I would like to personally thank Geoff Pender of the Daily Herald for this article. My mother, Jane Morris Estrada was interviewed in the piece. I learned things about the neighborhood I grew up in that I’d not been aware of and I also was reminded of the unique and very precious experiences I had as a child in this Gulfport community. Since the time this article was published, much has changed for this neighborhood and many of the fears of the neighbors have continued, even worsened. I can tell you Gulf Gardens was an American dream that bore amazing fruit. The Gulf Coast was a much better place to have had such a place called Gulf Gardens. The heartbreaking truth is that very little is left of the neighborhood I grew up. When I was born, I came home from Memorial Hospital to that home the Morrises built in 1935. That house and yard will always be my home. I had hoped to return to Gulf Gardens to finish my days there as both my grandmother and mother did. This is not to be. Cherish the old neighborhoods. Remember the folks who lived and loved there. Our spirits will never leave there. Gulf Gardens was truly “Home Sweet Home”.
We take for granted, sometimes, that which is steady and true…
— Tenderly Rose
Deborah FLUDE Knott (1800 – 1847)
My 4th great-grandmother
daughter of Deborah FLUDE
daughter of Lucy Flude KNOTT
son of Maria Elizabeth BLOW
daughter of Frederick Judson “Fred” HOAGLAND
son of Helen Marie HOAGLAND
The daughter of Capt. Frank Hunt BOSWORTH II
Forget Me Knott
BBC Leicester’s Tony Wadsworth goes in search of a Leicester woman who was born, married and buried in the same street.
How often do you pass familiar buildings, statues and objects in the street without giving them a second thought?
One sunny day BBC Leicester’s Tony Wadsworth stopped to take a look round the churchyard he walks past everyday, and found one woman’s remarkable story amongst the gravestones.
It got him thinking about the area around St. Nicholas Church and how it had changed since her days in the 1800s, and even in the last 50 years.
Deborah’s death certificate states that she died of “enlargement of the liver” and “heart disease”.
BBC Leicester’s Julie Mayer spoke to Dr Clive Harrison to find out what could have caused Deborah’s poor health…
Leicester in the mid 1800s was a very different place from the city we know today and the environment would have affected everyone’s health.
In 1813 the Inspector of Nuisances, George Brown painted the city conditions as a radical risk to the health of its residents.
He said the River Soar was “torpid and turbid”, describing parts of it as an “open cesspool” emitting “pestiferous gasses which cause disease of the most malignant and mortal character”.
Doctors of the time often didn’t understand much more about disease than their patients; miasma, the belief that illness came from bad smells, was a popular concept.
Infant mortality was particularly high with a fifth of children dying before they reached the age of one.
In the 19th Century diarrhoea, consumption, scarlet fever and lung infections were all common causes of deaths.
With people living in cramped conditions, next to cesspits, abattoirs and stables, Clive believes it’s no wonder disease was rife.
Before the time of the NHS and antibiotics, city residents would normally be treated by local doctors who used reference books to give prescriptions from their own pharmacies.
There was just one hospital in the area during the 1800’s. Leicester Infirmary was founded in 1771 but was only open to a small section of society.
Overall Dr Clive said it was unsurprisingly Deborah had died of disease and all things considered she didn’t do too badly to last until 47 years-old: “I’d have said she was almost elderly.”
Life after Deborah
Although Deborah’s grave clearly marks her marriage to James Knott, her husband and children do not rest in the same churchyard.
Peter Cousins searched the 1851 census but was unable to find their names, “Husband, children – just disappeared off the face of Leicester.”
After quite a bit of thinking and investigating Peter traced down the family’s movements after the death of Deborah.
An 1849 shipping list reveals that James Knott, his sons William and Fredrick, and daughter Elizabeth, emigrated to America.
The travelled on the Guy Mannering ship on her first East-West voyage from Liverpool to New York on 22 May 1849.
The journey to the new world and their new home took 38 days.
After digging a bit deeper Peter found the Knott’s settled in Illinois the next year, with what appears to be a young wife for James:
“So he’s not only gone to start a new life, it looks like he’s started a new family.”
