Funeral services for Mrs. Bessie Simison McColgin, Oklahoma’s first woman to serve in the House of Representatives, was held Friday at 10 a.m. in the Reydon Community Building with Rev. Richard Benefield of Reydon officiating.
She was 97 years old. An Oklahoma resident six years before statehood, she was known as a dedicated civic and religious worker, who, since 1935, has made her home in Stillwater.
Because of declining health, she had been living in Reydon where three of her nine children have their homes and where she herself lived for thirty years. After leaving the farm at Ridgeton, which she and her husband homesteaded in 1901, and which was on the west side of Roger Mills County. She was admitted to Town Hall Estates due to ill health where she died Sunday, July 9, 1972.
Mrs. McColgin had several “firsts” to her credit in Roger Mills, having taught the first school and having helped operate and name the first post office at Ridgeton (twelve miles west of Roll) and the first telephone exchange, in her own home in west Roger Mills County. She also organized the first Home Demonstration Club and later became its first county president and then the first Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
The first Memorial Day services were also arranged by her at Rankin and in her spare time she served the church and surrounding families as a midwife. She recalled forty new citizens receiving her services and not one which failed to survive.
When Rankin Post Office established a second rural route, her husband, Grant, became rural mail carrier with his wife as substitute. This continued for nine years. When Woman Sufferage became law, Mrs. McColgin was chosen to serve as the county’s first woman representative in the state legislature and for which office she had no need for campaign speeches!
Through all of these experiences she claimed not to have neglected her own children. When teachers were needed, she and her husband, both teachers by profession, alternated in conducting the community school so that one parent was always at home with the children. The older ones also shared the work. They assisted in the post office and the telephone exchange as well as farm work and later, a son, Sterling S., held the same seat in the Legislature as his mother and died while serving his third term as Senator from District 2. After moving to Stillwater in 1935, in order that the three younger McColgins might attend Oklahoma State University, Mrs. McColgin continued her activities in the Methodist Church and WCTU, serving as its State organizer for twenty one years and for many years as the associate editor of WCTU state paper, “The Oklahoma Messenger”. She was voted an Honorary Member of the Stillwater Altrusa Club in recognition of her public services.
In August 1959 she and her husband celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary at Reydon with all children present. Mr. McColgin died two months later.
Mrs. McColgin continued to occupy their home at 104 Melrose Drive in Stillwater, until the fall of 1962, when she returned to Reydon to make her home with an aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Boyd Simison of Earlville, Illinois, where she grew to womanhood and graduated from the school of Oratory at Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. She always credited her relatives for inspiring her interest in government and world affairs. On August 21, 1895, she was married to Grant McColgin of Earlville and they decided to homestead in Oklahoma.
Her eight surviving children are Mesdames: Hope Conrad and Mary Burns, both of Reydon; Octavis DeBerry of Great Bend, Kansas and Ruth Wall of Ponca City; four sons Quinton P. of Reydon, Wayne R. of Little Rock, Arkansas, Grant Willis of Kansas City, Kansas and Dr. Franklin H. of Watertown, Connecticut.
Also surviving are 27 grandchildren, 37 great grandchildren and eight great great grandchildren and a half sister, Mrs. Beth Briggs of McLean, VA. Her parents, husband, son, two sisters, Mrs. Rugh I. Simison and Mrs. Slade Freer and three brothers: Rolson Everett, Major Walter M. and Ernest N. Simison have preceded her in death.
She was laid to rest in the White Rose Cemetery beside her husband with the grandsons as pallbearers. Donald and Dan Burns, William G., Quinton P, Jr. and Sterling W. McColgin, Keith and Grant DeBerry.
Cheyenne Star, July 20, 1972.