JESSIE MARION FLORIDA
The last Florida to own the AFS House, Jessie spent her early childhood living in Minneapolis, where she also attended school. She isn't listed in the Rockford-Greenwood area until the 1885 census.
When Jessie was only 6 years old, her father, Joel Florida, died. This event left his widow, Catherine, to support herself during uncertain economic times. Jessie's older half brother, George, returned to Rockford to purchase the lumber and flour mills from his uncle, which provided some income for the family.
Fortunately for Jessie, a father figure stepped into her life when her sister, Nellie, married in 1876. William Hatch and Jessie formed a strong bond that lasted throughout their lives, and gave her the opportunity to study at a high school in Oak Park and Rock Island, Illinois.
By the 1920 census, Jessie is still listed as living in Greenwood. She spends much of her time nursing her siblings, who all suffer declining health. Carrie dies about 1920 at age 60. George, now 72, suffers from a number of ailments that leave him paralysed for several years and unable to operate the mills. Nellie passes away in 1925, one year before her brother, at age 79.
Now alone and unmarried, Jessie spends her time with civic and social groups, writing letters to friends, and travelling. The RAHS holds many of her personal letters, including the one reprinted below, written during her time living with Nellie in Illinois.
Oak Park, Ill, 3-14 1893
How is Ouija?
Nellie & I have just been talking about how ashamed we are of our letters. I just simply can’t write decent letters anymore—Don’t know what is the matter with me—I have spent this whole good evening writing to Agnes H. & now I am strongly tempted not to send the letter, it is so utterly stupid! I’m not writing you a letter now. It is late & I must go to bed but I saw this envelope directed to you & I felt as though I must visit with you a minute before I crawl in—the way we have often sat and gabbled in our night gowns before the fireplace—before going up stairs to bed. Tonight,
though I have to do all the talking. I wish I could hear your voice. I hope you will sleep warm. It is a cold night. Has snowed all day—a little wet snow. I wish we would hear tomorrow that you have a girl [maid].
If you will call me early I will get up & eat breakfast for you. That is the hardest part isn’t it. Well, we must go to bed I suppose. I was out until after 12 last night.
Will write you about the concert last night—the
oratorio Elijah was what I heard. It was good! and I'm glad I have heard an oratorio. Plunket Greene was one of the soloists—judging from his poetic name what do you think his nationality is Italian or French?
Nordica sang a solo part too. Good night Mama dear—I must go to bed. Why don’t I! OOO—three big kisses