St. Nicholas Church, Leicester
In Search of Deborah
BBC Leicester’s Tony Wadsworth and Julie Mayer went in search of the woman who was born and buried on the same street in Leicester…
Deborah was born in 1800 on St. Nicholas Street, which is now a continuation of the High Street – just round the corner from the BBC Leicester studios.
At that time Leicester’s population would have rested at around 17,000 people. Her particular neighbourhood was small but densely inhabited.
Her unusually modern name, which first drew Tony to her story, was passed on from her older sister who died in infancy just a year before her arrival in the world.
She married James Knott in 1822 at St. Nicholas Church, at the age of 22. Find out more about marriage in the 1800s…
Weddings at this time would have been simple and quiet affairs, with just a few close family members witnessing their solemnisation of matrimony.
Local Historian Richard Gill commented, “this notion that we have to have 150 guests at your wedding and you have a huge slap up meal afterwards, that is actually middle to late 20th Century.
“It didn’t happen for my parents in the 1920s.”
A Different Life
Deborah continued to live with her husband on the same road she grew up on, raising six children in the process.
Local genealogist Peter Cousins discovered that at the time of the 1841 Census the children ranged from between three and 16 years-old:
“They were quite regular in their habits, you might say!”
James worked as a shoemaker, which was a common profession in an area home to many shoe factories, however Mrs Knott is likely to have been a housewife.
It is difficult to know how comfortably the Knotts lived as James’ specific position is unknown and could range from business owner to manual worker.
However Richard believes there may be some clues to the family’s wealth in Deborah’s gravestone – a smart but not overly elaborate piece made from local Swithland slate:
“This would rather suggest that there was at least sufficient money to memorialise her when she died.”
Deborah’s life in the 1800s would have been a very different experience to the Leicester women of today.
There were no aeroplanes, no electric light bulbs, no phones, no water pipes delivering fresh water, no flushing toilets, no NHS, and definitely no television or radio!
With the St. Nicholas area now home to several car parks and a developing park and ride scheme it is particularly interesting to consider that Deborah would have never seen a motor vehicle.
Very few areas of Leicester would still be recognisable to Deborah now, including the Guildhall, five medieval churches, a few chapels, the City Rooms, and a small network of streets south of St. Martins.
Richard said, “In the period in which she lived, that first half of the 19th Century, Leicester was very different and the sort of Leicester we think of as Victorian Leicester came more or less as was dying. So very little survives.”
Deborah died on 15 May 1847 at the age of 47 and was buried in the grounds of St. Nicholas Church in Leicester, where she remains to this day.
It may seem young to us now, but Richard believes it wouldn’t have been at all shocking in the 1840s:
“No drains, no deposal sewage, clean water uncertain – so one was pray to all kinds of things.
“And medicine was really just a case of nursing people, no antibiotics or anything like that, and often the flus in the winter and summer diarrhoea carried people off.
“So it may well be some people thought, ‘well she might have lived longer’, but 47 wasn’t bad.”
last updated: 04/09/2009 at 09:34
The story about Deborah as documented by Tony Wadsworth can be heard by clicking on this link and following the links within the story:
Biloxi Sisters Stella & May Harkness
My Great Great Aunts – The Misses Harkness
Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS (1830 – 1903)father of Stella and May Harriet Harkness
Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952)
daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS
John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965)
son of Edna Irene HARKNESS
Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013)
daughter of John Harkness MORRIS
The daughter of Janie Lucille MORRIS
Estelle “Stella” Harkness
Birth 12 NOV 1874 • Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi, USA
Death 21 MAR 1961 • Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi, USA
May Harriet Harkness
Birth 30 AUG 1883 • Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi, USA
Death 17 SEP 1967 • Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi, USA
Early Biloxi Socialites and Philanthropists, “The Misses Harkness” – Stella and May
My maternal grandmother, Rosie Smith Morris, was married to John Harkness Morris, one of the nephews to Stella and May Harkness. John Harkness Morris was the son of David Edmund “Ed” and Edna Irene Jordan Morris. I remember we visited Aunt Stella and Aunt May quite a few times that I can recall in an older Victorian-type home in Biloxi. When they passed, my grandmother inherited a few of the beautiful antique furnishings they had in that home. I recall the home was close by, if not in the downtown Biloxi area in a beautiful neighborhood.
