“What Is Art?”
“What is art but life upon the larger scale, the higher,
When graduating up in a spiral line
Of still expanding and ascending, gyres,
It pushes toward the intense significance
Of all things, hungry for the infinite.
Art’s life–and where we live, we suffer and toil.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browing
(Mrs. B. J. Marshall, Art Chairman of Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs)
“In this workaday world there seems very little time for the cultural things of life, but the nature of Quitman County is at once revealed in its love and activities in the Fine Arts, as well as in the Practical Arts and Crafts; here we find a painter, either accomplished, or in the making; there a musician, embryonic or accomplished, each contributing some part of himself in his art to the lives of those about him. Much of the artistic-soul has been expressed in various ways, such as are afforded by our several poets, historians, and crafters.1
“Art is not a thing to be hidden away in a dark corner to be preserved through generations, but a thing of beauty to be enjoyed by all people of all ages.”
During the past several years, appreciation of art has been stimulated and there is a general desire for art in everyday life. This has largely been done through the various art clubs, art exhibits, fine arts festivals, and pageants which have assured the taking of art to those who cannot come to art.
“Meanwhile, the study of art has entered the schools, giving the girl or boy a true understanding of the principles of art and instruction in creative work.”
The cultural development of the county has come largely through schools, clubs, and other group associations which have served as incentives for bringing out latent talent by way of encouragement, comparison, and criticism, this being particularly true of our poets, orators, and dramatists, who have made important literary contributions. The Coterie Club of Marks has encouraged literature by giving prizes each year for the best essay or poem written by pupils of the high school.
Though the Tuesday Book Club and the Friday Book Club, once Federated Clubs of Lambert, are now extinct, their work is seen in several fine boys and girls. The Tuesday Club educated Lilly Murphree and gave assistance to several other girls. The Friday Club sent Cecil Meade to a business college in Memphis.
Poets and Selections
The beloved late Mrs. Annie Turner was called Poet Laureate of the Coterie Club, writing verses for many significant occasions of the organizations, as well as appropriate tributes to members and visitors. She, too, loved to speak of her love for her family, her friends, and of nature through her lines.
Dr. B. J. Marshall, born in Alabama, January 1, 1881, has been a citizen of Quitman County since 1910, when he came here to practice dentistry. Among his poems are: “A New Deal,” “A Thought of Mother,” and “A New Day.” His poem, “Old Friends and New”, has been widely read and enjoyed.
“Old Friends and New“
“What thought could there more pleasant be,
Than friends of by-gone years?
Such brings a compensation for life,
Sorrow, gloom, and tears.
Yet friends of now, the faithful few,
And real ones whom we trust,
Breed hope and love and charity for mankind oft unjust,
Yet old or new, if friends endure
Existence seems worthwhile
And tho’ some claim but two or three,
The world should seem a smile.1
Miss Ruby Powers, born in 1902 in Montgomery County, near Kilmichael, has been a citizen of Quitman County for fifteen years. She attended the school for the blind in Jackson, and at the age of sixteen began writing poetry. She published books of poems in 1927, 1929, and 1936. The name of her favorite poem, “Sweet Home,” was inspired by a red rose blooming in her mother’s yard at Darling.
“Sweet rose, when you dear, fragrant bud appears,
My heart is filled with gladness and with song;
When you unfold in all your loveliness,
You chase away all thoughts of doing wrong.
“Sweet rose, with hue as brilliant and as brave,
You toil not, neither do you spin to grow;
Yet, you are clothed with grace and beauty rare
To make life’s garden brighter here below.
“Sweet rose, your presence always makes me feel
That I should love and serve my master more,
For He has blessed you, and He’ll bless
And clothe and feed us from His Bounteous store.”2
It will be of interest to readers to learn that Miss Ruby Powers, of Marks, has had the following poetry accepted for publication in the Crown Anthology of Verse, a standard compilation of contemporary poetry: “Dear Father, Hold My Hand.”
The inclusion of the poetry is a result of the author’s participation in a $250.00 prize poetry contest sponsored by Crown Publications. This volume will contain the representative work of this country’s eminent contemporary poets. The inclusion of the author’s work is a distinct sign of literary recognition.
