Walter R. Turner reminded some and introduced others to the story of the “Daughter of Anson County.”
Turner was the guest speaker for the December Brown Bag Book Club meeting held at the Hampton B. Allen Library.
“What I’m going to talk about today, is not just the book that we all know about, but a little bit about her whole life,” Turner said. “I’m basically going to talk about her early years, education, how she got into journalism, and creating the ‘History of Anson County.’”
Mary L. Medley was born in the Brown Creek area of Polkton in 1907, on a cotton farm. Her father was a cotton producer.
After only attending Polkton School for a few grades, she attended Weaver Junior College, later becoming president of the school’s newspaper and of Euterpean Literary Society.
“That was a great thing for her because it was an excellent school that had all the high school years, and two years of college,” he said.
Medley also began her poetry writing journey during this time, and transferred to Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, for a year.
“I don’t know why she did this, but she did,” Turner added.
Medley also attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in English and took several journalism courses.
“She thought that she graduated, but I checked with UNC, and they said she did not get a diploma,” he said. “She definitely benefited from being there.”
Medley taught school in Virginia, but in the middle of the Great Depression of the 1930s, she suddenly switched to the sixth grade at Lilesville School.
After Medley’s switch to journalism, “she wrote for some very interesting newspapers,” Turner said. These newspapers include the Goldsboro News-Argus, High Point Enterprise and the Sanford Herald.
“That really helped her to become a sharp writer, because you have to do your research and present facts,” Turner said.
She returned to Anson County to build a brick home built on East Wade Street in Wadesboro.
In 1949, the county celebrated its bicentennial with a popular pageant, “Torchlight on the Pee Dee,” which Medley wrote.
Local citizens and children participated in the pageant. The men grew beards and the ladies wore period dresses.
“If you look at the brochure from then, you will be fascinated,” he said. “It was actually her idea, and she convinced a lot of people to participate.”
The celebration lasted an entire week in the old ballfield.
Medley wrote short stories about all of the towns, as well as First Baptist Church, even though Medley was a member of a Methodist church.
“This was great preperation for her to write the history of Anson County,” he said.
For several years, she was a reporter for either the Messenger and Intelligencer or the Anson Record.
She published “Dogwood Winter,” a book of her poetry, in 1952.
In 1977, she published another book of poetry, “Seasons and Days.” According to Jeffery T. Gross, a faculty member at the University of Mississippi, the book “shows a tough awareness of human frailties without the bitterness which such vision often carries with it.”
Medley pulled out the notes and articles she had saved for two decades.
“History of Anson County, North Carolina, 1750-1976,” with more than 400 pages, was published in 1978. It included 31 chapters, many appendices, and a comprehensive index. The book had a press run of 3,000 copies with two reprints.
Mary Louise Medley died in 1992. She was deemed “the daughter of Anson County” by the Rev. Cameron Conover during her burial.
Mary Louise Medley
Walter R. Turner speaks about Mary Louise Medley’s life at the December Brown Bag Book Club meeting.