I have collected numerous newspaper clippings about her and May from the Daily Herald Newspaper in Biloxi in which they were very active in the social scene and philanthropic circles all their lives. Stella and May had beautiful voices and entertained gatherings of all types by recitations. They read poems, stories and historical pieces for audiences gathered for charitable organizations, Civil War veterans at Beauvoir, church gatherings, weddings, showers and birthday parties. Many performances were given both together and apart as they sang as well as played piano. Their talents were well documented in the news articles I read. It seems the girls were born into a life of faithful servitude to the finer aspects of civilization, as well as a dedication to improve the lives of the unfortunate and took their involvement seriously. As young girls they were known to entertain the veterans at the old soldiers home at Beauvoir as members of their Sunday School group visited the grounds often.
The Harkness name was well known and the family was instrumental in the social organizations to improve life for the citizens of Biloxi. They started and supported the fire department, the Masonic organization, the churches, the ladies clubs, the Kings Daughters and numerous other Biloxi institutions. The were the architects, builders, ministers and founders of the city of Biloxi. They served on the school board, as aldermen and teachers. To say they were influential would be an understatement.
Both Stella and May sang in the church choir. They were active curch members at the Methodist Episcopal church in Biloxi. I recall memberships in the Order of the Eastern Star and the United Daughters of Confederacy. There were mentions of several other organizations they were members of in the newspaper. “The Misses Harkness” visited extensively along the Coast of Mississippi and most of it was recorded in the Daily Herald. They visited my great grandparents David Edmund “Ed” and Irene Morris and their children, and relatives in nearby Moss Point, New Orleans and Mobile. This was during a time you had to take a horse and buggy or, later on, the train. If there was weddings, illness or death in the family, they were there. It appears Stella had an affection for travel and visited New York with her mother and Washington D.C. for conventions.
What I recall most was their dedication to family. Neither Stella nor her sister, May ever married. Despite having no children of their own, both sisters were highly involved with nieces and nephews. Various trips were taken with those nieces and nephews to visit other relatives. The children often visited their home in Biloxi and could be found accompanying them to social functions and church activities.
Stella and May Harkness both worked as postal clerks in Biloxi. They were described as very efficient and if they took off time from work, the newpaper recorded their welcome back to work as they were highly regarded and very popular clerks.
Although, back in their day, they might have been called “spinsters” or “old maids” they were so much more than a choice to marry. They were part of the tightly woven fabric of life when family and civil responsibilities were a serious priority for women, married or not. I know that in our family these two women were well respected members of society providing a strong family link from the past to the future. The women in my immediate family have been and continue to be involved in some of the same organizations we knew Stella and May to have participated in and organized. They encouraged and facilitated the joining of these groups by providing important family history to gain access to those memberships such as United Daughter of Confederacy and the Order of the Eastern Star. They inspired us to be strong members of those organizations.
When Aunt Stella passed away, she left several beautiful Victorian pieces of furniture from her home to my grandmother, Rosie. When I was growing up, I slept in the “Teester” bed with my grandmother that belonged to Stella. She also had another ornate dark wood bed with dresser that Stella gave her that I loved. I believe the time I spent with Aunt Stella in her home in Biloxi inspired my love and appreciation for the Victorian era home decor we all admire today.
The Misses Harkness were part of a family that built the homes, businesses, the first fire department and many, many other important parts of the society that formed the Biloxi of yesteryear, a legacy that sustained their home town for the future.
Stella and May Harkness left behind them a legacy of strong women who have passed that strength on to future generations.
