Those of you who have been blessed with an older sister probably understand some of my experiences. All my life I followed my older sister as she became involved in various activities. When she wanted to build a bookcase for her room, I was drafted as a helper to sand the boards before she applied the varnish. When she decided to create some marionettes, I made one too under her direction. All her life she has been a writer. So naturally I also started a writing schedule of my own.
Friday, Feb. 8, my big sister is coming to Cottey College to give a presentation of her historical novels, many describing some history pertaining to the Vernon County area. So of course, I will join her, along with my two daughters in giving this program. This will be a special event for us because we are both then following in the footsteps of our oldest sister. We both shadowed our sister, Miriam Gray, who was the oldest in our family, and therefore was the first to attend college. And the college she attended was Cottey College. She first learned her life-long professional skills of dance and performed in the old Rosemary Hall. I never was able to see those programs since I wasn't born yet. But I did get to hear her give an acceptance speech in the same Rosemary Hall when she was made the honorary alumna after the publication of her book, "Physical Education Demonstration."
But now, Ellen Gray Massey, will be making a presentation in the Recital Hall at 7 p.m. about the books she has written which are set in this area, with historical facts, but using fictional characters. That is where my daughters and I come in. We will help her in some readings from her books.
My favorite of all of her books deals with Order No. 11. This historical military order during the Civil War forced everyone in northern Vernon County, all of Bates County and southern Jackson County to leave their homes or be taken to a concentration camp before their land was burned. This was an attempt to keep down the border warfare between the Kansan Raiders and the Missouri Bushwhackers. Ellen's book tells the story of a mother with three children whose husband had been forced into the northern army.
Ellen has had more than 30 books published, many dealing with the Civil War, others featuring the people and lifestyles of the Ozarks. For 10 years she taught a class at the Lebanon High School where the students published a quarterly magazine called Bittersweet. After retiring from public school teaching she was an adjunct professor at Drury College in Springfield and has been an instructor at Elderhostels for more than 20 years.
Of course, she will have her books on display and for sale if anyone wants their own copy. To make it even more of a family affair, my daughter-in-law will staff the book sale table and possibly other family members will be attending the presentation in the Recital Hall which is open to the public.
Ellen Gray Massey is a native of Vernon County, but she and I both had all our public school days in Washington, D.C., and now Ellen lives in her adopted Missouri area, the Ozarks, in Lebanon, Mo. However, she often returns to the family home, The Wayside, in the Ellis community to visit members of my family. It will be her first chance to meet her great-great-great niece, my great-great-granddaughter.
This was one time when I was ahead of my big sister.