Known for her love of wearing hats, Mollie Edward Reed (1885-1946) was a woman after my own heart. Mrs. Reed could always be seen in one of her signature wide-brimmed hats—cotton or straw for summer and wool for winter. Her contemporaries labeled the collection as “Miss Mollie Reed’s hats.”
According to an interview housed at the Marshall County Archives, Mollie Reed was the daughter of Jenny Henry, who was born on the Old Henry Farm, and Bill Edward. Mollie grew up in Guntersville and married Jerry Albert Reed (1813-1965) in 1895.
As a boy in 1880, Jerry Reed was listed in the Census with his parents, Willis, born about 1828 in South Carolina, and Mariah, born in South Carolina in 1852. The family included Jerry and his siblings, Permelia, Henrietta, Delia, Mary Ann, and Alvin.
Willis’ mother Bayne Bayne (Bain) who was born in 1819 completed the family listing. After their marriage, Mollie and Jerry Reed had employment in Guntersville.
According to the Census records, the couple had jobs working in a private home and as a laborer. Mrs. Reed was listed as a “laundry woman” who most frequently worked for the David George Henderson family. While Jerry Reed worked at different times as a laborer and a deck hand on a boat, he was employed by Tom Glover in a cotton warehouse for 25 years.
Settling in a small place on Railroad Avenue, they welcomed their three children — Gertrude (Logan), Henry (Buddy), and Irene (Harris). Involved in the community, the Reeds supported civic and religious activities like the Livingston Chapel A. M. E. Church and the Amity Lodge, No. 44.
The Reed family was impacted by the TVA removal in 1937-1938 and moved from Railroad Avenue shortly before the flooding of the Lake Guntersville reservoir. At that time, the family consisted of Jerry and Mollie Reed and their daughter Irene. They gave as references J. P. Willis and Mrs. H. Henderson and indicated that, like others, the Great Depression had negatively affected the family’s income.
Two inspirational stories are reflective of the Reed family. The first one recounted how much Jerry Reed valued education although he had little formal education himself. When daughter Gertrude was 15 years old about 1912, Jerry Reed encouraged her to attend school at Alabama A&M Normal School, now Alabama A&M University.
In an interview at age 80, Mrs. Gertrude Reed Logan remembered that the college only had one classroom with only a few other buildings like dorms, workshops and a kitchen/dining facility. As a student she worked as a teacher’s aide for Mr. A.S. Petty to help pay her expenses.
In the 1910 U.S. Census, a school teacher named Anderson Petty is listed as a 25-year-old man who lived with his parents in Huntsville. Reminiscing about her days at Alabama A&M, Mrs. Logan named classmates Carter Cochran and Cora Baxter Weatherly.
The other memorable family experience reflected Jerry Reed’s actions regarding voting. In 1901, he was one of only 17 black men who voted in Guntersville, according to a handwritten list compiled by O.D. Street, who was Probate Judge.
At that time, registering to vote often required having to read from a document like the Constitution. Having to pay a poll tax (about $3) had the effect of diminishing the number of people who registered to vote.
Many people, both white and black, refused to use their income to pay a fee in order to vote. These black men helped open the doors for others by using their citizenship rights.
The Jerry and Mollie Reed family can be remembered for their contributions to their family and community. Remembered by her contemporaries, Mollie Reed loved showing her style by always wearing her chapeaux.
Jerry Reed opted to use his right to vote by using his citizenship rights. Gertrude Reed, their daughter, bravely left to go to school at an early age to further her education. All three exhibited individuality and helped blaze new avenues for their family and inspired other members of the community.