— written 06 Sep 2008 by Tenderly
Biloxi Daily Herald 18 July 1921:
“After patiently suffering for several months, Louis J. Harkness (John L. Harkness), aged 48 years, a native and lifelong resident of Biloxi, died at his home here yesterday at 12 o’clock noon. Deceased was well known in Biloxi where he was employed as a contractor for a number of years. Mr. Harkness, who was a member of the Methodist church, was also prominently identified with Magnolia Lodge No. 120 F. & A.M., members of which organization attended the funeral in a body. Funeral services were conducted by Rev. M. B. Sharbrough this afternoon at 5 o’clock from the late residence 123 Croesus street, with interment in the Biloxi cemetery. Mr. Harkness is survived by a wife, four children, three sisters and a brother. His sisters are Mrs. D. E. Morris and Misses Stella and Mae Harkness. His brother is W. T. Harkness.”
5 Sept 1896
Biloxi Daily Herald – Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi, USA
The marriage of Miss Sadie A. Stilphen and Mr. William T. Harkness, both of this city last Wednesday, at 8:30 p.m., at the residence of the bride’s parents, was the occasion of much rejoicing among the two families. The couple are both well-known in Biloxi and are members of society in high standing. The bride is the only daughter of Capt. and Mrs. John H. Silphen who reside at West End. The groom is Biloxi’s well-known architect, contractor and builder, and is the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. John R. Harkness. The wedding was a quiet and select affair, with only the relatives of each family present and a few chosen guests. The officiating clergyman was Rev. D. L. Mitchell. The attendants were Miss Abbie Harkness, a sister of the groom, and Henry N. Stilphen, a brother of the bride.
At the appointed hour the contracting parties took their position under a large floral bell, while Miss Estelle Harkness, presiding at the organ, performed Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, the execution of which was fine. The words that made the beautiful couple one were soon said, and they were the recipients of general congratulations from those present. Among these were Mrs. S. M. Stilphen, mother of the bride, and Henry N. Stilphen. The Captain was not present owing to duties on his vessel. There were also in evidence Mr. and Mrs. John R. Harkness, Giles A. Harkness and wife, Misses Estelle, Abbie, Edna and May Harkness, and J. Louis Harkness. Reve. D. L. Mitchell and wife, Misses Priscilla and A. Mitchell, Miss Alice Cousans, G. M. Robertson and wife, Mrs. T. J. Rosell, Harry and Miss Una Suter, Miss Jennie Gillen and others.
As it was the intention of the couple to immediately depart after the ceremony on the 10:04 p.m. train for a brief stay at Mobile and Point Clear, the bride was joined to her choice arrayed in a very fine and elaborate travelling gown of a soft, gray color, with hat and gloves to match, carrying a magnificent bouquet of natural flowers, and, as she stood beside the man she had selected, they formed a beautiful picture. After a short time spent in congratulations, the party entered hacks and were conveyed to the depot, where the train was boarded and, amid a shower of virgin rice, the handsome couple sped on their way with the gates of life open to them, and their friend’s best wishes following them. The trip will naturally be a short one owing to the manifold duties of the husband and which just at present can not be neglected.
12 Jun 1903
Biloxi Daily Herald – Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi, USA
JOHN R. HARKNESS
Died at His Home Yesterday Evening.
Mr. John Rankin Harkness died yesterday at 8:55 p.m., at his home on north Delauney stree, after a lingering illness which made him an invalid for several years and confined him to his room for the last few months of his life.
Mr. Harkness was born in the state of Massachusetts seventy-three years ago. He has been a resident of Biloxi for the past thirty years having, as architect and builder, built many of the homes and business houses in this city and county.
He was a member of Magnolia Lodge No. 120, A.F. and A.M., and of Iberville Lodge No. 51, Knights of Pythias. The funeral took place from his late residence this evening at 4:oo o’clock. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. W.H. Van Hook. The interment was with Masonic honors. A large number of the friends of the deceased and members of the fraternal orders to which he belonged attended the funeral. The deceased leaves a wife, three sons and four daughters to mourn his loss. His surviving children are Messrs. W. T., Giles A. and J. L. Harkness, Misses Stella and May, Mrs. James L. Booth and Mr. (i.e. Mrs.) Edw. Morris. The Herald extends its sympathy to the bereaved family.
