Rosa Belle Eaddy Woodberry Dickson

Rosa Belle Eaddy Woodberry Dickson

Belle Dickson (1868-1953)

Old Johnsonville School students and faculty

Old Johnsonville teachers and pupils. Belle Woodberry is standing far right.

Rosa Belle Eaddy (1868-1953) was born in Johnsonville, a daughter of Henry Edison Eaddy and Eliza Louisa Huggins. 

Belle Dickson was likely the first woman elected mayor in the state of South Carolina.  The News and Courier noted on Oct 1, 1925 that she was elected as a compromise candidate as a tie was reached in the vote between her husband, R.B. Dickson and a Mr. Bishop: "There being no way to settle the tie, the two factions agreed to the nomination of Mrs. Dickson, wife of one of the candidates, and she was unanimously elected. . . the people of Johnsonville are satisfied that her administration will be a most progressive one." 

Rosa Belle Eaddy was a role model for any independant woman of her time.  Born in Johnsonville in 1868, Miss Belle was known as a person of exceptional ability. She was multi-talented woman, chosing a career as a school teacher and thus became another of the Eaddy family to make her contribution in development of the youth of her community.

At Old Johnsonville where many of her students remembered her, Rosa Belle Eaddy was a principal, teacher, pianist, music director, and reformer. The school was located between Hemingway and Johnsonville. She held radical views for her time and place.  One former pupil remembers the hubbub created when she banished the common drinking dipper that passed from mouth to mouth, spreading epidemics of colds, diphtheria, measles, and worse.  She had each child furnish his own drinking vessel.  To the average parent this was inexplicable; at home most families shared a hollowed out gourd at the old wooden bucket.  Time has proved her correct and added to the respect held for her by those who knew her.

She was strong, forceful, and profoundly respected. Once a mischievous boy, according to a former student, cropped off half of her horse's tail. Although much larger than his teacher, he stood docilely while she assaulted him with her buggy whip.
 
"She was a dramatic teacher," said another former pupil. "She could hold us spellbound. I remember that as World War I was approaching, she came into the classroom one morning and advanced toward us. 'Children,' she announced, 'war clouds are hanging over America this morning!' Cold chills ran down our spines."
 
"Even her Sunday School lessons were always exciting!" said another. "They were so vivid that we seemed to be there, right where the action was."
 
With the help of boys who held boards steady while she sawed and hammered, she built her own house. She could, and did, shoe her own horses. Furthermore, according to many who lived in Johnsonville all their lives, she became the first woman mayor in South Carolina and was perfectly capable of making an arrest.
 
Before her 1925 mayoral victory, Dickson attended the county convention and was elected a delegate to the State Convention.  She was wellknown throughout Florence County for her interest in public affairs .  Whether she espoused women's lib before the phrase was coined, one cannot know. However, she did not take for granted her services as cook and housekeeper. It is said that she charged her second husband board.

Rosa Belle Eaddy first married Wattie Gamewell Woodberry Sr. Together they created a family of four sons and one daughter. Two of of her sons became graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, and both were inventors of and holders of numerous patents. After the death of her first husband, she married R.B.W. "Willie" Dickson. The two had no children together. 

At the age of 85 years, she died in Lynchburg, South Carolina and was survived by three of her sons: Brigadier General John Henry Woodberry of Greenville, SC; Clarence Oswell Woodberry of Poston, SC; and Lieutenant Colonel David Lemuel
Woodberry, I. of St. Petersburg, VA. One brother, John Mallard Eaddy of Spartanburg, SC survived her passing.

Information gathered from The Promised Land : the James Eaddy family in South Carolina, Elaine Y. Eaddy and the Charleston News and Courier