Jessie Ann Goddard was born February 24, 1881, the eldest of 8 children born to Robert Duncan Goddard and Margaret Garrett, in Renfrew, Ontario. It is possible that Jessie had nurses training prior to entering the Deaconess program in 1909. She graduated from the National Methodist Training School, Toronto, in 1911 and assumed her first position in Brandon, Manitoba. Two photos of her work in the Methodist congregation (Picture 1, Picture 2) were published in the 1911 Methodist Deaconess Yearbook. Many Deaconesses worked with poor families, often immigrants, and teaching domestic skills was a standard practice. From the photos it would seem she worked with children. Further investigation into the Brandon program could shed more light on Jessie’s work. In 1912, Jessie moved to Metropolitan Methodist Church in Regina, Saskatchewan, then in 1914 to Earlscourt Methodist in Toronto. The following year she is noted as being on a leave of absence. In 1922 she disappears from the Deaconess appointment list.
Jessie’s neice, Betty MacLeod of Stoney Creek, Ontario remembers her Aunt Jessie very well. The family story was that Jessie left the Deaconess Order because of an undisclosed “medical issue”, but Betty is pretty sure that Jessie had experienced a nervous breakdown. After leaving the Order, Jessie lived on the family farm near Westmeath, Ontario, in the Ottawa valley. “I just loved her to bits” explains Betty, “she was a lovely person.” Jessie worked hard providing support for the men on the farm, her father and then her two brothers. But she also was part of the farming operation. She kept turkeys, churned butter and helped harvest the wheat. Betty and her brother spent their summers on the farm and Betty remembers the good food and good care they received. After her brothers died, Jessie tried to keep the farm going with hired hands, but by then her mental state was deteriorating and she couldn’t manage. The farm was bought by another brother and Jessie moved to a care facility in Westmeath. She developed significant dementia. Betty remarked, “she was a very intelligent woman, it was very sad to see her that way.”
A note appears in the 1975 United Church Observer, “Jessie Goddard, a Methodist Deaconess, died in August 5, at age 87 in Renfrew, Ontario.” She remained active in the United Church while her health allowed. She is buried in the United Church cemetery in Westmeath. (photo)
Sadly, a fire destroyed almost all of the family photos, and there is no picture of Jessie in her later years. When Betty discovered the Deaconess website (in her 90th year) she was delighted to see the pictures of Jessie from the Methodist yearbook.
 Westmeath Centennial Celebrations Book
Written by Caryn Douglas, 2014 and edited November 2017 after a telephone conversation with Betty MacLeod.