Jesse Hilton Stuart
Jesse Hilton Stuart b 8 AUG 1906 (or 1907) Cedar Ripples,
Greenup Co KY d 17 Feb 1984 Ironton, Lawrence Co OH buried Plum Grove Cemetery,
Greenup Co KY; s/o
Mitchell Clay Stuart and Martha Hylton. Jesse Hilton Stuart m. 14 Oct 1939
Ashland, Boyd Co KY to Naomi Deane Norris b 16 Apr 1908 Hopewell, Greenup Co KY.
(More about Jesse
Hilton Stuart). Child of Jesse Hilton Stuart and Naomi Deane Norris;
I. Jane Stuart b 20 Aug 1942
Although Jesse Stuart Ventured outside of W-Hollow many
times during his life, he always returned to the place of his birth.
His stories all characterize the type of people he knew and depict the
way of life he grew up with. In his poem, "Kentucky is My Land,"
Stuart expresses his love for his homeland.
"[…] And when I go beyond the border,
I take with me growth and beauty of the seasons,
The music of wind in pine and cedar tops,
The wordless songs of snow-melted water
When it pours over the rocks to wake the spring.
I take with me Kentucky embedded in my brain and heart,
In my flesh and bone and blood
Since I am of Kentucky
And Kentucky is part of me" (Jesse Stuart).
Jesse Hilton Stuart (August 8, 1906 – February 17, 1984)
was an American writer who achieved prominence in the short story,
poetry, and novels. Born and raised in Greenup County, Kentucky, Stuart
relied heavily on the rural locale of Northeastern Kentucky (and,
perhaps to some degree, Southeastern Ohio, mainly around the Portsmouth
area) for his writings. Indeed, he said that most of his stories were
elaborations of true incidents that he observed or had heard about. He
died at Jo-Lin nursing home in Ironton, Ohio which is near his boyhood
home. His work embodies the local color movement where dialogue and
plots are designed to give a stereotypical view of a region.
One day while he was plowing in the field, he stopped and wrote the
first line of a sonnet: "I am a farmer singing at the plow." the first
line of the seven hundred and three sonnets that he would collect in
Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow (1934). The book was described by the Irish
poet George William Russell (who wrote poetry under the name of AE) as
the greatest work of poetry to come out of America since Walt Whitman
published Leaves of Grass. Stuart was made poet laureate of the state
of Kentucky in 1954, and in 1961 he received the award from American
Academy of Poets.
His first novel was Trees of Heaven (1940). Set in rural Kentucky, the
novel tells the story of Anse Bushman, who loves working the land and
wants more land. Stuart's style is simple and sparse. Taps for Private
Tussie (1943) is perhaps his most popular novel, selling more than a
million copies in only two years. The novel also received critical
claim and won the Thomas Jefferson Southern Award for the best Southern
book of the year. In 1974, Gale Research (in American Fiction,
1900-1950) identified Jesse Stuart as one of the forty-four novelists
in the first half of the twentieth century with high critical acclaim.
Jesse Stuart was the second youngest of that group (William Saroyan was
one year younger).
Stuart published about 460 short stories. He wrote his first short
story "Nest Egg" when he was a sophomore in high school in 1923. The
story is of a rooster at his farm, whose behavior was so dominant that
it began attracting hens from other farms, leading to conflict with the
neighbors. Twenty years later, he submitted the story unchanged to the
Atlantic Monthly, which accepted the story and published it in February
of 1943; it was later collected in Tales from Plum Grove Hills.
One of his most anthologized stories is "Split Cherry Tree." In this
story, a high school teacher in a one-room schoolhouse keeps a boy
after school to work and pay for damage he did to a cherry tree. The
boy's uneducated father comes to school to argue with the teacher, but
comes to appreciate the value of higher education.
The theme of education appears often in Stuart's books. He described
the role that teaching played in his life in The Thread that Runs So
True (1949), though he changed the names of places and people. He first
taught school in rural Kentucky at the age of 19 at Cane Creek
Elementary School, which became Lonesome Valley in his book.
He had only been teaching a few weeks when a husky student returned to
school one day to beat him up. Stuart only weighed 150 pounds, and the
student not only was bigger, but also had a reputation as a successful
brawler. When Stuart defeated the boy in the fight, his reputation
increased in the community. Events such as this led Stuart to a
lifelong interest in improving the conditions of teaching.
The Thread that Runs So True (1949) has become a classic of American
education. Ruel Foster noted in 1968 that the book had good sales in
its first year. At the time she wrote, sales for the book had gone up
in each successive year, an astonishing feat for any book. The book has
continued continuously in print for more than fifty years.
Jesse Stuart State Nature Preserve
The natural settings of W-hollow were prominent throughout Stuart's
writings. Prior to his death he donated 700 acres (2.8 km2) of
woodlands in W-Hollow to the Kentucky State Nature Preserves
Commission. The Jesse Stuart State Nature Preserve is dedicated to
protecting the legacy of Stuart, and ensures that a significant portion
of W-Hollow will remained undeveloped in perpetuity. The trail system
is open to the public from dawn to dusk all year long. The nearby
Greenbo Lake State Park celebrates Stuart's life each fall with a
"Jesse Stuart Weekend", featuring tours of the nature preserve and