Miss Jessie May Soward, 1884-1979

I grew up attending a Methodist Church.  I like being a Methodist.  There’s no pressure to attend church.  There’s no one keeping attendance.  If you weren’t in church for a few Sundays, there was no one shaking your hand when you finally went back, saying in serious tones and staring intently into your face, “We missed you last Sunday.  You must have been sick, too sick to attend church.”  Methodists are free to come and go. 

That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have some serious church-goers in our congregation. There was Ms. Willie Rice Wilson a/k/a “Miss Willie”. Now she was serious. There were also four elderly sisters who always sat on the left front directly in front of the minister. They were known as Miss Mary, Miss Jessie, Miss Flora, and Miss Ruth. I thought they were all unmarried, I suppose what with being known as “Miss”, but now I understand that being called Miss wasn’t necessarily a marriage indicator, merely a Southern formality. (My grandmother was also known as Miss Ruth. Miss Willie was simply that. Things could get confusing in my world. Things were supposed to be “understood” and I sometimes didn’t understand squat.)

Miss Ruth seemed to be the youngest and biggest of the four, and she drove the other three around.  They were always in church.  Miss Ruth was not known for her excellent vision, and her old car had dings and dents all over it.  If you saw Miss Ruth driving toward you, you took a turn down a side street pronto.  She wouldn’t have hit you on purpose, but none the less, you’d still be hit.  For all I remember, she might have lost her license but still drove.  I don’t know that for a fact, but that’s the kind of person Miss Ruth was.  She was serious and focused, at least in her mission, if not her vision.

Miss Mary, Miss Flora, and Miss Jessie were small, tottery women who were of the generation that always wore hats to church.  Usually the hats were a flattened, shapeless variety, and the women, the hats, and the dresses they wore had no doubt had seen the Depression.  However, they were always pleasant, and that is mostly what I remember of them, just church memories.  My family had never visited their home, nor they ours.

Miss Willie, the most famous re-gifter I ever met, had given me a book one Christmas, entitled “Little Merry Christmas”.  It was a children’s book with a moral lesson, and the inside cover was inscribed to Miss Willie from someone named Jessie, 1926.

Once upon a time I got married.  I still have some memorabilia from those days prior to the marriage, and among them are a couple of calling cards from Miss Esther Ruth Soward and Miss Jessie May Soward.  These cards were from that generation of women that enclosed their calling cards with gifts or correspondence.  Miss Ruth wrote on the back of her card “Best Wishes Always, Love Ruth” and Miss Jessie’s, ah (deep breath here), Miss Jessie’s card had a lovely little note of hope.

And when we compare the signature “Jessie” in the book, signed in 1926, and the signature “Jessie” written in 1978 on the back of the calling card, we find that they indeed are one and the same. 

Miss Jessie, I wish I had known you better.

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4 Responses to “Miss Jessie May Soward, 1884-1979”

  1. Kariann Says:

    What a lovely post. Miss Jessie was a special lady.

    (My children call adults who want to be called by their first name “Miss” as in Miss Joyce and Mr Bill)


    • ruthrawls Says:

      I did a little ancestry stalking while writing this post. Miss Jessie was the oldest, then Miss Mary (the only one who married in this group of 4), Miss Ruth, and Miss Flora. There was also a brother that I didn’t know, a sister Hattie who married a Bain, and a set of twins, a brother & sister that died the same day they were born. When Dad was in the assisted living facility, there was a Mr. Bain also living there, who I believe was the son of Hattie.


  2. Leo Says:

    I tend to think it is a very special thing to have the book regifted to you. It must have been pretty special to her to have kept it, and then when she wanted a future home for it she chose you.


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