In cleaning out my voluminous files from our Appalachian Journey series, I came across a picture our dad sent me years ago of Bessie as a child and wanted to share it with our fabulous readers. This is a very old picture, creased and torn and sepia-toned, and I hope you can see it clearly enough.bessie and family On the front porch are (from left to right) Mama, Roy with a hat in his hand, a big black dog (wonder what his name was?) Papa with Loney sitting on his lap, and Bessie standing to the far right.

In our book Whistling Woman, we describe one of the houses Bessie lived in as a child which was built by her father, taken from an article Bessie wrote many years later when she lived on Stone Mountain with her husband Fletch. This must be the house because it has what she described as jigsaw stars on the porch above them. I’m amazed at Papa’s skill in carpentry and wonder how he managed to do the jigsaw stars so well without the aid of power tools, not to mention a whole house. According to Bessie, the “cottage” stood just behind Dorland School and had a big apple tree in the front yard with a swing hanging from a sturdy branch.

It’s been sad saying goodbye to Bessie and her family, and I find I just can’t put away all the materials we’ve collected over the years. And now it seems there will be more to add. I recently heard from one of our distant cousins (on Lucinda’s side), Mary Paris Merriken, researcher extraordinaire, who has been doing research on the family, most especially Bessie’s cousin the notorious Frank Henderson who was electrocuted for killing his wife, that she has located articles about Bessie and her teaching. We’ll be meeting with her in Hot Springs in September and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Mary has collected. So for now, I’m leaving everything as-is and will share more with you later.

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