Jennie Sigler among those who caused eyes to pop
By all accounts Jennie SIGLER was a beautiful woman whose glowing
good looks were exceeded only by her outlandishness.
Definitely not a shrinking violet or a lady who fit the mold of the "good wives should be seen and not heard" philosophy of the latter 19th century, she made waves that captured the attention of Henderson-born author Lucy FURMAN.
As a result, Jennie won a kind of immortality in Ms. FURMAN'S "Stories of a Sanctified Town." In that book about Robards, Jennie was given the name Kate HEGLEY, but Henderson County folks knew who Kate really was.
And she didn't, they knew, live in Robards. She resided in Dixie, where
she no doubt kept people talking as she got deeper and deeper into her
own brand of religion.
As county historian Maralea ARNETT describes in her account of
times past in Dixie, Jennie's views narrowed until she believed that even
the good Methodists of the community were wayward souls. While still attending
that church, she took to carrying her own chair there, plunking it down
in the aisle to avoid sitting "in the seat of the scornful."
Eventually Jennie, who chose to wear her long hair loose and flowing,
instead of pinned into one of the conservative styles worn by most women,
got to the point that she wouldn't sit at all, even to eat, because she
wanted to be on her feet and ready to go in case the Second Coming should
occur at that moment.
Her husband, a Dixie physician, didn't share her beliefs and ignored
her demands that he give up going to his gentleman's club, which Jennie
considered a sinful place.
Upon arriving home one evening, he found that she'd retaliated by locking
him out of the residence. She no doubt thought he'd beg her to open the
door and promise never again to attend one of those terrible meetings.
Instead, the doctor went to the woodshed and fetched an ax, which he
used to destroy the fine, imported front door that Jennie had regarded
as the height of elegance. Further showing his disdain, he didn't bother
to replace the ornate door with another just like it, but instead hung
an ordinary closet door at the entrance of the house.
Considering those mutual antics, it's no surprise the marriage ended
in one of the few divorces of that era. That parting took place in 1897,
with her receiving the house, 23-1/2 acres, a piano, a sewing machine
and a gray mare.
Instead of living comfortably, Jennie, two years later, gave up the house
to be used as the "Holy School" and took up residence in an
She was a character, but that period bred many of them. There was the
enterprising Sophronia GALLOWAY, for instance, a businesswoman
who smoked a clay pipe filled with home-grown tobacco, and there were
the fellows who, once their chores were done, spent most of their free
moments at Ambrose HIBBS' store in Dixie.
Once, when the store had received a lot of fresh oysters, the men decided
to make some oyster stew. Trouble was, they didn't have a cooking pot,
but that soon was remedied. In no time, they had a batch of stew simmering
- in a brand new chamber pot - atop the store's pot-bellied stove.
Simple stories had a way of becoming tall tales as these men attempted
to outdo each other. One farmer bragged that his cow produced more milk
than any other cow in the county. "You know," he said, "she
doesn't even quit to have a calf. She's never had a calf, and her mother
never did either!"
Those fellows weren't quite so arrogant, however, on the Halloween night
when their mischief-making offspring wired shut the doors of the store,
making the men temporary prisoners. Likely with much muttering about what
they were going to do to those kids when they caught them, the men tried
in vain to get out until, finally, they thought of lowering a gent from
an upper window.
Though most people of that era probably were too busy and too church
conscious to have the time or inclination for naughty behavior, there
was one merchant who had a girlfriend in the community, and who corresponded
with her via notes left in a particular bolt of calico.
"This worked fine," Ms. ARNETT relates, "until
the merchant's wife needed a new calico dress. The 'post office' was closed
Reprinted with permission.
Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2005 HCH&GS