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AUTHOR:  Gloria Lackey Stokely (edited & vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)

On May 5, 1813, Elizabeth “Betsy” Massey & Thomas Revis had a daughter named Hester “Hettie” Massey who was born without any limbs (no arms or legs). She was Betsy’s second child, but Thomas had had other children with his wife, Mary. Thomas had as many children with Betsy as he did with Mary, so Hettie had many siblings and half-siblings. They all lived in Marshall, Madison County, North Carolina (formerly Buncombe County). (My 3rd-great-grandmother was Lavinia Massey Taylor (b. 1811), who was the older sister of Hettie Massey. Elizabeth Betsy & Thomas Revis were my 4th-great-grandparents.)

Hettie did not let the fact that she didn’t have arms or legs stop her. When she died late in November of 1873, her obituary was published by a bunch of newspapers. Hettie was described as having a better-than-average intellect and more-than-ordinary energy. She could sweep the floor as quickly as anyone; she could write and read well. Hettie was a member of the Baptist Church & a devout Christian. (Some of her obituaries are at this link: 1602096613-Hester-Massey.)

On Oct. 30, 1885, J.C. Pickens responded to an article that had been published about a child who was born without arms or legs in Blount County, Tennessee. Having known Hettie Massey, he stated that another child without arms and legs had been born years before and that that child—Hettie—had lived an active, productive life. He also stated that he had seen “her baptized in the Ivy River in her chair by two ministers” (article attached). J.C. Pickens lived within a mile of where Hettie had lived and died.

Living in the 1800s was challenging for some able-bodied people, so Hettie had to be a strong woman to adapt so well and live so long, especially through the Civil War years in North Carolina.

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