Clayton history — The best wedding that wasn’t

Clayton history — The best wedding that wasn’t

There was no description of the “bride’s” dress in the Gazette story, but she was likely dressed in the style of the time. Bridegroom, John Eastcott, was wearing jeans and new brogan shoes typical of farmers and laborers of the time. (Photo from the book, “What People Wore” by Douglas Gorsline.)

Debbie EistetterCLAYTON, CA (Oct. 26, 2023) — Was Clayton farmer, John Eastcott, the victim of a marriage scam or did he plan his nuptials as a practical joke?

This intriguing quandary arose when the Contra Costa Gazette published an article on February 02, 1867 relating how Mr. Eastcott, a bachelor in his mid-forties, fell in love with a lady who was visiting from San Francisco, and how he recruited some female friends “to plead his cause with the charmer and negotiate for his future happiness in wedlock’s silken bonds.” The lady said, yes, and the wedding date was set.

The article noted that “a warm and universal interest in the event was manifested in the community,” with residents supplying the food and drink and Joel Clayton offering his home as the venue. The groom-to-be dressed in “high-colored Kentucky jeans pants, new brogans and standing collar,” however no details of the lady’s attire were mentioned.

The wedding supper was a success, “disposed of with the usual relish and attendant pleasantries,” but when the acting minister announced his readiness to begin the marriage ceremony, the bride-to-be voiced her doubts. She stood to address the gathering, and claimed Mr. Eastcott was not the age he said he was, and she “had doubts of the propriety of consummating the engagement.”

The audience voiced their opinion that he was indeed his stated age, and it was at this time that the lady announced she had been married 3 months previously to another man. She provided a picture of her husband, and one account reports her having said she had had no feast at her wedding and thought this a good opportunity to have one. The partygoers pronounced the whole affair a “sell” or scam with Mr. Eastcott as victim.

“Not a Victim”

An article entitled, “Not a Victim,” was published in the Gazette two weeks later with John Eastcott stating he allowed his “bride-to-be” to use him as an “agent for playing a practical joke on those friends who had volunteered service as matchmakers” and convincing those friends to provide the wedding feast. He said he would not have had the “pluck” to see the joke through but the lady insisted.

Was he coming clean to be forgiven for his indiscretion or was he a victim trying to save his pride? At any rate the Clayton citizenry was not amused as they had supposed the event to have been “seriously intended and vow(ed) to avenge themselves for the ‘sell.’”

ADDENDUM: CONTRA COSTA GAZETTE, April 1871: Married in Union Church, Clayton, April 23rd by Reverend V. Rightmyer. Mr. John Eastcott to Mrs. M.A. Allen both of Clayton.

Married to a woman who was likely the widow of J.D. Allen, the first settler in the Clayton area. Wedded bliss at last.

Debbie Eistetter is a board member of the Clayton Historical Society. For more information or to become a member, visit The Clayton Museum is open 2-4 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays at 6101 Main St.. Admission is free.

Debbie Eistetter
Debbie Eistetter

Debbie Eistetter has been a resident of Clayton for almost 30 years.  She serves on the Board of the Clayton Historical Society and believes that history shows us the way to a more enlightened present and hopeful future.  For more information about the CHS Museum please visit