Mary J. Messer is a successful business woman who has owned and operated many different types of stores as she, along with her husband, raised their three sons to adulthood and afterwards. She currently owns a small, used books store near Waynesville, NC.
Mary was raised in Haywood County, in the Smoky Mountains, of North Carolina. Her parents were both from the Spring Creek area of Madison County, which adjoins Haywood, but they moved to Haywood at the end of the depression. Her father was a tobacco farmer, logger, trapper and dairy man as well as moonshiner. Her mother raised the children, four living, one deceased at birth, to the best of her ability after suffering a traumatic, near-fatal brain injury prior to the birth of her second child, who did not survive.
Both of Mary’s parents suffered from the illness of alcoholism and her mother also displayed mental illness, possibly from the earlier brain injury. Of course, these illnesses were never treated or talked about, as was the usual way society handled them in that time. Poverty was almost a constant in Mary’s early life and the hunger that often went along with it. Mary witnessed violence against her mother and all the children by her father and this was perhaps the hardest legacy of all to bear. She is so thankful that there were caring neighbors during many of their most needy times who helped feed and give comfort to her and her siblings, not to mention the many barns and fields, and even the County Courthouse, where they often sought shelter from their father’s abuse in the middle of the night.
Mary is very grateful to all those who have assisted her in getting Moonshiner’s Daughter published. Nalley and Stuart Osland were the first in this long process as they took the spiral bound notebooks that Mary showed them and were able to transcribe them and save them to disk. This was not an easy process because Mary’s handwriting was difficult to read and her spelling even more of a challenge. But persist they did and at last Mary had something to work with. Mary will always be grateful to the Oslands and dedicates her book to them in thanks for their belief in her and their encouragement in the early days. Stuart has since passed on.
After printing the rough manuscript and showing it to some family members and close friends for comment, she realized that she would have to change names and some locations to protect herself and family members. Mary showed the rough draft to Lois Pryor Queen, who had hired her as a mother’s helper in the mid-1950′s, for her suggestions and approval. In turn, Lois asked her daughter, Buffy (known as Sara in the book), to also read the rough draft as Buffy was a writer and involved in an area writers group and the NC Writers Network. Buffy offered to become Mary’s editor. Buffy edited and fine-tuned the early draft and helped Mary produce a finished, ready-for-publication product, as well as find a printer.This process took two years. During this time, Mary’s other mother, Lois Queen, after giving her blessings and much encouragement to Mary, passed away in an accident. Mary also dedicates her book to Lois and her husband Richard for their kindness in her teen years.
An excerpt of Moonshiner’s Daughter was published in fresh…stories, poems, ideas, a literary magazine distributed throughout western North Carolina and has been positively reviewed in the Asheville Citizen-Times by Rob Neufeld and Edie Burnette, The Mountaineer by Bibeka Shrestha, Smoky Mountain News by Jeff Minick and The News-Record & Sentinel by Anna Freeman. Mary is very appreciative of all the support and encouragement she has received from the press prior to and since the publication of Moonshiner’s Daughter. She has also done many appearances, book signings and readings in the area and welcomes book store and book club invitations. She has received many e-mails and visits from readers thanking her for the courage she showed to write her book and sharing their own stories of hardship growing up and she is so thankful for them and the success they have given her as an author.
In addition, Mary would like to thank Dave Pelzer (“The Child Called It”) and Richard Pelzer (“A Brother’s Journey” & “A Teenager’s Journey”)for their courage to also tell about their childhood terror.