There are many women who helped shape Stephenville into the wonderful city it is today.
One of those women is Sallie Mothershead who ran a boarding house, was the 12th president of the 20th Century Club and responsible for establishing the public library, the first museum in town and a local Chamber of Commerce.
Sallie came to Texas in the 1870s with her parents. At that time her last name was McCleskey and she married Henry Mothershead in the 1880s when she was 19 years old.
After having three daughters, Henry passed away in 1907, leaving Sallie a widow.
“She remodeled her home into a boarding house and eventually Mothershead Cottage became the place where traveling actors stayed during their ‘brief hour on the stage’ of the Crow’s Opera House,” reads a 1989 Stephenville Empire-Tribune article written by Dick Smith. “It later became a landmark where college students eagerly sought to stay.”
Sallie was a charter member of the 20th Century Club, becoming the organization’s 12th president, and proposed that the club sponsor a public library.
A quote from Sallie about the creation of the library states:
“In the autumn of 1903 our club met with Mrs. John Groesbeeck (the very house which stands today at N. Neblett and Frey and is known as the Elrod Place). I took a book and a gift of a few dollars to start a library for I wanted to make the first donation. We decided to have a book shower and entertainment on my porch and lawn to ask Judge Collin George to make an address, to have music and tableaux, and to serve ice cream and cake.
“The affair was a great success for many books were brought, interest ran high, and everybody had a pleasant evening. We opened the library soon in a room over First National Bank, which was offered by J.J. Bennett. The next year we moved to larger quarters over Perry Bros. Store. Books were added all along, and the club members served as librarians.”
Around 30 years later Sallie asked the club to sponsor a museum.
“Residents were invited to a shawl tea March 2, 1931,” Smith’s article states. “‘Wear a shawl,’ the invitation read, ‘and bring a relic or some item to be donated to the museum.’ Approximately 100 persons responded to the invitation that launched the town’s first museum.”
Sallie also had a role in the creation of a local Chamber of Commerce.
“When a group of metroplex merchants were touring West Texas and planned a luncheon stop in Stephenville, there was no place large enough for the men to dine together,” Smith wrote. “Mrs. Mothershead organized Stephenville men to serve as hosts, planned the meal, and arranged for visitors to dine in the fellowship hall of one of the churches. The dinner brought in $35.75.”
An interesting story about Sallie, told by Stephenville Historical House Museum board member Cindy Shipman, was that her last name was occasionally spelled two different ways — “Mothershead” and “Mothershed” — the correct way being Mothershead.
Shipman explained that when Sallie would take out an advertisement she would drop the “a” for cost purposes.
At some point in the 1900s Sallie wrote a cookbook that featured many recipes and in the introduction wrote, “The recipes contained in this little book have been given to us by our friends, and have stood the test of time and experience.”
Sallie was very active in the Methodist Church, was a sponsor of the Young Missionary Society and was on the committee that beautified the grounds.
Due to health issues, Sallie was forced to shut down her boarding house in 1952 and she passed away in 1959 in San Angelo.