Lecture topics like university, presenters a who’s who list

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lanier Library Celebrates 125 Years
By Gina Malone

Many of those who arrived on trains in Tryon’s earliest days were wealthy with ties to metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest; many were also artists, writers and other creative sorts. Finding the climate here hospitable, they would stay and spread the word to those back home.

Thus, many of the Lanier Club’s earliest members were part-time residents of Tryon – making for an inconsistent roster. Still they were accomplished in planning stimulating and informative lectures, readings and performances. Topics through the years ran the gamut from “Ancient Germanic Mythology” to the value of whole wheat bread to “Experiences While in Military Service: Jungle Fighting in the Solomon Islands.” In its earliest days, the library resembled a small university with discussions on world literature, art and history offered for enlightenment along with plays, musical performances, readings and art exhibits.

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In 1890, its inaugural year, the library benefited from a performance by resident actor William Gillette – who impersonated his Connecticut neighbor, Mark Twain – and a reading by Mary Lanier of some of Sidney Lanier’s poetry.

Naturalist John Burroughs was one of the famous who found his way to Tryon around 1918. The library’s Diamond Jubilee history, published in 1965, called him “a little old man with a long, white beard” whose “conversation was much prized.”

Edward Emerson and John Riis, sons of famous fathers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Jacob Riis, both spoke at Lanier – Emerson on “The Relation of Art to Life” in 1911, and Riis on forestry, in 1916.

The Peatties were a prominent family in Tryon, having hailed from Chicago where Elia Peattie was a literary critic for the Chicago Tribune and her husband, Robert, was also a newspaperman. Their son, Donald Culross Peattie, a naturalist and writer who made a study of the mountain regions, including Pearson’s Falls, also spoke on occasion to the club. Mrs. Peattie was particularly active, serving several terms as president. One of her most popular talks was “Some Literary People I Have Known,” during which she told of her acquaintance with Eugene Field, Julia Ward Howe, Edna Ferber, George W. Cable, and many other recognizable names of the early 20th century.

Also of Chicago’s intellectual elite was artist Madeline Yale Wynne, who club notes call a “celebrity guest” and say had “a delightful way of enjoying her [original] readings with the audience.” She lived in Tryon for several years, and was an active member of the library.

Margaret Morley, author of The Carolina Mountains, was another frequent visitor to club meetings, often speaking on botany. Lawrence Mazzanovich, a noted landscape artist of his day, often participated in musical performances at the library. Both lived in Tryon.

The Garrigueses were another prominent family in Tryon. Danish-born Dr. Henry J. Garrigues was a famous obstetrician of his day, having introduced antiseptic obstetrics into the U.S. in 1893. He retired to Tryon for health reasons, and his wife, Louise, was an active member of the club, serving as librarian in 1907. Their daughter, Cecile Talma, sang with the Metropolitan Opera, and upon visiting Tryon, gave a fundraising performance for the library.

Among many other distinguished writers – some Tryon residents – who spoke were Inglis Fletcher, Anne Bosworth Greene, Margaret Culkin Banning, Archibald Rutledge, Wilma Dykeman, Charles and Mary Beard, Clyde Edgerton and Lilian Jackson Braun.

In perusing the library’s history, one runs across the old familiar names of early Tryon – Doubleday, Grady, Whitney, Ballenger, Markham, Erskine, Missildine – and many others who shared their time, talents and knowledge with Lanier Library.

Next week’s article will highlight some of the library’s acquisitions through the years – including artwork, Tryon Toys, memorabilia and valuable books.