The Story of Two Brides
This is a story of two young women who married into the same family, but sadly, time prevented them from ever having the opportunity to get to know each other.  In spite of the fact the two never met, they have many things in common. One especially uncanny fact is that they share the same birth date of April 16. I’ll begin putting the pieces of this story together with details of an outdoor wedding my husband and I attended at the Clark House here in Livingston on an extremely hot Saturday morning in July. The bride was Christine Bach who grew up in Dresden, Germany, and the groom was Matthew Reagan of Memphis. Christine is the daughter of Uwe and Elke Bach of Dresden, Germany, and the groom is the son of Rick and Lisa (Sells) Reagan of Knoxville. Grandparents of the groom are Paul and Robbie Reagan of Livingston and Raymond and Frances Sells of the Taylors Crossroads community. Grandparents of the bride are Alfons and Magdalena Siewert, who attended the wedding, and Sigried and Sigfried both from Dresden, Germany.  The wedding was unlike any I have ever attended before in that many German traditions and customs were included. White ribbons from the bridal bouquet were place on the cars of the bridesmaids, and the wedding vows were done in both English and German. German and American flags were displayed side by side, and the wedding cake was in the colors of the German flag, black (chocolate), red, and yellow. Another interesting tradition that followed the exchanging of vows was watching the bride and groom use a crosscut saw to cut a small log into, something that symbolized their promise to always work together in their marriage.
Before telling more of Christine and Matthew’s story, we’ll turn back the clock to the year 1931. That’s when Matthew’s great-grandfather, Lonzo Sells, married Eva Helen Woog, a young lady who came to this country from Austria-Hungary. When stories for the Overton County History book were being submitted, Eva wrote the following about her life. Here are portions of that story: 
"I was born April 16, 1909 in Austria-Hungary. My parents were Mathias and Kristen (Saag) Woog, pronounced Vogue in German. I am the oldest of five children. My siblings were Magdalena, Karl, Matthew, and Barbra. Matthew died in 1915 and my mother and baby sister, Barbra, died in 1916 when I was seven years old. Later, my father married Elizabeth Saag, pronounced Schak. My father, grandfather, and uncles were all managers of vineyards and wineries. They were also overseers of raising almonds, apricots, and carpathian walnuts. We lived in a village called Titel near the Danube River. I could see the snow-capped Alps from my home. The farm animals were taken out of the village each morning to eat in the meadows. A herder was hired to take the animals out and to bring them back each night. Timber was scarce. Houses and fences were built out of bricks, which were white washed regularly. Our crops were also grown outside the village by the river. Our life was drastically changed after World War I. Part of Austria was given to Serbia, including several small countries. Serbia is now Yugoslavia. I’ll never forget how scared we were when the bombs got so close that we could hear them. We were rationed of everything we had. It was unbearable. Then our country was ruled by the Serbians. We had to go to their schools and learn to speak their language. When I was younger, I could speak four different languages and my father could speak seven. I have forgotten a lot since then. Because things kept getting worse, my father knew he had to get his family out of Austria-Hungary as soon as possible. He sold everything and we came to the United States. My grandparents and most of my aunts and uncles left too. Some went to South America, some to Canada and the rest to the United States. Those who stayed had to live under the rule of the Russians when Yugoslavia was taken over during World War II. A few died in concentration camps. I have always been thankful that we got out just in time. In February of 1921, my father, stepmother, brother, Karl, sister, Magdalena, and I left war-torn Europe by train. We next boarded a ship in Antwerp, Belgium. We had to stay a whole week in Belgium waiting for our ship, and then spent the next nine days on the ocean. We had a terrifying experience while on the ship. It began to leak and the distress signal sounded all night. The next day, the water was coming up into the cabins. When the rescue boats finally came to get us off the ship, women and children went first. I got separated from my family and was carried onto a boat screaming. I thought I would never see my family again. We were taken to an island to stay in an abandoned prison while our ship was being repaired. It was night before my mother, brother, and sister came in on their boat. I ran to them through a crowd of people. I was so happy. It was the next day before we saw my father. We all were then taken back to our ship and continued on to Boston, Massachusetts. On March 11, 1921, we arrived in the United States. We traveled by train from Boston to Barberton, Ohio where we had relatives. We then made our home in Barberton. Ten days after our arrival in Barberton, my little sister, Magdalena, became sick and died. I was torn apart again. I turned twelve years old in April, then in September, I had to start to school in the first grade because I could not speak English. I could hardly bear it, I had to start from the beginning. Once I learned English, I got to finish school early. I was so thankful to my parents for making me go. While living in Barberton, my parents had four more children, John, Frank, Helen, and Joe. In 1928, I met Lonzo Harrison Sells in the Diamond Match Company where we both worked. My father worked there also. In 1931, Lonzo and I were married. After getting my citizenship in 1932, Lonzo and I came to Tennessee to his home place to live for awhile. In 1934, we moved back to Ohio for better work, and lived there until 1941, when we came back to his home in Tennessee to take care of his parents, Harrison and Malissie (Nelson) Sells. We have lived there ever since. After moting to Tennessee, we mostly farmed, and I worked at the shirt factory in Livingston. Over the years, Lonzo also worked in Oak Ridge, drove a school bus and a gravel truck. When I first came to this country, I had to face a lot of changes. I had never seen anyone chew gum. My family and I could not figure out what everyone was eating that they never swallowed. We finally found out it was chewing gum. I had also never eaten a banana or peanuts. I grew up with electricity in Austria and Barberton, but when we came to Tennessee, we didn’t have electricity until 1949. I was raised as a Catholic but joined the Protestant church with my husband, and I am still a member at Hatcher Hall Christian Church. This is my home now although I have always wanted to go back to Europe but never got the chance. I like the people and love country here. I have a lot of friends and love them all. I am glad we live in a free country and hope I never have to see another war. God bless America."
Eva Sells passed away on February 17, 1996. Her husband, Lonzo Sells, died on March 5, 1974, several years prior to her death. Their children include a daughter, Donna Sells Jolley; a son, Raymond Sells; and another daughter, Marie Sells Gunnels.   All three children continue to live in the Taylors Crossroads Community where they are all active members of the Hatcher Hall Christian Church.

