficiently provide for her and that they no longer had lived together as a married couple "since a few days after the marriage."
Taking her age and the lack of parental consent into consideration, the courts granted her annulment and allowed her name be changed back to Rowe. A year later, in 1914, Grace passed away while in Colorado.
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