Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Finding Hassie Bannarn

Hassie & siblings- with parents, Steve Thompson & Alice Fuller
I came across this photo once again today and knew that it was time to pen this blog which is long over due.

This past summer, my mother called to tell me that she had received a picture of her paternal grandmother, Hassie Thompson Bannarn. She said that the picture was of Hassie as a child with her parents and siblings. She knew that I would be excited, being that in all these years we've never been able to locate a picture of her. Once I saw the picture, I was even more curious because I've never heard of Hassie having any siblings except for one sister named Lela. I wondered if they were really her siblings..if so, why hadn't I ever heard of them.

The Photo 
I have been looking at this picture for months trying to figure out why it looks so strange to me.I've looked at every detail, searching their faces, looking at their clothing. And it occured to me, that the little girl on the right is leaning back. Her eyes look strange, slightly off. Actually both girls are leaning a bit. I wondered if they just had bad posture or if they were  deceased. What a morbid thought. However, I know that there was a time when they took photographs of the dead.They all look so sad to me. Still and solemn. I wonder why they didn't smile back then.

My mother never met her grandmother. She died in 1942, when my mother was just a baby. I've always wondered what she looked like, as did my mother. My Grandma used to tell me all about her mother-in-law, Hassie..Mrs. Bannarn as she called her. She said that she was an Angel and the sweetest woman that she knew. Hassie and her husband Dee Bannarn had come to Minnesota from Oklahoma in about 1913. Hassie later developed severe arthritis that left her body deformed. Her arms and hands were drawn up to her chest. She couldn't walk and was confined to her bed. They took her to many different doctors, even to some place were they had hot springs. They still could not figure out what was wrong or how to cure her condition. Her husband and children took care of her. Grandma Hassie's hair was so long, they would have to drape it over the iron bed rail to brush it and it almost touched the floor. My Grandma remembered Hassie's son, Mike, being very close with his mother. She said that he came home from school everyday and took care of her. My cousin, Mike's daughter, remembered a similar story. She said that he would sleep on the floor next to his mother's bed. Grandma was there the day that Grandma Hassie died. She said that when they lifted her off the bed that the bed springs played a song. " My God Near To Thee". I've never fully understood that, but grandma swore by that story and told it to me a million times.

My Mother at 23 years old.
When I asked my grandma Margaret what Hassie looked like. She replied "Like an Indian woman". They were all Indian, meaning, Grandma Hassie's husband  Dee and his family. The Bannarn's. She followed that by telling me that if I wanted to know what she looked like, just look at my mother, because she was the spitting image of her. Same long black hair, same skin tone, same features..she looked just like her. Aunt Jewell, who was Hassie's daughter always told my mother the same thing. That she couldn't believe how much mom looked like her mother, Hassie. 

Lela Thompson Bannarn: Hassie's Sister.
Hassie was from Texas. According to her death certificate she was born in 1880 in Lonestar, Texas to parents Stephen Thompson and Alice Fuller. I have always been told that she was full blooded Creek Indian, however some say that she was also part Cherokee. The first census that I found Hassie in was the 1880 census for Cherokee county, Texas. She was five months old and is shown living with her parents, who were also from Texas. Her race is listed as Black.There is also another child shown living in the same house. Her name was Rosey. She was 3 months old, and also is listed as being the daughter of Steve and Alice. Her race is listed as white and according to this record, her mother was from Georgia and her father was from Alabama. Now I'm trying to figure out , who was Rosey? maybe she was a family member that they took in. It doesn't seem like she was the biological child of Steve and Alice. I've wondered if Rosey is one of the little girls in the picture. Being that they were close in age. It could be. If these are her siblings in the picture. Who are they? and what happened to them? At this point. I have found no information about Rosey or any other siblings besides  her sister. Lela. Lela married Dee Bannarn's brother John, and was part of the migration to Minnesota with the rest of the Bannarn family. 

I continue to search for Hassie, she's so interesting. I've traced her in the census from 1880-1940. I know that she was Indian. However, I've yet to find her listed as that. Always mulatto or black. There's still so much more to find. The search continues..


© 2013 Denise Muhammad


  1. Hope you can get some more answers soon! Photos are the best.

  2. I absolutely love reading about your family. Your mother looks absolutely stunning in the picture. The pictures taken back then took a long time. People had to sit still for so long that some of the seats had a brace that you could put your heard against which could explain the lean. Lea is smiling and doing it beautifully. Look at all that hair she had to put up.

    Once again you told a very interesting story about your family. Your writing just flows. I can't wait to see where your search takes you.

    1. Thank you Bernita. I hadn't thought about that. I bet they did have to sit a long time. Maybe that's why they didn't smile. Must have been annoying to be still for so long. :)

  3. Have you posted the picture of your mother on Face book, I know I seen this beautiful picture before? I am glad that your posting was able to find your cousin.

    1. Yes, I have! There are a few of my cousins that have posted her photo as well. We all have many old photos on our pages. Our method of sharing family photos before my blog :)

  4. I know you can feel Hassie is leading you... step by step, right? Getting the picture was HUGE! Who sent it to your Mom? Looking at it if Hassie is the young girl on our right, the light child on the left could have been Rosey! Which one was Lela -- one of the older girls on the far left? I love how you're working through the logic and calling ALL those answers by identifying the questions. Now they know what info to reveal. A beautiful, intriguing picture. Mom was a stunner!:)

    1. Yes Luckie, I do feel she is leading me. I swear that this picture has been talking to me. My mother's cousin sent her the picture shortly before he passed away. Mom had been calling everyone trying to find pictures. It finally paid off. My thoughts exactly about Rosey, I believe she is the child on the left also. Lela was two years older than Hassie so it seems like she would be in the picture. I'm not sure who the other children are. Trying to figure it out. This is like detective work. :)


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