‘Flower Lady’ Kate Bond brought beauty to Bartlett

Kate Bond and nephew. Photo courtesy of Kate Bond Elementary School. (Click to enlarge.)

Miss Kate Bond was known as The Flower Lady. She lived in Bartlett but was known across Shelby County for her beautiful flowers and generosity.

Katie Deeson Bond was born on Jan. 30, 1886. She was the fourth child and only daughter of William T. Bond and Hallie Deeson Bond. Her grandfather was Dr. Samuel Bond, who built Cedar Hall in Ellendale and was one of the earliest settlers in that area. William was the youngest son of Dr. Sam. He was a farmer and was a member of the Shelby County Board of Education for 20 years and also served as chairman of the board.

Her mother’s family, the Deesons, were also prominent in Bartlett. The Bond family lived in a log cabin on the Old Stage Road, which today is Highway 64. In later years William Bond built a road alongside his home and named it Kate Bond Road after his daughter.

Kate grew up there, and her love of flowers produced acres of flowers of many varieties — fields full of daffodils, dahlias, daylilies and more. She had a greenhouse in back of the house where she grew her most prized flowers, and she received numerous awards at flower shows and fairs for many of them.

field of daffodils
This beautiful stock image was provided by a photographer on Flickr.com; some rights reserved.

In the spring there was a sea of yellow with her daffodils covering the ground.

Kate and her sister-in-law, Marie Bond, started Bond’s Flower Farm in Kate’s home and also sold flowers at the Memphis Curb Market. Kate and Marie supplied flowers to all the grand hotels in Memphis, including The Peabody and the Claridge Hotel, as well as furnishing cut flowers regularly to uptown restaurants and clubs.

A letter from The Peabody Hotel in 1925 stated: “We desire to acknowledge our very deep sense of appreciation for the beautiful floral tribute sent at the opening of the Hotel. These evidences of friendship from our numerous friends contribute more than anything else to our feeling of personal pleasure and satisfaction in the opening of the new Hotel.”

In later years Marie and her husband, Dana (Kate’s brother), had their own flower shop, Marie Bond Flowers.

Kate was married briefly and had no children, but she helped to maintain the memories of the Bond family by keeping letters, photographs, diaries and other personal items that she passed along to family members. Some of these items can be found in the Bartlett Museum. Kate’s love for family was evident in some of her writings: “The chief characteristic of the Bond family has been love of justice and law, love of home and reverence of their women and relatives . . . they are strictly independent, think and decide for themselves. None have been great men but all have been gentlemen.”

She took care of family members all her life. When the male head of the household died, the widow would come and live with her. Kate loved Pisgah Cemetery and would take flowers weekly to put on the Bond family graves. She made many wreaths for cemetery lots, giving away a large part of them.

When Kate was a young woman, Miss Sallie Bentley started working for the family. She was a young girl and continued working there after she married James Buckley. They lived on the Bond farm, where James grew cotton. James and Sallie had eight children, and Sallie continued working beside ,Kate in the flower gardens. ,Sallie loved showing after-church guests to Kate Bond’s parlor and giving tours of the huge flower fields and gardens.

According to Sallie, Kate’s flowers were everywhere in Bartlett. She loved having children visit and pick the prettiest ones they could find at Easter. People left her home with as many flowers as they could carry, and she always had a jar of candy to give children when they visited. They would play dress-up in old clothes from her mother and grandmother and have a wonderful time. They would also pick flowers for her for 10 cents a day.

Kate Bond loved dogs. She took in many strays that, in turn, took care of her as she worked in her gardens and fields. One really mean dog would sit outside on the porch every afternoon while she was taking a nap, to scare visitors away.

Kate Bond was quite a powerful woman and stood up to men in a time when society believed that women were supposed to be seen but not heard. She lived in the same home all her life, a 100-year-old log cabin that never had a bathroom, only an outhouse in the back yard. Her home was filled with Persian rugs and antiques from her ancestors. In the years before her death, she was in poor health, was deaf and had poor vision. Sallie was there to care for her, and Kate Bond died on June 17, 1974, at the age of 88.

In 1993 Shelby County Schools built a school on Kate Bond Road and named it Kate Bond Elementary School in her honor. The grand opening was attended by Bond descendants, Bartlett Historical Society members and school officials. The new school, which cost $3.3 million, had 50 classrooms and laboratories. The school was in the midst of one of the fastest growing areas of the county and served 1,100 children in kindergarten through fifth grade. The school is still open today.

Come and talk to Kate Bond, who will be portrayed at Bartlett High School during the city’s Sesquicentennial History Weekend planned for April 16-17.

Written by Suzanne Griffith Coleman of the Bartlett Historical society as a special column for the Express.