In 1974, The State magazine published an article that called Mary L. Medley “a journalist, a writer, a poet, and something of a legend in Anson County.” At that time, she was writing for the Anson Record and was ready to write a history of the county. Bennett Edwards, editor of the Anson Record, kept her on course while she worked as a full-time reporter while writing the book. Linn Garibaldi and others raised the necessary funds for publication. Medley began opening the old dress boxes, where she had stashed notes and articles during the past 20 years. Writing the book was an emotional task. Calvin Gaddy, who helped with photographs, recalls that she was “always in another world.” She had productive days and other days when she slammed down the telephone and rushed out of the newsroom.
“History of Anson County, North Carolina, 1750-1976,” with more than 400 pages, was finally published two years later. It included 31 chapters, many appendices, and a comprehensive index. The book had a press run of 3,000 copies with two reprints. Ken Goins quickly purchased the book. He had grown up in Rockingham, but was teaching history at Bowman High School. “The book was indispensable then and now,” he said.
In 1907, Mary Medley was born on a cotton farm in the Brown Creek/Mt. Vernon area near Polkton to Mary Ide and James Franklin Medley. Joe Frank, her only sibling, joined the family three years later. After attending Polkton School for the first few grades, she entered residential Weaver Junior College just north of Asheville, (which later became a part of Brevard College). In the high school program, she was president of the school’s newspaper and of Euterpean Literary Society and also began writing poetry. She completed a year of college there and a second year at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. The next step was two years at the University of North Carolina, where she majored in English, minored in history, and also took several journalism courses.
Her first career was in education. She taught school in Virginia as well as the sixth grade at Lilesville School during 1933 to 1937, then switched to journalism. Over the years, she was a reporter for Goldsboro News-Argus, High Point Enterprise, and Sanford Daily Herald. After World War II, Medley returned to Anson County. She had a brick home built on East Wade Street in Wadesboro. After living in lots of apartments, she loved her little house. In 1949, the county celebrated its bicentennial with a popular pageant, “Torchlight on the Pee Dee,” which she wrote. All the actors were local citizens. The men grew beards and the ladies wore period dresses. For several years, she was a reporter for either the Messenger and Intelligencer or the Anson Record. In 1952, she published “Dogwood Winter,” a book of her poetry. Medley was active in the North Carolina Society of County and Local Historians, serving one year as president. In 1969, she provided the research about the Boggan-Hammond House that resulted in a legislative grant of $20,000 for the project. In 1977, she published another book of poetry, “Seasons and Days.” Jeffery T. Gross, a faculty member at the University of Mississippi, wrote that the book “shows a tough awareness of human frailties without the bitterness which such vision often carries with it.” She lived her last years at the Methodist Home in Charlotte.
Mary Louise Medley died in 1992. At her funeral at First United Methodist Church in Wadesboro, the Rev. Cameron Conover called her “the daughter of Anson County.”
Walter R. Turner is editor of the Anson County Historical Society’s newsletter.