Mom Beck (Rebecca Porter)

Mom Beck
Real-life model for the characters in Annie Fellows Johnston's "Little Colonel" series

[left] Mom Beck with the "Little Colonel (ca 1895-1900)

Her real name was Rebecca Porter.  She died on May 9, 1921 at the home of her son at 634 South Fifteenth Street in Louisville.  On May 10, 1921, The Courier-Journal, eulogized this "elderly Negro woman"  as

 "beloved counselor and confidant of the 'Little Colonel.'  Thousands who never saw her will mourn her death....the Negro woman was one of the best loved characters in the series....." 

 Annie Fellows Johnston acknowledged that among her scores of letters a week inquiring about the "reality of the characters" she always had inquiries about Mom Beck.  She had been able to answer and assure them that Mom Beck was real and still alive.

Mom Beck, who was also part Indian, was born a slave, and before the Civil War was owned by the Conways of Virginia.  She spent most of her later life in Pewee (Lloydsboro) Valley.


Read more from the newspapers at the time of Mom Beck's passing.





Mom Beck in 1904

"Mom" was Part Indian
Mom Beck, The Little Colonel's nurse in the books, was actually Hallie Burge Jacob's nurse. "She was very aristocratic," Mrs. Jacob tells you. "Part Indian. She ruled the whole family-- in fact, she was the only human being Poppa was afraid of!"

Mom Beck got her name because Hallie called both her old Negro mammy and Mrs. Burge "Momma." Mrs. Burge stood it as long as she could, then decided the time had come for her to put her foot down. "You can't keep calling us both "Momma," she told her daughter. So the colored woman had to be called something else. Hallie dubbed her "Mom Beck."

Hallie Burge must have been somewhat of a terror herself. Mom Beck kept a twig always handy to switch Hallie when she was bad. "But let Momma spank me," she said, "and Mom Beck wouldn't eat for three days!" She and the child would walk all over Pewee-- Mom Beck carrying Hallie on her back -- just as she carried "The Little Colonel" in Mrs. Johnston's books.

from an article titled The Naming of a Book
by Hamilton Howard
Louisville Courier-Journal, September 11, 1943
Click here to read more of the article


Virginia Kaye, seated on the lap of Rebecca Porter (Mom Beck in the “Little Colonel” stories)
played the part of Little Colonel Lloyd Sherman in this official “Little Colonel Series” 
photo taken by Kate Matthews.

Mom Beck, The Walton's and the Little Colonel at a tea at Clovercroft