Born on 15 October 1871 in Saginaw, Michigan, Jane Hawkins Hay was known to everyone as “Dearie.” She was the daughter of Martha Amey Hawkins and James Hay, who was a lumber man in the Saginaw, Michigan, area.

Jane Hawkins “Dearie” Hay married Harry James Cummings, M.D. from St. Louis on 30 May 1894 in Saginaw, then moved to St. Louis. The Cummings family purchased the home at 4545 Lindell Boulevard with the understanding that her husband would pay for the upkeep. To this union six children were born: James Hay, Jane Hawkins, John Kilby, Harriet Josephine, Martha Ann, and Harry Joseph. All married, having families of their own. Dr. Cummings died in 1921.

Dearie made beaded purses, which were beautiful designed masterpieces of craftsmanship. The purses were made with the finest beads; the designs are descriptive, coming from tapestries and rugs. They included floral designs, landscapes, and pastoral scenes. To make a bag, the beads had to be strung backwards because on the last bead is the first bead on the thread to be used. Each string consists of about 8,000 beads, and they are crocheted with the finest of needles with materials from abroad.

Mary, the wife of George V, who would become king of England in 1910, received one of Mrs. Cummings’ purses given to her by Lady Stewart MacKenzie. The Ladyship visited St. Louis after the World’s Fair, as she was impressed with Dearie’s work. While visiting, she purchased a purse for $300 and presented it to Mary when she was still the Princess of Wales.

As the children grew and left home, Dearie began tracing family history. In the mid-forties, Mrs. Cummings began traveling, going to Cuba, Panama, the Panama Canal, and some South American countries as well as other locations. Jane lived in Virginia, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut for six months at a time looking up her family’s history.

While traveling, she always kept a journal of what she did and saw in these places. She wrote of problems she ran into including language, changing her United States funds into the current country’s currency, and getting around, in customs and in local cities. She wrote of the joys but also things she disliked and problems she had. She always knew the maids, doormen, and other important people by name and always treated them with respect.

Dearie wrote many pages of history. Sadly, she did not record in her notes the books, volumes, and page numbers, or who the authors were. She also taped together her pages with her husband’s surgical tape!

(Sources include: Jane Hay “Dearie” Cummings’ notes; Michigan State birth certificate and marriage records; St. Louis Globe Democrat, 25 December 1937; and Missouri death certificate)

Submitted by Abbie Hawkins (Cantwell) Bast
July 2017

© 2018 St. Louis Genealogical Society


Dearie Cummings
Jane “Dearie” Cummings
Photo in the collection of Abbie Bast
Used with permission
Dearie's Purses
Two of Dearie’s Purses
Purses in the collection of Abbie Bast
Photographed by Ilene Murray
Used with permission

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Last Modified: 26-Oct-2018 09:58