Bessie STOKES, Momma Bessie as she is known to our family, was born to Henry and Malissa (Pickett) STOKES in Clarke County, MS on March 10, 1893.1 Today is the anniversary of her birth 121 years ago.
I was able to find Momma Bessie living with her parents on the 1910 census as a teenager.2 When she was 22 years old, she married John “Johnny” Sterling and she began her journey as a wife and mother.3 Together they had 7 children: Lillie (1915 – 2006), Lucille (1916 – 2000), Maudie (1919 – 1990), John (1920 – 2003), Thomas (1922 – 1988), George (1927- 2010), and Orvelle.
I followed her through the census records with her family until 1940 when I found her living with her four sons.4 She was listed as married, but I found Grandpa Johnny living alone in another part of the county. That is when I learned that they later decided to divorce in October of that same year after 25 years of marriage.5
I never got to meet Momma Bessie, I only know her through the stories told by my mom and her siblings. From their stories, I gathered that they loved spending time with Momma Bessie. My mom said “we would go wherever she would go to get away from the house”. Mom most remembered that she loved to go fishing and visiting people in the neighborhood.6 She was also the favorite aunt of my 95 year old cousin. She says that Aunt Bessie, as she called her, was fun to be with and had something to laugh about all the time.7 I really wish I could have met her. Since I didn’t, I will do my best to preserve the memories of her.
My mother’s last memory of Momma Bessie is that she went to the hospital and never come back. Based on her death record she had suffered a stroke and died several hours after reaching the hospital. She died on August 4, 1962 in Quitman, Clarke County, MS at age 69.8 She was buried in the New Hope Cemetery in Clarke County, MS.9
Happy Birthday Momma Bessie!
1. Mississippi State Department of Health, delayed birth certificate no. 112100 (1956), Bessie Stokes; Vital Records; Jackson.
2. 1910 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Quitman, p. 76, dwelling 652, family 652, Henry Stokes, Malisy, and Bessie; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: 2013); citing Family History Library microfilm: 1374749.
3. Clarke County, Mississippi, “Freedmen Marriage Record, Colored; v3 1914 – 1919”, page 39 for John Sterling and Bessie Stokes, Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court, Quitman.
4. 1940 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Quitman, p.13, family 112, Bessie Sterling; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration, 1940; Roll T627_2015.
5. Clarke County, Mississippi, Chancery Court, divorce file 3950 (1940), John Sterling v. Bessie B Stokes Sterling, final decree; Office of the Clerk of Chancery Court, Quitman.
6. Jerlean (Edwards) Pruitt, Quitman, MS, interview by Amy Pruitt Cole 05 July 2013; audio privately held by interviewer, Georgia, 2014.
7. Malissa (Rogers) Speed, Quitman, MS, interview by Amy Pruitt Cole 12 March 2013; audio privately held by interviewer, Georgia, 2014.
8. Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 13450 (1962), Bessie B. Stokes; Vital Records, Jackson.
9. New Hope Cemetery (Clarke County, Mississippi; County Road 691 GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 31.98102, Longitude: -88.67754), Bessie Sterling marker, photograph taken by Amy L Cole, September 2012.
© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey. All rights reserved.
Cite This Page:
Amy L Cole, “52 Ancestors #3: Bessie STOKES STERLING (1893 – 1962),” Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, 10 March 2014 (https://tracingamy.wordpress.com: [access date]).
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