For her outstanding contributions as a first through fifth grade teacher, Jessie is recognized on the Donors’ Wall of Fame by Mike Gaba of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Despite having had a privileged background that entailed an education at the best European boarding schools that would have allowed Jessie MacMillan to entertain a life of leisure, Jessie yearned for more, she wanted to experience the Wild West.
A love of animals, the outdoors, and learning encouraged Jessie to strike out on her own as a pioneer of the New Mexico Territory. Sailing on the Lusitania in 1902 from England to Ellis Island, she disembarked and bought her first long barreled six shooter gun. She then continued west by train and established her 160 acre homestead in the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico. Despite droughts, fires, predators, and pests, Jessie became a successful farmer. She introduced the first alfalfa crop in this region, along with wheat, potatoes, cabbages, and oats. When asked by others how she has managed to be so successful, despite never having farmed before, she would reply, “By reading, analyzing, and applying.”
Knowing how important an education had been to her, Jessie became determined to help the regions children who suffered from a lack of educators in the territory. She would travel many miles over mountain passes and desert mesas to reach the local children and provide tutoring. She traveled with two horses. One horse transported Jessie and her rifle, while the other horse transported her school supplies. My Uncle Tom Prather would say that as one of her students she was the person who taught him the joy of learning.
At a time when woman had four rights and were mostly defined by thick husbands, “Miss Mac” pushed herself beyond satisfactions and, like all great teachers, led by lesson plan and example.