CROWN POINT | Love and marriage filled the air, the Lake County clerk’s office and the offices of the justices of the peace from 1915 to 1940 when the county seat went by the moniker “the Marriage Mill.”
About 175,000 couples got hitched during that era that’s an iconic part of the legacy of the Old Lake County Courthouse where the clerk’s office was located, said Martha Wheeler, president of the Lake County Court House Foundation.
Word of mouth and publicity brought the famous and the unknown to Crown Point where marriage licenses cost just $2 with no waiting period or blood tests needed.
Among those taking their marriage vows during that 25-year era were silent film romantic legend Rudolph Valentino; Colleen Moore, whose fairy castle doll house fascinated generations of children at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry; football great Red Grange; legendary boxer Cassius Clay (before he became Muhammad Ali); baseball legend Joe DiMaggio (pre-Marilyn Monroe) and actor and future 40th president of the United States Ronald Reagan who wed his first wife, actress Jane Wyman.
Marriages were performed 24/7 before one of four "marrying Squires" or justices of the peace, Harvey Minas, John Krost, Arthur Taylor and Neil Platt. All were in offices across North Main Street from the courthouse.
Minas also kept wedding bands of with a range of price tags in his office, Wheeler said.
“When couple would come in to be married, he would ask the man ‘What’s the little lady worth?’” she chuckled.
Although there was no customary waiting period or blood test, there were rules.
The groom had to be at least 21 years of age and the bride 18. Or the couples had to have written or verbal consent from their parents.
Most importantly, according to the rules at the time, the prospective brides and grooms had to be sober.