The “Crown Anthology of Verse” will be on the market early in 1938, at which time prize winners will be announced.
The author’s literary efforts have already achieved publication in the following periodicals: “Baptist Record,” “Memphis Commercial Appeal,” “Quitman County Democrat,” and “Braille Lutheran Messenger.”
The following is a brief biographic sketch of the author: “Born near Kilmichael, October 11, 1902; entered Mississippi School for the Blind at Jackson, in 1910; graduated high school 1924; graduated in music in 1925; entered Perkins Institution, Watertown, Mass., in 1928; and took Harvard and Special Methods Courses for the teaching of the blind. She has been writing poems since she was sixteen years old, plays violin and piano, and is a member of the Baptist Church. She is also a member of Marks Coterie Culture Club, and has composed a number of sacred musical numbers. She is now transcribing books into Braille for libraries for the Blind.”3
A. J. Lowrey, born in Helena, Arkansas, is now living in Quitman County, and has been writing poetry for ten years. Several of his poems have been read over the radio and they were complimented by the announcer, as well as his friends. Lowrey’s “Home Renewed” has furnished inspiration to thousands in this county and elsewhere.
“Sometimes I think I cannot stem this tide,
And say I’ll cast my useless cares away
And drift upon life’s troubled waters,
Back to the quiet bay.
“And, then another thought would come
To give me hope and strength to row,
I start again with hope renewed,
To reach the other shore.
“And on and on, I struggle hard,
Against the oncoming tide,
‘Til, lo! behold, I make it safe,
Clear to the other side.”
Mrs. Pearl Marshall, talented local resident, was born in Attala County, but has lived in Quitman many years. Her poem, “The Grand Child,” has been selected by the National Poetry Committee to be used in the 1936 edition of American Poets. Mrs. Marshall wrote:
Song of the Night
“I heard a song in the hush of night,
Sweetest of melody-moonlight bright,
Heavenly strains from a nearby tree,
The song of a bird in ecstasy,
Glorious bird, your song so rare,
I know it was God who perched you there,
Outside my window this night divine,
To comfort this lonely heart of mine.1
Mrs. Fern Ellison Dorris, daughter of the late L. H. Ellison, and widow of the lamented Vernon Dorris, native of Tennessee, but adopted son of Quitman, received her early and high school education in St. Agnes Academy, Memphis, Tennessee.
She taught successfully in the Marks School for several years, being a resident here in the home of her sister, Mrs. W. A. Cox, and later attended Peabody College, Nashville, Tennessee, where she received an advanced degree, majoring in Geography, a subject of all-time interest to her. She is now teaching in the Georgia State College for Women, Milledgeville, Georgia, but in the interim has written a comprehensive geographical sketch, “The Yazoo Basin.” The pictures for the book are of scenes along the Coldwater river.
Lomax Lamb, graduate of Marks High School, and now a student at Yale College, where he will graduate at the age of twenty years, is a gifted young journalist. He is on the staff of the College Daily, a coveted position by both new and old men, and as “Elia” he writes a column entitled “a Lamb’s Tale”; during the vacation months he does feature writing for the Memphis Press-Scimitar. A sketch from this column is as follows:
“‘What this paper needs,’ the city editor somewhat confidentially yelled at me one scorching, summer morning, ‘is a live, clever story about fish bait. Get down to the river right away and find out all you can about the business.’
“Knowing nothing at all about the private life of what-ever-it-is-that-fish-bite, and feeling as much a sucker as the poor members of the finny tribe who swallow the bait, I regretfully began my search for the local minnow-magnet.
“The day was sultry and almost as quiet as one of those South American cities in the afternoon when everyone is taking his siesta; I stood at the top of the levee, with the sluggish Mississippi below me there at Memphis, anxiously looking up and down the embankment to see if any story possibilities were at hand. A few boats were docked, and a negro or two seemed to be lazily puttering around them, but there was no sign of anything else stirring.
“At first my hopes sank, but then I happened to glance over in the distance and saw an old shanty boat with a spruce, newly-painted sign prominently displayed. “Minnows, All Kinds of Fish Bait,” it read. “Fresh every day.”
