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; m. 14
Oct 1939 Ashland, Boyd Co KY to
Naomi Deane Norris b 16
Apr 1908 Hopewell, Greenup Co KY. Jesse Hilton Stuart (August 8, 1906 February
17, 1984) was an American writer who achieved prominence in writing short
stories, poetry, and novels. Born and raised in Greenup County, Kentucky, Stuart
relied heavily on the rural locale of Northeastern Kentucky for his writings.
The following was written 18 August, 1985 by real estate reporter, Dee Wedemeyer,
in the New York Times a year and 6 months after the death of Jesse Hilton
KENTUCKY'S LIVING FICTION
By DEE WEDEMEYER; DEE WEDEMEYER IS A REPORTER FOR THE REAL ESTATE SECTION OF THE
Published: August 18, 1985
You may know someone who seems to have stepped out of the pages of a book; here
in Greenup, in the Appalachian foothills of Kentucky, you can meet people who
stepped into the pages of the late Jesse Hilton Stuart's fiction and see the
spot where the event took place.
Like Thomas Wolfe, who fictionalized his family and friends in Asheville, N.C.,
Mr. Stuart wrote about people and incidents he knew, altering them
imaginatively. In the process, he created a fictional portrait of a community
and way of life in this region, which he often identified as ''Greenwood'' in
Jesse Stuart died last year at the age of 78, having created nearly 4,000
characters in 57 books, including 9 novels, 18 collections of short stories and
8 volumes of poetry. Two of his books are regarded as classics of their genre:
''The Thread That Runs So True,'' about Stuart's early life as a rural
schoolteacher, superintendent and principal, and ''Taps for Private Tussie,''
the story of an irrepressible family who couldn't do a lick of work, but could
hold a Saturday-night dance any night of the week.
Unlike Thomas Wolfe's acquaintances, the residents of Greenup County, which now
has a population of about 40,000, were for the most part not angry about being
portrayed in works of fiction. Some never knew they were the basis for Stuart's
characters because they couldn't read and still can't. Many are proud of their
role in literary history. Stop at a house on Kentucky Route 1, where handmade
rugs are sold, and Irene Evans will tell you Stuart wrote about her father's
''I'm Finn, Jesse was Shan, Pa was Mick,'' says James Stuart, the author's
69-year-old brother, who is chairman of the Greenup County School Board.
About the best thing that can happen to a visitor to Stuart country is to join a
tour conducted by James Stuart, visit with Jesse Stuart's dignified, 77-year-old
widow, Naomi Deane and be guided in the search for living literary landmarks by
Ethel McBrayer, a childhood friend of the Stuarts and a member of the board of
the Jesse Stuart Foundation.
''I never have two tours the same,'' said Jim Stuart, who as often as twice a
week meets a tour bus at the Jesse Stuart Lodge at nearby Greenbo Lake State
Park, which is linked to the Stuart home in W-Hollow by a hiking trail.
''There's so much to tell about.''
W-Hollow, where the author spent all but two years of his life, is 28 parcels of
land, totaling 800 acres, purchased by the Stuarts over the years. The name is
derived from the ''W'' formed by W Creek in four hollows between the hills.
Before Jesse Stuart's death, the Stuarts gave half the property to the state as
a nature preserve and the rights to most of his works to the foundation that
bears his name. The foundation is working to have the Greenbo Lake State Park
and the nature preserve turned into a state literary park with markers to
indicate sites in Stuart's works. The foundation believes this would be a first
for a state park system.
Visitors to W-Hollow can see the actual limb that Nestegg, the champion rooster
in the story of the same name, roosted on and the bunkhouse in which Jim and
'' 'The Beatinest Boy' built that,'' said Jim Stuart, referring to the rail
fencing in W-Hollow built by Jesse Stuart's nephew, Eugene Darby, subject of the
story of that title. ''The 'Hot Collared-Mule' was right here where that car is
setting,'' he continued, referring to another short story about his father's
trading a mule that could only run if he was hot under the collar for one that
couldn't run at all if he was hot. ''W-Hollow is a site all itself.''
The house where Stuart lived was once a log cabin that his father rented near
the homestead of 45 acres that he bought for $300 in 1918. After Jesse Stuart's
first three books had been published and he had completed a year in Scotland on
a Guggenheim Fellowship, he married Naomi Deane Norris, also a teacher, whom he
had known for 17 years. They decided to renovate the cabin after his father
said, ''Jesse you have the bird, but you don't have the cage.'' The cabin was
enlarged several times to its present 10-room size and the logs were covered by
shingles made by Stuart's father. Since 1982 it has been included in the
National Register of Historic Places.