Stella Goes to Washington
1 Jun 1917
Biloxi Daily Herald – Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi, USA
Thomas Rawlings Rice
My great great grandfather
daughter of Thomas Rawlings Rice
daughter of Mary Jane Rice
daughter of Rosa Ann Elizabeth “Rosie” Smith
The daughter of Janie Lucille Morris
My research of Thomas Rawlings Rice is a work in progress…
A US Census for Thomas Rice’s daughter, Mary Jane Rice, states he was born in Georgia, but, there are different birth years on various documentation.
Thomas Rawlings Rice’s father is believed to be John Rice born in North Carolina, and I have not confirmed the name of his mother, but according to a 1900 US Census, it shows her place of birth as North Carolina.
Thomas married Francis Fidelia “Dilla” Barber on December 18, 1859, in Mississippi. They had nine children over 21 years.
Harvey F. Rice 1861–
Thomas L. Rice 1864–1927
Mary Jane Rice 1867–1947 (my great great grandmother)
Ruhamer Elizabeth Rice 1870–1940
William H. Rice 1873–
Enoch Monroe Rice 1873–1941
Eugene V. Rice 1877–
Mattie Belle Rice 1880–
James Algie Rice 1882
|Issue Date||1 Oct 1859|
|Metes and Bounds||No|
|Authority||April 24, 1820: Sale-Cash Entry (3 Stat. 566)|
The 1860 U.S. Census shows Tom’s date of birth as abt 1836 and yet another spelling of Francis Fidella’s name.
|Birth Year||abt 1836|
|Home in 1860||Township 10 Range 12, Neshoba, Mississippi|
|Post Office||Neshoba Springs|
Tom Rice went to fight in the War Between the States.
Record for Thomas Rice – U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 National Park Service
Name Thomas Rice
Regiment 40th Regiment, Mississippi Infantry
Rank In Private
Rank Out Private
Film Number M232 roll 34
40th Regiment, Mississippi Infantry
This infantry fought on 19 Sep 1863 at Chickamauga, GA.
This infantry also fought on 20 Jul 1864 at Peach Tree Creek, GA.
The 1870 U.S. Census shows the family in Neshoba County, Mississippi. My great grandmother, Mary Jane, was only 3 years old then. The “K” for Tom’s middle initial is a transcription error.
|Name||Thomas K Rice|
|Age in 1870||45|
|Birth Year||abt 1825|
|Home in 1870||Beat 3, Neshoba, Mississippi|
Tom’s date of birth is 1825 on this census.
The 1880 U.S. Census shows the family in Herbert, Mississippi. You can see a listing for my great grandmother, Mary Jane here:
Date of Birth for Tom Rice was 1844.
|Birth Year||abt 1844|
|Home in 1880||Herbert, Neshoba, Mississippi|
|Spouse’s Name||Francis F. Rice|
The 1900 U.S. Census shows the family in Mogulusha, Mississippi:
Question I have – Year of birth would have been 1824 for Tom if the age on this census is correct. It lists him as 76 years old. About 20 years older than his wife. Error? Previous census listed 1844 as his date of birth.
|Home in 1900||Mogulusha, Neshoba, Mississippi|
|Relation to Head of House||Head|
|Spouse’s Name||Francis Rice|
|Father’s Birthplace||North Carolina|
|Mother’s Birthplace||North Carolina|
Thomas Rawlings Rice died on July 6, 1913 in Neshoba County, Mississippi, at the age of 69 and was buried there.
|Spouse Name:||Dilla Rice|
|Residence Location:||Ashley, Arkansas|
|State Served From:||Mississippi|
|Death Date:||6 Jul 1913|
|Comments:||widow applied 1915 / see Misc. roll 1|
Ashley County, Arkansas
My maternal grandfather
John Harkness Morris was born on October 8, 1901, in Biloxi, Mississippi to Edna Irene Harkness and David Edmund “D.E.” Morris. My Aunt Rosie told me, and my mother confirmed it, their father weighed 14 pounds at birth. All his life he was called “Big John” for obvious reasons referring to his stature and presence.
The Morris family lived in Biloxi, Gulfport and Moss Point, Mississippi according to various newspaper clippings I’ve collected.
The U.S. Census for the year of 1910 shows Big John living with his parents Edna and D.E. in Beat 4, Gulfport, Mississippi. Hard to read the handwriting for the street they lived on.