“There was my man, I thought, and slowly made my way over the rough levee paving. It was an old gentleman I saw, rocking quietly back and forth in the shade of the deck. He must have been seventy-odd, and he had a magnificent white beard–some old river man I thought–who had seen better days.
“‘I’m from the Press-Scimitar,’ I told him, ‘and I’d appreciate it a great deal if you would give me some information about your minnow business.’
“He disappointed me, however, for the bait concern wasn’t his at all. It belonged to a friend who wasn’t there just then, who has just been selling minnows for a week and wouldn’t be able to tell me much anyway. Perhaps, if I came back later…
“‘Slowly I started back up the levee when a low voice called behind me. It was the old man:
“‘You said you were a reporter, didn’t you, from the Press-Scimitar?’
“You don’t happen to be that Pegler fellow that writes for y’all Westbrook Pegler?’ he hopefully inquired. ‘He certainly can do some fine writing.’
“I hated to disappoint the old gentleman. I hated to tell him I wasn’t the Westbrook Pegler; that I was just about the cubbiest of cub reporters; that I was merely sent out on this poor excuse of a story to help clear congestion in the office. I hated to tell him that–but I did.
“But now it seems I’ll have to pay another visit to that old shanty boat, I’ll have to tell the man that has the magnificent mustache that it may not have been Pegler he was talking to that day, but that it was someone who did try writing a column.
I’d tell him that this columnist may not have been born with the sarcasm, or brilliance, or venom of a Pegler; that instead, he preferred the optimistic approach. I’d tell him that the cub reporter tried to find amusing, or interesting occurrences in the news of the day that his readers might have missed and that he thought that they might enjoy. The old gentleman would learn of the difficult job I had to fill, and not the inconsiderable shoes of Percy Flage, and of hoping for the best.
“You can see I’d like to visit that shanty boat again.
Stacey Furr, Belen, showed ability in story writing during his high school days in Marks, and is now a member of the paper staff at Mississippi College.5,”
Mrs. Pearl Marshall, Marks, composes and presents plays in the various towns of the county. Among these are “The Love Trail”, a three act comedy; “Trials of a New Minister”, a three act comedy and drama; and “Over the Garden Wall,” a two act juvenile play.6
Musical standards have been continuously improved and extended since the county was in its infancy. Many parents are proud to make possible to their children musical training, either through teachers in the high school, or private instruction, and some of them have excelled in various branches of this art.
Ruby Powers, Marks, Mississippi, almost totally blind, is very much appreciated; she graduated in piano in 1925 at the Blind Institute in Jackson, and taught six months at the Baptist Orphanage. She studied violin seven years, and voice two years. Several times each year she gives sacred concerts over the county, which are very creditable and enjoyable and has composed some soulful sacred music, and is especially gifted in arranging hymn varieties and medleys.7
Mrs. Clyde Black Carr, Marks, studied piano from the age of five through high school at Oakland. She continued her musical education at Belmont College, Nashville, Tennessee, and at the Conservatory in Cincinnati, Ohio. She had instructions in the Oxford piano course, a teaching method of class work in Northwestern University, Chicago, and for the past five years has served efficiently as music teacher in the Marks and Lambert schools.8
Mrs. Myrtle Trevillion, Marks, is county director of the WPA Music Project, besides teaching piano to a number of pupils in her home. She is a past pupil of Miss Willie Abernathy, of Jonestown, and Mrs. Billy Broome (Vicksburg), nee, Margie Boone.
Her direction of the WPA Music Project has been marked by splendid group work, both instrumental and voice, a particular feature being her training of the colored folks in their spirituals and otherwise. She also stressed Music Appreciation and has furnished Gospel Songs in the churches on many occasions.
