313 Church Street - Miss Hessie's House
The home at 313 Church Street was originally constructed for Nancy Hesseltine (Hessie) Gillespie Farley in 1911. Miss Hessie (as she would be known) was the daughter of Campbell Milton Gillespie and Narcissa Lorinda Clark. She was born on July 22, 1866 in Maryville, Tennessee. The family moved first to Morgan County, Alabama in 1870 then relocated to Madison, Alabama in 1879. Miss Hessie would graduate from honors from the Huntsville Female Seminary on May 30 1888 and become a teacher. She would leave the Madison area, but return on the death of her father in 1910. In 1913, she would have the home at 313 Church constructed.
Backstory and Context
Miss Hessie started teaching first grade in Madison, and Lorinda studied music at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia until 1914. Lorinda would marry Herbert Lafayette Thorton on January 21, 1920, shortly after he returned home from serving in France during World War I. Their first daughter, Frances Farley, was born February 12, 1921 at Miss Hessie's home in Madison. Two other daughters were also born in Madison: Nancy Kate on March 16, 1923 and Lorinda Clark on October 24, 1924. In 1935 Herbert became a charter member of Alabama's new Highway Patrol.
Although a life-long Presbyterian, Miss Hessie taught Sunday School in the Baptist Church. She was active in school, church and many civic organizations. She taught her forty-two consecutive years. She had a deep love for teaching and dreaded the day she would have to retire. That would never happen as she would suffer a stroke during the Christmas holidays and died on January 1, 1939. She is buried beside her husband Bruce in the Farley Family Cemetery. As a side note, following Miss Hessie, Mrs. Howard Hughes was appointed to replace her as the first grade teacher. She would hold that position for thirty-seven years. Combined, Miss Hessie and Mrs. Hughes taught first grade at Madison Elementary for 65 years!