Stella and May Harkness were my 2nd great aunts, sisters of my great great grandmother Edna Irene Harkness. They were daughters of John Rankin Harkness, Biloxi architect and engineer.
Biloxi Sisters Stella & May Harkness
My Great Great Aunts – The Misses Harkness
father of Stella and May Harriet Harkness
daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS
son of Edna Irene HARKNESS
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 “Tester” 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
Harriet Elizabeth “Hattie” Alexander
Birth 18 Jan 1846 • Concord, Merrimack, New Hampshire, USA
Death 19 Sep 1933 • Elgin, Kane, Illinois, USA
my great great grandmother
daughter of Harriet Elizabeth “Hattie” ALEXANDER
son of Bertha Amoret SWAN
son of Dr. Wilder Morris BOSWORTH Sr., D.D.S.
the daughter of Capt. Frank Hunt BOSWORTH II
When Harriet Elizabeth “Hattie” Alexander was born on January 18, 1846, in Concord, New Hampshire, her father, John, was 43 and her mother, Harriet, was 30. She married Eugene Morris “Gene” Swan on November 23, 1865, in Bloomfield, Wisconsin. She was 19 years old. She had three children by the time she was 28. She died on September 19, 1933, in Elgin, Illinois, at the age of 87, and was buried in Richmond, Illinois.
Harriet Elizabeth “Hattie” ALEXANDER married Eugene Morris “Gene” SWAN on November 23, 1865, in Bloomfield, Wisconsin, when she was 19 years old.
Hattie’s husband, Eugene Morris “Gene” Swan. He is listed in the “Descendants of Joseph MINER-Sixth Generation” http://tmsociety.org/thomas/joseph/aqwg55.htm
Hattie Alexanders’s Signature in School Book I have a school book that belonged to Hattie when she was a child. This must be her signature at that time.
The Diary of Miss Hattie Alexander
McHenry, Illinois, USA
Written by Harriet Elizabeth “Hattie” Alexander Swan of McHenry, Illinois – my great great grandmother. Locations mentioned include Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wisconsin. Many, many surnames from this area are included. I transcribed this from a distant cousin’s copy of the original manuscript that my grandfather, Wilder Morris Bosworth, DDS, had transcribed from Hattie’s diary. I absolutely love reading this diary.
You can download a copy to read by clicking on the link below.