It is not amiss here to mention that Mary Elizabeth Trevillion, small daughter of “Myrt” (as she affectionately calls her mother), is a little artist, winning many local honors, in such as Juvenile Amateur Hours and other contests. She also represented Quitman County in Memphis on Bry’s Juvenile Hour, and won first place.5
Alice Gibson, of Belen, has contributed her share toward “spreading the gospel” of good music, doing teaching of the highest type for many years in Belen and Marks. She received her musical education in Randolph-Macon, and Martha Washington colleges, afterwards working in the Cincinnati Conservatory, and Chautauqua, New York.9
Oliver Manning, young musician, was born on June 13, 1919. He began his musical education at the age of six and studied under various public school teachers until he was nine years old. At this time, he was placed with Miss Ada Chapman, of Clarksdale, one of the best piano teachers in Mississippi. He spent the summer of 1935 studying under the renowned artist and piano teacher, Walter Chapman. Besides being a composer since he was twelve years old, Oliver has made public appearances since he was seven, and has won many honors in contests; outstanding of these is the piano scholarship to Louisiana State University, awarded by the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Club. He is now (1937) studying under Carleton Liddle, there. His novel arrangements of the well-known “Blue Danube” caused much favorable comment when he played on the Ensemble Hour at the University. It might be told that an academic scholarship to LSU may be added to the laurels of this young musician, this being awarded on the strength of his four-year average of 94.6 in high school work.
Margaret Lane Denny, a talented little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Denny, is a born musician and actress, being able to sing the words and tune to many songs as soon as she could talk.
Mary Ann Pegues, small daughter of Mrs. Ruth Pegues, of Marks, though only four years old, and never having had music lessons, can play a number of popular songs. She may well be classed as a “prodigy.”
Other valued musicians are: Mrs. Van Stone, who studied piano during her high school days, and three years at Blue Mountain College; Mrs. James Walker, who completed her musical education at the Bohlan School of Music in Memphis, Tennessee; and Mrs. G. P. Cooper, pianist and singer, receiving her training in Grenada College, all of Lambert.
Music has reached approximately every home in the county; in most families, at least one member can play or sing, probably nothing more advanced than popular tunes of hymns, but this is enjoyed. Music appreciation is also on the up-grade through the use of radios.
In 1928, Jack Lambert, of Memphis, came to Marks, and with the assistance of Mrs. Lomax Lamb, Mrs. L. A. Graeber, Mrs. J. M. Causey, and Mrs. Douglas Carr, organized a band of twenty pieces. Composed of pupils from all over the county, it was known as “The Quitman County Band.” After two and a half years, Lambert resigned, and Mr. [Frank] Pappalardo of Memphis, was engaged but was forced to resign on account of his business. He was succeeded by Charles Harrison, of Memphis, under whose supervision the band flourished for the next five years when his work in Memphis demanded his time. In the meantime, many of his pupils had finished high school, and entering college were given places in the college bands. Lomax Lamb plays in the band at Yale, and Douglas Carr at State College.
Each spring, Harrison has all his bands (about fifteen or twenty) to come to Memphis for the Cotton Carnival, and this united band has been the official musical unit, leading all parades. In 1936, the band was reorganized as the Marks High School Band, with Mr. [Simon] Kooyman and Mr. [Erby D.] Jones, of Clarksdale, as supervisor and instructor.
Churches have organized choirs, and inter-denominational choirs of twenty-five or more members; these furnishing music upon many special occasions.
Splendid junior choirs have been organized for children from the ages of nine to fifteen years, and are supervised by various musical leaders.
Our negroes realize that group work in music is pleasant and sometimes remunerative. Phil Coleman organized and directs “Coleman’s Band,” playing for colored normal and dances.5
“Painting is called ‘Silent Poetry,’ and poetry, ‘Speaking Painting.’ The laws of each art are convertible into the laws of the other.”—Emerson
Few people pass through life without at some time being stirred emotionally by art. To know and appreciate it is one thing, but more wonderful is it to act on this emotion or appreciation, by portraying to the eyes both in the still life and scenes of nature and familiar animal life.
Mrs. Matelaine Marshall Riddle, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. B. J. Marshall, of Marks, but now living in Virginia, studied art at St. Agnes Academy in Memphis, and Virginia Intermont College of Bristol, Virginia. She excels in the use of oil, water colors, pastel, pen and ink; specializing in still life, figure, landscape and commercial designing.
