Texas Royals — Electra Waggoner, Prairie Princess – Part 9
By Marsha Brown
Tom hired a bigger, more expensive company to drill an even deeper well. The workers drilled down 2,000 feet, but all they found was more oil. A bitterly disappointed Tom tried to forget the nasty black substance that plagued his ranch land as the region suffered through what looked like a full-scale drought.
Despite Tom’s irrigation troubles, Electra’s homecoming in the spring of 1900 was a happy time for her parents and almost as happy a time for the area’s society columnists.
Finishing school had taken an already socially astute and attractive young girl and given her the style, refinement and sophistication she needed to take her beyond the friendly country hamlets of Decatur and Beaver. Her training enabled her to travel in worldly circles and swim with sharks. She would become one of the world’s most celebrated hostesses and one of the most sought-after party guests of her time.
Electra’s social calendar was filled from almost the moment she came home. She and friends traveled to the ranch near Beaver; she attended parties in Dallas and San Antonio. She made an appearance at the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo.
Electra made headlines in her hometown newspaper when she hosted a Japanese-style benefit tea for the Young Men’s Social Club at El Castile. She reportedly donned a silk kimono. By the spring of 1901, a young Dallas businessman, Max Lingo, was making regular trips to Decatur to see Electra and was dropping broad hints that he was serious about the 19-year-old.
When he proposed, Tom and Ella, who should have seen it coming, suggested that Electra postpone her wedding until she took a “grand tour.” That same year, her brother Guy, now 18, was to leave in the fall to attend a military academy in Virginia. Electra, ever the adventurous spirit, agreed. She set off to see the world accompanied by her aunt, an uncle and a cousin. She was now officially an engaged woman.
Electra’s engagement to the young Dallas businessman didn’t stop her from noticing another interesting young man she met in Kathmandu.
His name was Albert B. Wharton, a Philadelphia aristocrat who was especially doing exactly what Electra was doing — taking a grand world tour before he settled down to real-world responsibilities.
That the Philadelphia blue blood and the “Prairie Princess” had little in common except that they were both young, beautiful world travelers apparently didn’t occur to anyone, least of all to them. They finished their tours together. While in Austria, Electra purchased an exquisite length of Rose point lace that had been crafted for a member of the royal family. She paid $1,000 for the piece. She decided it would become her bridal veil and it had nothing to do with Lingo.
Brian Rhodes, who oversees operations at Thistle Hill, is an expert on all Electra-related details.
“While Wharton may have been thinking about marriage, Electra was plotting,” Rhodes said. “Obviously, she had her mind made up.”
When Electra’s grand tour was over, she returned home. One of the first things she did was to break her engagement to Lingo. The second was to assemble her girlfriends around her and tell them that she’d met the man of her dreams. While Electra planned details of her wedding, Dan Waggoner began to struggle with failing health.
Electra and Albert set a June wedding date. They would be married at El Castile (her call). They would live in Philadelphia (his call). If Electra didn’t seem to mind it was because she was living in a pink fog of bridal gown fittings and bridal teas. Tom, as father of the bride, wasn’t bothered by a fog, pink or otherwise. He was seeing and thinking clearly.
Electra was the quintessential radiant bride-to-be as trouble was brewing in the town of Beaver. The townspeople wanted to accomplish two things — they wanted to rid themselves of the unattractive name of Beaver and they wanted to honor Tom Waggoner. The suggestion was made that the town be renamed Waggoner, but Tom didn’t like the idea. Then the townspeople came up with the idea to name their town after the lovely bride-to-be. Beaver became Electra.
On June 10, 1902, Electra became Mrs. Albert B. Wharton at a ceremony at El Castile. Members of Texas royalty came from across the state to attend the celebrated event. Newspapers from the Wise County Messenger to the Dallas Times Herald covered Electra’s wedding. The Fort Worth Record hailed it as among the outstanding “social events of the season.”
Following the reception, Albert and Electra went on a six-month-long European honeymoon, after which the newlyweds were scheduled to return to Texas for a brief visit. Then the plan was for the happy couple to travel to Philadelphia to set up housekeeping.
Tom Waggoner decided on the perfect wedding gift for his daughter and her new husband.