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Bessie Wilson Harris

A Homecoming
(Editor’s note: The following information was taken from a college interview with Bessie Wilson Harris in the ‘70’s.)

Bessie WilsonMrs. Bessie Wilson Harris, former resident of Toccoa and Toccoa Falls, returned recently for a visit. Mrs. Harris lived in the Toccoa area for nearly 26 years (1900-1926). In 1908, owner E. P. Simpson employed her as a chambermaid at Haddock Inn. During our interview, she told of the beauty of the falls and especially Haddock Inn. “At that time, the Inn was a famous summer resort,” she said with a broad smile. “Then when Rev. and Mrs. Forrest purchased it in 1911, I stayed on and worked for them. The place took on new life.” She was on the spot when Haddock Inn became Toccoa Falls Institute. At the time of our interview, “Miss Bessie,” as she was known by her students, resided in Detroit with her son, Richard R. Harris, who was an attorney.

The story of her life is a success story in three important ways: religion, teaching, and music. In Toccoa, as well as in Detroit, she was an active church member, a proponent of Christianity, and an excellent example for her family. She also had a great love for music. In the words of her son Richard, “Her interest in Christianity created a desire in the lives of her children to emulate her love of God and mankind. In fact, I can attest to the fact that she always exemplifies what was right and good.”

She told us she was not content to remain a “chambermaid.” She studied and became a teacher in the Toccoa Public School System. Her interest in teaching also fostered a desire in her children and grandchildren to study and pursue an education. In fact, most of the members of her family are college graduates.

Bessie Wilson was born on November 21, 1892 in Walhalla, South Carolina. Her family moved to the Toccoa area in 1900. In 1915, she married William Allen, who died suddenly leaving her a young widow. Then in 1926, she moved to the Detroit area where she met and married Melvin Harris in 1927. Mrs. Harris was the mother of five children, the grandmother of 20 children, and the great grandmother of 16 children.

Those who met Mrs. Harris that day at the falls felt honored to have the privilege to talk her, especially since she knew the Forrests at such a unique time in the history of the college. “The recent visit to Toccoa and Toccoa Falls,” said her son “was the fulfillment of a promise he made to her. One day, I would visit her hometown with her.”

Bessie Wilson’s family
Bessie and her son Richard were also accompanied by his wife Marjorie Lewis Harris, their daughter DeWilda and son Gordon. The Bessie Wilson Harris family has many relatives and friends in the Toccoa area.

Bessie Wilson
Bessie Wilson Harris