An Unexpected Move, Spring 1923

The Porter-Swayne home and Jessie’s childhood home.

This is the house (above) where Jessie was born and spent her childhood. It officially belonged to her Granny (Mary Catherine Porter Swayne) who inherited it from her father, Col. J.T. Swayne. This was a second home to Col. Swayne, his primary residence being in downtown Memphis. The Lathams lived there until Granny died in January 1911, and then moved closer into town on Overton Park Avenue. (See photos below)

1759 Overton Park Avenue, Memphis.
Jessie Swayne Latham (Jessie’s mother), March 1913, outside her home on Overton Park Avenue.

But as we have noted before, nothing stays the same, and Jessie and her mother were about to get an unwelcome surprise.  Wednesday, March 7, 1923:  A sad day, for Dad signed a contract to-day to sell the house. Somebody offered him the price he asked for it so he thought he better take it. I’m going to try and not think about it ’cause “home” is the dearest thing in the world to you next to your family. Mother and I had just gotten new curtains and draperies for down stairs – coincident we were putting them up to-day.

From my modern perspective, I find it quite odd that Jessie’s father would sell the house without letting his wife or Jessie know anything of his plans. There must be a story there. Nevertheless, Jessie spent much of the next month and a half going through drawers, thinning out clothes, making plans to store furniture, and house shopping with her mother since they had be out by the end of April. On April 26th they left their home at 1759 Overton Park Avenue and moved in with a family friend Mrs. Elliott. By June they still did not have a place to live, so on June 6th the Lathams moved again. This time they moved in to the Kerr’s house. Mrs. Kerr and Dorothy Jane were going to California for the summer and Mr. Kerr and Leroy were staying in Memphis. Incidently, while the Lathams were staying at the Kerr’s, Jessie did a lot of swimming. Mr. Kerr liked to get up early and get to the city pool at 6am, and Jessie was one of the regular swimmers.

Finally, there was a deadline for the Lathams to find a home. Mrs. Kerr and Dorothy Jane would be returning at the end of August and the Lathams needed to find their own place. Jessie and her mother looked and looked at houses and even apartments. One day while out looking, Jessie and her mother suddenly and simultaneously fell in love with the cutest little white clap-board Dutch Colonial. Looks like a little doll house. Dad wanted to run get it when we said we liked it. (Thursday, August 9, 1923).  On August 31, 1923, after months of living with friends, the Lathams moved in to their new home at 393 Dickinson Street right off of Overton Park Avenue in Memphis.

The Latham’s new home at 393 Dickinson St. in Memphis.