The Stuart house would stimulate anyone's Goldilocks urge to try every
four-poster bed, open every cupboard, read every book and test every chair, even
the little ones at a child's tea table in their daughter Jessica Jane's room.
Starched white curtains hang in the windows; each window sill holds a glass
collection. The window that served as the Riverton post office in Elwood
Morton's store, where Jesse Stuart walked to sell his eggs and mail his
manuscripts, is over one desk. Thomas Hart Benton's drawings that illustrated
''Taps for Private Tussie'' hang over the mantle. The quilts and baskets and
blue china, which have become popular in boutiques in recent years, evoke the
suspicion that the country people who sold their crafts to city stores may have
kept the really good stuff for themselves.
The log-cabin-patterned quilt in the master bedroom was made by Jesse Stuart's
mother and incorporates pieces of his childhood clothing. In the kitchen stands
a white oak basket just like the ones mentioned in several stories. Stuart's
mother supplemented the family income by making these baskets and Stuart would
take them to town on horseback to sell.
''He wrote a book in nearly every room in the house but the dining room,'' said
Naomi Deane, ''and there we edited a book.''
Many of the people who lived in the cabins and small houses in W-Hollow have
moved away or died, but it is still possible to track down some of the people
who became models for characters in Stuart's tales or their relatives and come
away wishing Stuart could have lived long enough to write sequels. In Druthers,
a fast-food restaurant, Ethel McBrayer, a retired school principal, pointed out
a relative of the fictional Tussies, who as Stuart wrote, had clear blue eyes
that ''looked at you and soon looked away.'' On Main Street is First and Peoples
Bank, where Mrs. McBrayer worked during the war, and saw ''Aunt Vittie Tussie''
collecting contributions for flowers for funerals. Mrs. McBrayer recalled a
friend who tried to register a ''Tussie'' child in school and found out that the
child had never been named: The parents ran out of names and decided the child
could name himself. On Riverside Drive she pointed out her father's home, which
she believes was the model for the 16-room mansion that the Tussie's moved into
after they inherited $10,000.
''It could have been,'' said Florence Blair, in an impromptu tour of the
mansion. ''Jesse Stuart was awful bad about mentioning things.'' Robert Blair,
her husband, offered a shot of gin and added that he knew a man who ''owned the
plow'' in the title of Mr. Stuart's much-acclaimed book of poetry, ''Man with a
In front of the county courthouse, is the Jesse Stuart monument, built 27 years
before he died. In Plum Grove cemetery, his grave is marked with a granite stone
that - appropriately for a man who wrote poems on leaves and tobacco sacks -
includes his words on all four sides.
Jesse Stuart - (1906-1984)
By Carolyn Bills
"I know as surely as I live and breathe the positive proof
of what education can do for a man." Jesse Stuart, The Thread that
Runs so True
Jesse Stuart was born August 8, 1906 in a small cabin in Greenup
County , Kentucky a few miles from the Ohio River. His parents were Mitchell and
Martha Hilton Stuart, and he was the second of seven children. Jesse Stuart's
father was a coal miner and a tenant farmer, and even though he was uneducated,
Stuart had an incredible amount of respect for him. Mitchell Stuart's philosophy
was, "Since I didn't get any education, I don't want my youngins to grow up in
this world without it. They'll never know what they're missin' until they don't
have it". Jesse Stuart started school at Plum Grove in 1912. He was an eager and
competitive student, and he wrote his first short story about the Easter Bunny
at the age of eight. Stuart was extremely bright, reaching the seventh grade
by the time he was ten years old.
In 1922, Jesse Stuart started to attend Greenup High School. Stuart continued to
be a strong student, and really developed as a writer during his high school
years. The summer after his junior year, he "sat in for the teachers'
examination and got a second-class certificate". That summer he got his first
taste of teaching, at Cane Creek Elementary School.
Stuart graduated in 1926, and in September he was accepted to Lincoln Memorial
University in Harrogate, Tennessee. He called it "the college that'd take me,"
and he worked for the school in his free time in order to pay his tuition
(Richardson, 67). He wrote about five hundred poems there, and in three years
became "the first of [his] father's people to finish college". After his
graduation, Stuart returned to W-Hollow and got a teaching job. He was a
successful teacher, and was made principal of Greenup High School the following
year. After two years back home, he once again ventured abroad, to attend the
graduate school at Vanderbilt University.
Jesse Stuart returned to Kentucky in 1932, and by the time he was twenty-four
years old, he was asked to be the superintendent of Greenup County Schools.