Mrs. E W. Bryan, of Belen, very appropriately calls her favorite painting, “The Seaman”; it is a busy of an old sailor wearing a rain hat and coat with a pipe in his mouth. Mrs. Bryan studied art three years at Galloway College in Searcy, Arkansas, and now decorates vases, lamps, and children’s toys, besides painting in water colors and oils.10
Annie V. Turner, Marks, enjoys drawing and painting the flowers in her own yard, and also does landscaping subjects very aptly. She attended “Palette and Brush” classes at Sophie-Newcomb, New Orleans, Louisiana; Lewisburg Seminary, Lewisburg, West Virginia; Academy of Arts in Memphis, and the Memorial Art Academy, Washington, D.C.11
Edith Pirtle, young artist of Lambert, and formerly artist for the Quitman County Historical Research Project, makes posters for sale, and if there is any special painting to be done she is called upon. Her talent is native, but studying at Delta State Teachers College at Cleveland, has been of vast aid to her.5
Mrs. G. O. Denton, of Belen, studied painting at Galloway College in Searcy, Arkansas; one of the most attractive pictures she has done is original, and is of a negro cabin on the plantation, and typifies, “Wash Day.”5
Mrs. B. J. Marshall, of Marks, oil, water color, and pen-and-ink artist, was born in Goodman. She studied art in Stanton College and under private teachers, and has taken summer courses in Sketching and Art Appreciation at the Art Institute in Chicago. She also capitalizes her artistic ability by designing all the floats and costumes for the cotton festival at Clarksdale each year, as well as those for the spring carnival in Memphis. On several occasions, Quitman County has won the loving cup for the most beautiful float in the Memphis parade. For the past two years, Mrs. Marshall has worked successfully in connection with the Rice Festival in Stuttgart, Arkansas.1
Dorothy Bryan Lipsey, natural artist of Lambert, paints in oils and water colors. She specializes in making plaques, decorating lamps, vases, and toys, and is also gifted in the handicrafts.
A beautiful oil painting of a natural bridge is the property of Mrs. W. E. Segrest, of Marks. It was painted by Alice English of Sledge, who studied art under Mrs. C. N. McGee of that place. Another outstanding picture of this young artist is a reproduction of Naomi and Ruth.
A lovely painting in an old-fashioned wooded frame adorns the wall of the bedroom of Myrtle Jones, near Belen. It is a portrait of Mrs. Cave Johnson, pioneer citizen of the county, and erstwhile friend of the Jones family, who hold it as a prized possession. It was painted when she was sixteen, and is a quaint likeness of a blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked girl, with golden curls, such as the subject was. A white fascinator is thrown over her head and drops softly over the shoulders, while on the front of the dainty blue dress is a lovely cameo.5
At the north entrance of the courthouse is a Memorial Fountain of chipped concrete about four feet in height and three and one-half feet in width. The monument was erected in honor of beloved little Henry Marks, son of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Marks, who met a tragic death falling from a favorite horse while out for an afternoon ride; at the bottom is the inscription, “In memory of little Henry, son of Sam and Lena Marks.”
“Handicraft is an art in flower.”
“They who are blessed with beautiful hands,
With tapering fingers of waxen hue;
Have indeed rare gifts from Heaven,
Only meant for a favored few.
“I know a pair of just such hands,
Which are skilled as well as fair;
Their touch upon the violin strings,
Breath music sweet and fair.
“There’s another pair of youthful hands
Which promise grace and skill;
They seem to have a magic touch,
As of the Master’s Will.
“I know a chubby pair of boyish hands
Which often hold the slot and sling;
They speak of strength and manhood,
Of service future years may bring.
“I love them all, these precious hands,
Each has its work in life to do;
And whatever such service means,
May each be strong; may each be true.
“There is another precious pair,
Careworn with tasks that life commands;
Yet they are dearer than all to me,
They are my Mother’s hands.”
——Hattye B. Sturkey.
Beatrice Hampton was born in Toccopola, Pontotoc County, February 14, 1874; on Thanksgiving day of 1894, she came to Belen, Quitman County as the bride of Venn A. Furr. They made this their home until 1902, when they decided to move to Germantown, Tenn. because of her poor health. She died in Memphis, February 16, 1906.
During 1892-1894, she attended the Industrial Institute and College at Columbus, where she studied wood carving. While there, Miss Hampton made several beautiful and useful pieces of furniture; a bookcase, made of hollywood, with a morning glory design, is done in deep carving which stands out in relief and has a dull finish. (A screen is made similar to the bookcase.) A table made of wild cherry is highly polished, and a blackberry design done in surface carving. There is also a cabinet made of wild cherry and done in wild rose design, with the deep carving standing out in relief.
