Living

'Grandma Aken' was the mother of Deer Island

COURTESY CYNTHIA BAKER POWELLThough Harriet Aken fostered more than 21 boys, there was one little girl who stole her heart and was brought home to Deer Island.
COURTESY CYNTHIA BAKER POWELLThough Harriet Aken fostered more than 21 boys, there was one little girl who stole her heart and was brought home to Deer Island.

Today's Flashback celebrates Mother's Day with this 1926 photo of Harriet Baker Aken (1839-1939) at her home on Deer Island. Generations of Mississippi Coast residents have known the story of the Aken, but newcomers may not.

Harriet, who became known as "Grandma Aken," was the epitome of motherhood. She reared her own 11 children, six with her first husband Peter Baker (1815-1896) and five with her second husband Joseph Aken (1841-1913), but she had room in her heart for many more.

The adventures of an island life would be any boy's dream, and Aken made that dream come true for the 21-plus boys she fostered from the Society of Prevention Of Cruelty To Children in New Orleans. Actually, any boy was welcome, even some from good homes who rowed over to stay a week or two.

Island life was hard work as well as play. Harriet and her brood of Baker/Aken children and her foster boys worked in her oyster beds, her vegetable garden, and in livestock and cattle raising. What the kids received in return was unquestioning love, self-confidence, strict discipline, and a full stomach.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast's distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and daytime phone number to Flashback, the Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; or call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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