UDC 1912

Martha Jane Davis (Campbell) was born in Reed Creek, Henry County, Virginia in 1840. Her mother died when Little Mattie was two, and, her Turner grandparents (who lived nearby) took her to raise.

A pretty child with auburn curls and gray eyes, she soon became the spoiled darling of her grandmother, who preferred being called “Grahma”(Grandmere) possibly because she had grown up in the South of England. They lived in some style in a big house, not far from Martinsville.

0n the occasion of Martha’s 8Oth birthday, a very large party was planned. So many children had been invited, Martha Jane whimsically decided to dress as a child, herself.

Discarding her long black dress, she slipped on an up-to-date white frock belonging to her granddaughter, Louise, and had her thick white hair dressed (by Louise) into vertical “Mary Pickford” curls. The dress was shocking! It not only had short sleeves, it exposed at least five inches of leg. Or as the young dubbed it, the Bees Knees.

The party was a rousing success, and, as the satiated guests moved into the living room, several of the children tried to entertain Martha Jane with somersaults.

Suddenly, the guest of honor arose and remarked, “I’ll show you how children entertained adults when I was a child.” With that, she passed into the dining room and closed the door. Silence.

Then Martha Jane flung open the door and ran into the center of the room (“Ran?” I can hear you thinking. Fear not, I tell the truth. MJ might have been old, but she could move.) She then curtsied to the different groups and started her recitation:

A is for Archer, who sinks on his knees,
And shoots at a deer he surely sees.

D is for Dairymaid, so tidy and neat,
How pretty she looks on her rude oaken seat.

F is for Friar, a monk of old days,
How earnest he looks, as he fervently prays.

X is for Xantippi, wise Socrates wife,
Who tormented him so, he had no pleasure in life.

After completing her 26 letters, she curtsied again and then ran back into the dining room, closing the door behind her. Silence. Then she opened the door and queried “Well?”

Leaping to their feet, the guests gave Martha Jane a standing Ovation.
For just a moment, a curtain had opened on another word.

Joscelyn Dunlop

Joscelyn Dunlop is a Virginia native and a widely experienced journalist.

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