After a few years of serving in this position, Stuart received a Guggenheim
Fellowship and traveled to Scotland, the home of his ancestors. He stated that
his plan was to "[
] discover existing similarities in the highlanders of
Kentucky and Scotland Certain surviving traits as indicated in the poetry and
song in the Kentucky Highlanders of Scottish ancestry". When he returned to his
home, he started a newspaper and taught a year at Portsmouth High School.
After his year at Portsmouth, Jesse Stuart left the profession of teaching to
become a sheep farmer. He married his childhood sweetheart Naomi Deane Norris on
October 14, 1939, and together they lived in W-Hollow, running the farm while
Stuart worked on his first novel, Trees of Heaven. His daughter Jane was born
August 20, 1942. For the next two decades, Jesse Stuart raised sheep, published
books, and gave lectures around the country.
In 1960, already established as a successful and famous American author, Stuart
traveled to Egypt. He spent the next ten years teaching and lecturing all over
the world. When Stuart returned to W-Hollow, he stayed there for the rest of his
life. He continued to write and publish books until 1977 when his health began
to decline. For eight years, he suffered frequent heart attacks and strokes,
finally passing away on February 17, 1984. He was buried in Plum Grove Cemetery
in Greenup, Kentucky, in the land where his old school once stood. Jesse Stuart
lived in Greenup for most of his life, but he made a mark on the entire world.
In his biography, Beyond Dark Hills , Stuart declared, "[
] these hills will not
always hold me. I shall go beyond them some day". He fulfilled this desire both
literally and figuratively, traveling to all fifty U.S. states and over thirty
countries, and leaving a legacy of more than 60 published works.
"And I am firm in my belief that a teacher lives on and on through his students.
I will live if my teaching is inspirational, good, and stands firm for good
values and character training. Tell me how can good teaching ever die? Good
teaching is forever and the teacher is immortal."
- The Thread that Runs so True
Jesse Stuart's first major influence was his English teacher at Greenup High
School, Mrs. R. E. Hatton. She recognized him as a very strong English student
and encouraged him to write short stories. Stuart would often stop by before and
after class to chat with her, and according to her son Robert Hatton, "Jesse
used to take Mother out to pick wild flowers together". Stuart was Mrs. Hatton's
favorite student, and he thought of her as his "literary mother".
Dr. Robert Edward Hatton, Mrs. Hatton's husband and the principal of the school,
also served as a mentor to the young Jesse Stuart. They studied the Bible
together, and Stuart credited Mr. Hatton with helping him to undergo the
spiritual realization that motivated him to achieve so much in later years. One Bible verse, Luke 17:21, stayed with Stuart for his entire
life. The verse reads, "'Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or lo there! For
behold, the kingdom of God is within you.'" These words served as the foundation
for Stuart's autobiography, The Kingdom Within.
In high school, Jesse Stuart read a book of poetry by Robert Burns and was awed
by the writer's talent, saying, "my prayer, if I ever prayed one then, was to
write poetry that would endure like the poetry of Robert Burns".
Jesse Stuart was also impressed with Emerson's essay, Nature. "Emerson lived
with me. He walked up that ridge with me".
At Lincoln Memorial University, Stuart's English professor Harry Harrison Kroll
was an influential advisor to the aspiring writer. Stuart's friend Lucille
Jordan said that "'Kroll was his ideal'" (Richardson 81). In his autobiography,
To Teach, To Love, Stuart says, "I remember when Mr. Kroll told me that poetry
was my field and for me to 'go after it.' He told me to bring two or more poems
to the class, and I went with sixty poems and felt a little hurt when I didn't
get to read all of them".
Also at LMU, "[Stuart] received intellectual stimulation from his classmates Don
West and James Still, who were later to also achieve recognition for their
literary portrayal of mountain people" (Jesse Stuart ). Stuart befriended West,
and the two would remain friends long after their college days.
As a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, Stuart exchanged ideas with
Robert Penn Warren, who would later become famous as well (Jesse Stuart). The
two authors remained friends after college and wrote introductions for a few of
each other's works.
III. Writing Habits and Locations
"Jesse Stuart represents the viable elements of regionalism. Born in the
northeast corner of Kentucky, a lifelong resident of the area, a farmer,
schoolteacher, hunter, and fisherman in Greenup, Carter, and Floyd counties, he
brings to his fiction ancestral links with the region, personal familiarity with
places and history, sympathy with and even at times a little scorn for the
John T. Flanagan (Essays on His Work 71-72)
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).