Lonzo Sells and wife Eva Sells were photographed in the early years of their marriage.

What follows is Christine Bach Reagan’s story: 
“ I was born on April 16th in 1987 which was a wonderful Thursday just before Easter.  In Germany, that day is a holiday, and an interesting thing is that my brother, Christian, was born two years later on the Thursday before Easter. I grew up in an ever-changing environment as Germany was reunited in 1989 as the wall came down, but it took over 20 years for things to become somewhat unified.  Now I am only 24 years old and I am looking back at my life, but you can still see and feel the difference.  Even though I don’t remember a lot from the UdSSR times, I grew up understanding that there was a difference from what my family had been through and the opportunities and possibilities which would present themselves to me.  My family did not have to flee to another country, but my grandparents lived in an area which is now Poland farther north at the Baltic Sea. When the Germans and the Russians invaded the land, my grandpa and my grandma, who both lived there at the age of seven and two, along with their families, had to take whatever they could carry left to go South looking for safe land. They ended up in the mountains on the border of the Czech Republic and Germany, just 30 minutes outside of Dresden where I grew up. It was there my grandparents met, and later started a family.  Without this history, I would not exist.  I am very thankful for their lives and their attitude to live through whatever happened.  My other grandparents lived outside of the city and also made it through the war.  Both sides watched the city burn to the ground in 1945.  It has now been rebuilt into an old wonderful baroque city along the River Elbe.
“People may ask why all this is important to me? It is because I grew up knowing how difficult life was and that I had to appreciate the chances and opportunities that I would face. I remember when I learned how to swim at the age of six.  My parents took me to Berlin to an indoor water park.  It was like a trip a world away from our home, even though it was only two hours away.  It was West-Berlin and just four years earlier, you could not go there. Because my parents wanted me to experience what they never could, my dad offered me the chance to come to the US as an exchange student when I was 16.  I was nervous but I wanted to see the world and I was eager to learn.  I decided to come to the US and was placed in the small town of Elroy, Wisconsin. I lived there for one year with a wonderful family who took care of me. When I first arrived however, I did not speak English very well. I learned it in school but my teacher told me I would never be able to speak English.  I guess I showed her that I can!  For the first two weeks, I did not say one word because I did not understand what everyone around me was saying. It is difficult when there is cliques and ten conversations going on at the same time.  After two weeks however, I decided that everyone knew I was not from here and that I would never learn. So I started.  My study hall teacher taught me words every day and we spoke a lot.  It was a great year. 
“My parents came and picked me up after graduation.  I did not want to go home. It did not feel right, but I had to finish high school in Germany.  I guess it was then that I decided I would have to come back.  There was something about the US that would not let go of me.  One other thing about me is that I have been playing volleyball since I was nine years old.  Since that first day of practice, it has been a passion of mine.  My whole family plays and it has always been a big part of my life.  Through volleyball I received a scholarship to come and play at the University of Memphis.  I was actually going to go to NY, but then the coach pulled back and I decided on Memphis.  There were lots of up and downs in this time period as one can only imagine; being an athlete, a student, a friend and a person living in a new world.  It was hard for my parents to see me leave because my family is very close, but I know that they are always there for me and will always support me no matter what life brings.  Matt and I met in college as he played football at the University of Memphis.  One day we started talking and since then, it seems we have not stopped.  We learned a lot about each other and the cultures we each grew up in. Matt came to Germany with me and saw where I grew up which showed him a completely different side of me. Since then, we have established our lives together in West Tennessee.  So as you have heard, Memphis is the place I have been living for the past five years, and if it was not for the fact that I came to Memphis, I would not have met the wonderful man I can now call my husband.” 

Christine and Matthew Reagan were married in July of this year here in Livingston.
Even though Eva Sells has been deceased some 15 years, her spirit was definitely felt by family members during the wedding of Christine and Matthew Reagan.  I believe she was there to bestow her blessing on the marriage of her great-grandson and the person he chose to share his life with, someone she would have no doubt loved and enjoyed getting to know.  Aunt Eva’s husband, Lonzo (Uncle Doll) Sells would have been just as proud that his great-grandson selected someone so similar to the wife he chose to be his life’s companion so long ago.  The two of them, Aunt Eva and Uncle Doll, would wish nothing but happiness and the very best to Matthew and Christine as they begin their journey through life together.