I was told by my mother Big John attended Central High School in Gulfport which was just around the corner from his home. Later the school became Central Elementary School which I attended first through third grade back in the 1960’s. That was a source of pride for me to know that. The building was demolished for a courthouse later on, sad to say.
In 1920, the census finds Big John at the age of 18, living with his parents and sisters, Irene and Martha, and his brother, Edward, on what might appear to be 24th Street in Gulfport. Handwriting is hard to read for the address. No occupation listed, but, I note his father was working at the foundry at this time.
He married Rosa Ann Elizabeth “Rosie” Smith about 1923, in Kiln, Mississippi. They had six children in 10 years.
Hon. John “Johnny” Smith Morris 1925–1991
Mary Elizabeth “L’il Sissy” Morris 1927–1929
Tommye LaNelle Morris 1928–
David Harkness Morris 1930–1975
Rosie Ann Morris 1931–
Janie Lucille Morris 1935–2013
The 1930 census shows John Harkness Morris lived in Gulfport, Mississippi. The census lists John H Morris 28, Rose Ann Morris 34, John S. Morris 4, Tommie Linelle (wrong spelling) Morris 1 yr 11 mos, Bamma Smith – 626 Camp Ave., John’s job is listed as Automobile Salesman. Bama Smith was my grandmother’s sister.
In 1934, Big John’s father, D.E. Morris, was living with John and Rosie when he passed away at the age of 68. The obit for D.E. states he died in New Orleans, but, close family members recall John and Rosie were caring for D.E. at the time of his death. My aunt referred to D.E. as Grandpa Ed.
Gulfport City Directory for 1936 shows address for Big John’s business under “John H (Rosa) – “Morris-Webb Mtr Co 815 43rd Ave – Plymouth & DeSoto autos and International Trucks.” Lists Morris, John H.’s home as 815 43rd Ave.
John and Rosie Morris built a home at 1711 Wisteria Street in the new Gulf Gardens Subdivision back in 1935. They raised their children there and the dwelling provided a home to 4 generations of the family before the last Morris left just a couple of years back.
In 1939, a Gulfport City Directory lists “Morris Motor Company (John H. Morris) 1812 25th Ave.” Another listing for that year states, “John H (Rosa S)-Morris Motor Co. 1711 Wisteria”
When my mother, Janie, was a baby, a 1940 census shows John H, Rosie A., John Smith, Tommye L., Rosie Ann, David H. and Janie L residing on Wisteria Street, Beat 2, in Gulfport, Mississippi. I learned that at the age of 14, my Uncle Johnny sold the Daily Herald newspaper as shown on this census. My grandmother, Rosie’s occupation was listed as nurse, R.N. “special duty” and Big John’s occupation was listed as “operator” (owner) auto sales company.
A 1947 Gulfport City Directory lists “Morris, John H (Rosa) 1711 Wisteria St.”
In 1949, a Gulfport City Directory lists “Morris, John H (Rosie) & John Jr. 1711 Wisteria St. It lists “John H.” as “retired.” Big John was 48 years old at the time this directory was published.
In 1953, a Gulfport City Directory entry lists “John H (Rosie S-nurse), Janie L.-Student, David H-USA military, and John S.
I only have one picture of my grandfather. It is a photo I took of a photograph my mother showed me once when I was visiting Hungry Hill in the 90’s and my mother was the sole occupant of the house. She told me this was my grandfather’s baby picture. She said it was taken in Biloxi. She did not elaborate on it at all. It was rare that my mother spoke to me about Big John, so, I consider myself very fortunate to have this to share. It is not a very good reproduction, but, it is special to me.
When I think about it, I find it strange there are no photographs I’m aware of that were taken of me and him. There are so many photographs taken of me and my grandmother, my mother, other relatives, but, not one of me and my grandfather. I helped my grandmother put together her photo albums, it was my job to help her and we loved working on this project together. She’d tell me what to write on the backs of the photos, or in the albums. I don’t recall any candid photos shots of Big John. Were they just not taken, or kept somewhere else?