From Man With a Bull-Tongue Plow:
When golden leaves begin to shiver down
Among the barren brush beneath the trees,
And scarlet leaves and yellow and light-brown
Begin to play in wind and pepper down
To earth-- these clean and frosted leaves drip down,
Then it is time the corn is in the stack,
Potatoes in the hole--hay in the mows.
This is the time rust has grown on the plows;
The time to haul the pumpkins to the shed,
Since frosts have come and pumpkin vines are dead.
And this is time to garner autumn fruit,
Give unto earth the waste--you take the loot--
And time to run the apples through the press
And share the multi-colored ruggedness
Of shreds that drop from each tree's golden dress.
(From Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow).
From Head o' W-Hollow (1936):
[The] road that leads to W-Hollow is a wagon road, the first three miles of it.
For the rest it's a cow path, a goat path, a rabbit path, a fox path, a mule
path-- it is whatever you want to call it. But the drum of the automobile is far
away. The clockin of the horses hoofs used to beat this road-- and still
W-Hollow is a place in the sun, fenced in by the wind...its just a place with
four seasons, wind, sun, rain, snow, ? with scrub oaks and old log houses and
new plank shacks--a place that's somewhere for some and nowhere for most.
In the spring you can hear the beetles and the whippoorwills...you can hear the
wind slushin around in the leaves. In the summer you can hear the wind and the
corn blades parleyin around. You can hear the grasshoppers and the crickets. You
can hear the lazy wind.... The whole Hollow looks lazy in the summer sun. And
the sun allus shines on W-Hollow in Kentucky. It never reaches some of it until
noon. But it gets there.
In the fall you can see the brown leaves along the path, and you can see them
flyin in the wind. You can hear the beetles in the bean-patch--and down in the
old cornfields. Falltime is good to hear in W-Hollow...a place in the sun,
walled in by the wind and the hills,--nowhere for many--somewhere for some.
Jesse Stuart was constantly writing during his life. He wrote hundreds of poems
in college, and no matter what his current profession was, he always kept a side
project of a story, novel, or book of poetry going. Stuart said in the
application for his Guggenheim Fellowship, "
I just love to write. I love to
make living people I know move for me on paper. I wrote poetry all the time I
was in college all the time I was in the mills where there were clouds of
smoke by day and pillars of fire by night".
In 1954, Jesse Stuart was named Poet Laureate of Kentucky.
In 1955, Stuart received the Academy of American Poets Award.
In 1975, Stuart was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
In 1981, Stuart was honored with the Kentucky Media Award.
V. The Complete Works of Jesse Stuart
(Total of 62)
Autobiography, Autobiographical Fiction, and Biography:
Beyond Dark Hills: A Personal Story. 1938.
The Thread That Runs So True. 1949.
The Year of My Rebirth. 1956.
God's Oddling: The Story of Mick Stuart, My Father. 1960.
To Teach, To Love. 1970.
My World. 1975.
Dandelion on the Acropolis: A Journal of Greece. 1978.
The Kingdom Within: A Spiritual Autobiography. 1979.
Trees of Heaven. 1940.
Taps for Private Tussie. 1943.
Mongrel Mettle: The Autobiography of a Dog. 1944.
Foretaste of Glory. 1946.
Hie to the Hunters. 1950.
The Good Spirit of Laurel Ridge. 1953.
Daughter of the Legend. 1965.
Mr. Gallion's School. 1967.
The Land Beyond the River. 1973.
Harvest of Youth. 1930.
Man With a Bull-Tongue Plow. 1934.
Album of Destiny. 1944.
Kentucky Is My Land. 1952.
Hold April: New Poems by Jesse Stuart. 1962.
Autumn Lovesong: A Celebration of Love's Fulfillment. 1971.
The World of Jesse Stuart: Selected Poems. 1975.
The Seasons of Jesse Stuart: An Autobiography in Poetry 1907-1976. 1976.
Short Story Collections (some with poems included):
Head o' W-Hollow. 1936.
Tales from the Plum Grove Hills. 1940.
Men of the Mountains. 1941.
Clearing in the Sky & Other Stories. 1950.
Plowshare in Heaven. 1958.
A Jesse Stuart Reader: Stories and Poems. 1963.
Save Every Lamb. 1964.
A Jesse Stuart Harvest. 1965.
My Land Has a Voice. 1966.
Stories by Jesse Stuart. 1968.
Come Gentle Spring. 1969.
Seven by Jesse. 1970.
Come Back to the Farm. 1971.
The Best-Loved Stories of Jesse Stuart. 1972.
