Bessie Lee Carter was born on May 11, 1905 in Monroe County, GA to Sam Carter (1877 – 1940) and Ceily (née Thompson) Carter (1874 – 1907).
Ceily Carter died in 1907 from breast cancer. She was 33 years old. Sam Carter, now a widower, gave Bessie and her brother, Harry to their aunt, Anna Thompson to raise.
In 1910, the census reports that Bessie and her brother, Harry lived with Anna in a house on Vinegar Hill Road in the Mountain District of Walton County, GA. The home was owned by Anna and was mortgage-free. Bessie’s age is recorded as four years old, and Harry’s is recorded as three years old. All members of the household have their race recorded as Mulatto.
In 1920, Bessie was 13, and her brother, Harry was 12. They were still living with Anna Thompson in the same home in the Mountain District of Walton County, GA. It is recorded in the census for this year that Anna worked as a farmer. Bessie and Harry were attending school and were able to read and write. In this census, their race is listed as Black.
On December 23, 1924 at the age of 19, Bessie Carter married Rufus J. Tillman, Sr.
In 1930, Bessie was 24 years old. She and Rufus had been married for almost six years. She was the mother of four children: Rufus, Jr. (age 4), Murrell(sic) (age 3), Ethelene (age 2), Lucile(sic) (age 2 months).
In 1940 after almost 16 years of marriage, Bessie and Rufus were still in the same house on Cap Jackson Road in Mountain, Walton County, GA. It was recorded in this enumeration that Bessie completed 8th grade.
Bessie and Rufus remained together until her death on February 18, 1946. Together they had 13 children: Rufus, Jr. (1925-2006), Merrell Bertha (1927), Ethelene (1928-1964), Lucille (1930-2015), Geraldine (1931), Mathis Duelon (1933-1938), Arlonia (1935), McKinley (1936), Ello Dennis (1938), William Garland (1940-2008), Lauravene (1942), Emma Lizzie (1944), and Bessie Jean (1946).
EDIT 5/31/2016: I have a copy of the death certificate. Will be writing an update after my research on it is complete.