By Nineveh J. Willis © 1985
Issue: May, 1985
"Miss Connie" was born in Carroll County, Virginia, June 9, 1892, to Rueben and Octavia Alice Bowman Worrell. Her parents gave one name to each of their children at birth, to which each would add a name of their choice when they were older. Connie chose Elizabeth to go with her name. She was one of nine children, reared in a two-room log house which had a loft for the children to sleep in. Later the logs were covered with unpainted, undressed boards. The cracks between the boards were covered with strips of wood. This made the house look like a mansion to the children.
Hardship dominated their early lives. They barely had food to eat and clothes to wear, but they were rich in love.
Connie was stricken with diphtheria at an early age, so she became the pet of the family. The high fever of her sickness caused her jet-black hair to become curly. That, combined with a "peaches and cream" complexion made her the belle of the community.
Her father encouraged, rather insisted, that each of his children get all the education that they could take. Connie, after completing grade seven at Excelsior School, attended a summer session at Galax Normal School. She earned a teaching certificate and taught school for three years before marrying Robert Lee Jackson, "Bob", also a teacher as well as a farmer; he bought the farm adjoining her father's farm. It seems that he cultivated the friendship of the young ladies as well as his crops, but Connie won out and they were married in September of 1914.
At that time married ladies never "worked" on a job, so Connie gave up "work for pay" (ten dollars per month for a period of four to six months) and became a farmer's wife. Since Bob taught school, most of the farm chores became hers. As hard as farm work was she never lost her love for people, especially children. She always kept a "batch of cookies" on the pantry shelf, and they never failed to be eaten. Children, both young and old, were still visiting her when she became stricken with cancer at the age of sixty-seven.
Her head was filled with poetry, songs, and good literature, which she gladly shared with all who would listen. Books were scarce in her school days, so all interesting literary works were stored in her memory for later use. She never forgot these treasures, and from such a ready store of words she wrote excellent prose and poetry herself. She never met a person she didn't like, and I have never met a person who didn't like her. Even when someone was running a person down, she had good things to say about him/her. She knew something good about everyone and forgot the bad. Her former pupils still speak of her as "Miss Connie."
Her only child, Ninevah Lee, also became a teacher and served the Carroll County School System in various capacities, for 48 years, before retiring in 1982.
Having gone the gamut from poor to not so poor, she never forgot the needy and helped them in any way that she could- - food, clothing, or boxes of vegetables from her garden. No one ever came to her house and left hungry, if she knew it.
"...her price is far above rubies. Give her the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates." Proverbs 31:10-31
The following recipes are from Ninevah Willis. She wrote, "I am sending my mother's favorite cookie recipes. She had them in her head. I wrote them down as she told me. Since they were baked in a wood stove oven, no temperature is mentioned. The molasses cookies were the most popular".
If anything is associated with old fashion mothers, it's home baked cookies. They are a tradition passed from one generation to another. Often a girl's earliest memories of learning to cook was of helping her mother make cookies.
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon soda
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup molasses
Enough buttermilk to make soft batter
Pinch of salt
Mix in order given. Turn out on a floured board. Knead until can be cut into cookies without being too sticky.
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons sweet milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
Cream butter and sugar. Beat egg well and mix. Add milk and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder. Put baking powder in two cups of flour and knead the rest in. Roll thin, the thinner, the better they taste.
First sift together:
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon soda
1 tablespoon ginger
2/3 cup shortening with
1/2 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup molasses
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons cold water
Mix well, then add sifted dry ingredients. Stir in as much flour as you can and knead in the remainder. Roll out either thick or thin.