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The Life and Research of Bessie Lynn Hufford, 1886-1978

Bloomington draws people from many places. One longtime resident who began life not far from here in Columbus, Indiana was Bessie Lynn Hufford, wife of IU Physics Professor Dr. Mason Edward Hufford (1882-1975). Among Mrs. Hufford’s interests were gardening and genealogy. Her persistent search for her ancestors resulted in reams of correspondence with people around the country, and she saved all of her records. The collection was donated to the MCHC in 2000, but for many years remained in storage. It was recently sorted and a few items were placed in the Lynn file in our Family Files. Close relatives were mostly from Bartholomew and Lawrence Counties, so the bulk of the items were sent to the historical societies in Columbus and Bedford. Family names she was researching included Childs, (Chiles), Dixon, Edwards, Eversole, Hufford, Jackson, King, Kinnett, McCoy, Warnick, and Waters.

A copy of "A Thought of You" gifted to Bessie by her husband.

A copy of “A Thought of You” gifted to Bessie by her husband

In addition to family histories, pedigrees, and many letters, the collection contained pictures of several family members and their homes, as well as some personal items. The last included the small booklet A Thought of You by Edwin Osgood Grover, which was presented to Miss Lynn by her eventual husband on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916. He included a note that wished for her “the brightest happiest Easter Sunday and may all the days of the year and all of the years of life be filled with beauty and happiness for you.” She was to share most of her remaining years with Mason. They were married in Mitchell on August 28, 1916. A valentine is inscribed “To the queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls” and includes a handwritten note “To the girl loved by the man who loves her, Feb. 14, 1917.”

Valentine's Day card with handwritten note

Valentine’s Day card with handwritten note

A 1913 graduate of Indiana University, Miss Lynn taught English in Mitchell, Frankfort and Evansville prior to her marriage. The newspaper account of her departure to Frankfort stated, “She has proved herself a popular teacher and is one of the brightest young ladies ever sent out from this community.” Both she and her husband were buried in Frankfort. Her husband apparently suffered from aphasia by the age of 87. Mrs. Hufford’s 1969 letter to one of her correspondents demonstrates her perseverance. She wrote, “When the I.U. speech therapists had done all they could and Mason couldn’t stand it any longer, I took over and began with the Primer to teach him to read. We labored through all the grades to and including the Fifth Reader. He learned to write again fairly well, when the words will come, and can sign all business papers, checks, etc. He understands everything I say if I talk loud enough. His mind is clear.” She laments in that same letter about her genealogy work, “I have never been able to find the parents of either my great-grandfather, William James Chiles (Childs) or his wife Polly (Mary) Carter.”

Bessie Lynn's Notice of Appointment

Bessie Lynn’s Notice of Appointment

The collection included a clipping of a 1938 newspaper article that described the first time electric lights were lit in Bloomington on July 4, 1886, the year of Miss Lynn’s birth. She would eventually go on to become a shining light in the field of gardening. In 1959, Mrs. Hufford was one of two ladies honored by the Friendship Gardeners as having profoundly influenced the development of the club. She was described as “the mother of local garden clubs.” An undated handwritten document from Mrs. R. R. Stull provides additional evidence of her skill in gardening. She writes, “Bessie Lynn Hufford has been the inspiration of Monroe County’s Landscape Project. To her came the vision of what the people of our county might do if they seriously set about adding to the beauty of their towns and countryside.” She noted that the most energetic and industrious group in the county was the Friendship Garden Club. She goes on to praise Mrs. Hufford’s writing skills, noting that her gardening articles appeared in several magazines and Indianapolis newspapers.

It was very interesting getting to know this remarkable lady through the papers she left behind.

Post Submitted by Gary Wiggins (Research Library Volunteer)

Comments (0)

  1. Lee Ehman


    Gary and Emily – fine article. Interesting and very well-laid out. It turns out that Barbara and I live in Mrs. Stull’s house, the one mentioned in the article….
    Best wishes from beautiful northern Michigan. Lee

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