Jessie Beard Powell still a spitfire at 97
Jessie Brown Beard Powell, who turned 97 May 6, wakes up every morning in the house she was born in ﾖﾠthe Travelerﾒs Repose in Boyer.
Her saga begins with her parents, Brown Buren Beard and Nellie Blanche Gum Beard, who lived in Dunlevie.
ﾓPapa had a couple horses and he knew there would be draughting work,ﾔ Jessie said. ﾓHe built a little barn and his little barn is still standing up there. Papa had already built a house and they stayed up there until the turn of the century. I canﾒt put an exact date on when they came here. This property came up for sale and Papa was delighted to get it.ﾔ
Growing up on the large farm was a delight for Jessie, who was her fatherﾒs right hand.
ﾓIf he wanted something done right in the hayfield, he sent me,ﾔ she said. ﾓIt was great fun working in the hayfield, pitching hay and going everywhere my father went.ﾔ
Although she was an only child, Jessie never wanted for companions.
ﾓWe had two rental houses and in one of them, there were four or five boys and they worked on the farm,ﾔ she said. ﾓI could sit on the fence and spit as far as they could. I grew up with them, they were like my family.ﾔ
Along with running the farm, Jessieﾒs father took many county jobs, including assistant assessor, sheriff and a seat on the county court.
ﾓEvery job there was to have in Pocahontas County, he filled,ﾔ she said. ﾓMy daddy was just a wonderful worker. He took me to court, my mother wanted me out of her way during the day. Heﾒd set me up on the Sheriffﾒs table and say ﾑyou sit there and you donﾒt move. You donﾒt go anywhere, you sit there,ﾒ and Iﾒd sit there all morning through court. If my daddy told me to do it, I did it.
ﾓWhen he was assistant assessor, he would sometimes have to walk a long ways,ﾔ she continued. ﾓHeﾒd leave me in the car. Heﾒd tell me to stay there, under no condition was I to leave the car ﾖ and I listened. His word was law.ﾔ
After graduating as valedictorian of the Green Bank High School class of 1932, Jessie went to West Virginia Wesleyan College and graduated in 1936 with a degree in history and social science.
ﾓIﾒve always been interested in knowing, for example, the history of a house,ﾔ she said. ﾓThe history of everything around me.ﾔ
Jessie taught at Marlinton High School for six years and then moved on to teach physical education at Green Bank High School for one year before she stopped teaching.
While at MHS, Jessie met her future husband, William W. Powell, the band teacher.
ﾓHe was a wonderful band teacher. He taught at Marlinton before he went in the Navy,ﾔ she said. ﾓSammy Brill thought it was the end of the world when Billy Powell left. He happened to use the same instrument my husband did, a trumpet, and he thought his life was over when his trumpet teacher left.ﾔ
Later, Brill would become the band director at Marlinton High School.
Being a Navy family, the Beardﾒs traveled the world and lived in Okinawa, Japan, for three years.
ﾓI just loved it,ﾔ Jessie said. ﾓLearning flower arranging and learning to make dolls, working with Girls Scouts. I had a wonderful tour in Okinawa because I got to go to Japan. We climbed Mt. Fiji as a family.ﾔ
Once William retired from the Navy, he got a job at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, which brought the family back to Jessieﾒs home.
Jessie returned to tending the farm, as well as raising her three daughters, Patsy, Annie and Susan.
William passed away in 1974 after helping deliver a calf on the farm.
ﾓHe and one of the workman on the farm were carrying the heavy calf to the barn when they should have been taking it in something with wheels,ﾔ Jessie said. ﾓThat was his death. He got back in the car and drove around awhile, but finally just died on a Sunday morning.ﾔ
Married for just under 30 years, Jessie said it was ﾓnot nearly long enough.ﾔ
Ever the historian, Jessie has kept the historical Travelerﾒs Repose alive and even held a 150th Civil War celebration in 2011.
ﾓI love this old building,ﾔ she said. ﾓIt was one of the overnight stops on the trail from Staunton to Parkersburg. This was the halfway stop. Thereﾒs so much history here. Right now, Iﾒm still looking for something. Andrew Yeager, who was living here when the war started, he gathered up his brood and took off to what is now Crab Bottom, to some family he knew, and died over there. The last two years, Iﾒve been looking for his grave and havenﾒt found it yet. I want to mark it.ﾔ
At the age of 97, it doesnﾒt seem Jessie will ever slow down. With all the adventures that she has had under her belt, she continues to look for more.
ﾓThereﾒs one state I havenﾒt been in, only one ﾖ Alaska,ﾔ she said. I think I waited a little too long because of my eyes not being perfect. But I still may try. If I had the chance, Iﾒd probably take it.ﾔ