The deep carving, which is more difficult to do, requires longer time than the etching or surface carving; each thoughtful touch shows its good effect; these pieces are in the present Furr home in Marks, and afford pleasure to those in possession and visitors.12
Ralph Deardoff, a resident of Marks, has a natural talent of wood carving. He received several months training a Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, and while in the army at Plattsburg, New York, did carpenter work, in which occupation he excels.13
Cornelia Richards, who is demonstration agent for the colored people, emphasizes to her clubs the importance of handicraft. They are taught to make mattresses, rugs, quilts, and bedspreads. They also learn to bottom old chairs with corn shucks.14
“So, too, in flower arrangement, the Master secures the appearance of naturalness by the most careful and daring manipulation. Twigs and stems are twisted and broken, leaves and petals, even-shaped and cut to produce the effect apparently so spontaneous, so free from artificiality.”
Members of the garden clubs of the county, realizing that beautiful surroundings lend an atmosphere of culture, have adorned, not only their homes, but also the public parks and school grounds with flowers and shrubs. They have, also, planted trees in memory of prominent citizens on the court lawn.
The Exchange Club, county demonstration club, home science and manual training teachers, have spent time and money in promoting a more beautiful county.
Closely behind the wire fence that runs along the front of Mrs. G. O. Denton’s yard in Belen, are numerous shrubs and climbing roses that ensure privacy. A few steps to the right of the circle driveway is a plot of ground surrounded by crepe myrtle, mock orange, and red buds of varying heights.
These form an attractive background for the low massed flowers growing in the front. In carefully harmonized groups, Mrs. Denton has planted flowers that ensure blossoms throughout the year–iris, tulips, and narcissus for early flowering, then others for the later blooming periods–zinnias, verbenas, petunias, varied colors of phlox, and salvias provide a beautiful foreground for the taller shrubs.
To the left of the drive are great shade trees of oak, pecan, and walnut, under which are placed chairs and benches. Comfortable swings are fixed at particularly logical spots. Near the lawn at the right of the house are about five pecans and an old persimmon tree.15
“A two story building in a southern setting,” aptly describes the picturesque place belonging to Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Guyton, of Marks. From the front of the home is seen an imposing view of the beautiful garden and changing the point of observation to the rear of the house, one views a large garden with an inner garden and beautiful lily ponds. At the front entrance of the grounds are golden arborvitaes and juniper pfitzers. In the corner are nandinas, and crossing the back are bush honeysuckles. Beyond this there are rose beds. Inside the garden are red maples, nandinas, variegated junipers, crepe myrtles, gladioli, and cape jasmine.
The lily pond is located in the inner garden with yellow jasmines, primroses, peonies, and nandinas. From the west side of a flagstone walk leads to the lower garden, where bloom crepe myrtles, lilacs, wisterias, and climbing roses. At the back are Chinese fir, American holly, pussy willow, flowering almond, red buds, Japanese weeping-cherries, and Japanese red-leaf maple. In the back garden are pecan and black walnut trees, with a grape arbor.
Concrete benches, placed here and there, are convenient as one gazes upon the lovely gardens and home. The yard has a border hedge.16
1 Mrs. B. J. Marshall
2 Miss Ruby Powers, Marks, Mississippi
3 Quitman County Democrat, November 25, 1937
4 Lomax Lamb, Marks, Miss.
5 Mrs. Blanche Denton, Jackson, Miss.
6 Mrs. Pearl Marshall, Marks, Miss.
7 Miss Ruby Powers, Marks, Miss.
8 Mrs. Clyde Carr, Marks, Miss.
9 Miss Alice Gibson, Belen, Miss.
10 Mrs. Dorothy Bryan Lipsey, Belen, Miss.
11 Miss Annie V. Turner, Marks, Miss.
12 Mrs. Lucy Furr, Marks, Miss.
13 Ralph Deardoff, Marks, Miss.
14 Cornelia Richards, Marks, Miss.
15 Mrs. G. O. Denton, Marks, Miss.
16 Mrs. J. S. Guyton, Marks, Miss.
Last Supper by Cosimo Rosselli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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