Dawn of Remembered Spring. 1972.
32 Votes Before Breakfast: Politics at the Grass Roots as Seen in Short Stories
by Jesse Stuart. 1974.
The Short Stories. 1974.
Land of the Honey-Colored Wind. 1982.
The Beatinest Boy. 1953.
A Penny's Worth of Character. 1954.
Red Mule. 1955.
The Rightful Owner. 1960.
Andy Finds a Way. 1961.
A Ride with Huey, the Engineer. 1966.
Old Ben. 1970.
Come to My Tomorrowland. 1971.
If I Were Seventeen Again and Other Essays. 1980.
Lost Sandstones and Lonely Skies and Other Essays. 1980.
Time, a Story. 1939.
Huey, the Engineer. 1960.
Split Cherry Tree. 1990.
Honest Confession of a Literary Sin. 1977.
Rebels with a Cause. Delivered May 29, 1967.
Up the Hollow from Lynchburg. With photographer Joe Clark. Introduction and
descriptive text by Jesse Stuart. 1975.
The Only Place We Live. With August Derleth and Robert E. Gard. Ed. Mark E.
Outlooks Through Literature, as editor, with Robert C. Pooley, Lillian White,
Jay Cline. 1954.
Short Stories for Discussion, as editor, with Albert K. Rideout. 1965.
VI. Critical Reviews of Stuart's Work
On the Web:
This site contains a critical review of Stuart's "Dawn of Remembered Spring" by
Danny L. Miller. http://spider.georgetowncollege.edu/htallant/border/bs8/dmiller.htm
This site contains an essay by Amanda McCullough about nature imagery in the
works of Jesse Stuart and William Wordsworth. http://athena.english.vt.edu/~appalach/essaysS/stuword.htm
Hopkinson, Shirley L. "Jesse Stuart on Education." Library Journal. 15 Nov 1991:
Bowers, John. "Jesse." The New York Times Book Review. 19 Aug 1984: 11.
"Best-loved Short Stories of Jesse Stuart." Publishers Weekly. 20 Aug 1982: 57.
Herndon, Jerry A. Jesse Stuart, The Man & His Books. Ashland: The Jesse Stuart
Clarke, Mary Washington and J. R. LeMaster, eds. Jesse Stuart: Essays on His
Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1977
VII. Where to Find Jesse Stuart Collections
The Camden-Carroll Library at Morehead State University (http://www.morehead-st.edu/units/library/index.html)
contains an extensive collection of Jesse Stuart's works and manuscripts.
The Special Collections Department at Murray State's Forrest C. Pogue Library
(http://www.murraystate.edu/msml/Pogue.html) contains a collection of Jesse
Stuart photographs, first editions, manuscripts, and memorabilia.
The Special Collections Department at Eastern Kentucky University (http://www.library.eku.edu/SCA/)
has a series of recorded lectures presented by Jesse Stuart while he served as
an author-in-residence at EKU in 1966. The tapes have not been transcribed, but
they can be listened to at the university library.
The Jesse Stuart Foundation
Dr. James Gifford, Executive Director
P.O. Box 391
Ashland, Kentucky 41114
This site contains a short biography of Jesse Stuart by Chad Barringer.
This site contains a short biography of Jesse Stuart by Jamie Ballard.
This site contains a biographical sketch of Jesse Stuart, a few selected works,
comments about Stuart by other authors, and a chronological list of all of
This is the official site of the Jesse Stuart Nature Preserve in Greenup County
This is a University of Louisville Ekstrom Library site with a reference to
Jesse Stuart's Poet Laureate Award in 1954. It contains links to some of the
sites already listed above and links to information about other Kentucky
IX. Works Cited
Ballard, Jamie. "Jesse Stuart." KYLIT A Site Devoted to Kentucky Writers.
http://www.english.eku.edu/SERVICES/KYLIT/STUART1.HTM. 6 Feb. 2001.
Barringer, Chad. Jesse Stuart . http://athena.english.vt.edu/~appalach/writersS/stuart.html.
23 Feb. 2001.
Clarke, Mary Washington and J. R. LeMaster, eds. Jesse Stuart: Essays on His
Work. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1977.
Jesse Stuart. http://www.morehead-st.edu/projects/village/jshome.html. 6 Feb.
Richardson, H. Edward. Jesse: The Biography of an American Writer ~ Jesse Hilton
Stuart. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1984.
Stuart, Jesse. The Thread That Runs So True . New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
Stuart, Jesse. To Teach, To Love. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1970.
This essay was submitted by a student of Breen Reardon, an English teacher at
Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.