Bessie was the daughter of John Lewellen and Annie (Hand) Lewellen. She was married three times. Her first husband was Howard Higley (1875-1955) whom she married in 1899. Her second husband was Charley James (1861-1929), whom she married in 1909 and who is buried next to her. Bessie's third husband was Elmer Frye (1881-1962). Bessie and Elmer were married in 1938. Bessie was the stepmother to eleven of the fourteen surviving children from Elmer Frye's first marriage.