A Century in the Making



Article Published: Nov. 15, 2012 | Modified: Nov. 15, 2012
A Century in the Making

Mary Nelson Carter

Photo submitted



A Blowing Rock author who died in 1908 has a brand new book out this fall.

Mary Nelson Carter, author of “Phases of Life Where the Galax Grows” and founder of the original Blowing Rock Lending Library, has recently had her second book, "A Fox in Paris," published by Infonouveau, an online book publisher.

“A Fox in Paris,” an unfinished manuscript at the time of Carter’s death, was recently fleshed out by her great-great-grandson, Perry Vayo. He finished the text and added illustrations. Carter’s story is her fictional retelling of an old folk tale.

“As for how I found the manuscript, it was left to me in an old box of family items that had been stored down in North Carolina for many years, on my great aunt’s farm outside of Chapel Hill,” Vayo said from his home in Rochester, N.Y.

“As I was sifting through all the items, I found an old envelope that had a stack of faded, hand-written page inside. Those were the beginnings of ‘A Fox in Paris.’”

Whereas “Phases of Life Where the Galax Grows” is a historical account of the lives of people living near Blowing Rock between the time of the Civil War and the turn of the century, “A Fox in Paris” is pure fiction aimed at younger readers.

“It is a timeless tale of the triumph of the spirit,” Vayo said of “A Fox in Paris.”

“We have broken some new technical ground with the iPad version of this book, adding animation and interaction that not only enhances the story, but also provides a learning experience, as well,” he said. “It is truly a great new take on an old bedtime tale.”



Mary Nelson Carter


According to Vayo, Mary Nelson Carter was originally from New England, the daughter of a Nantucket merchant shipping captain named John Bunker and an Irish mother. The family lived first in New York City and then in Fairfield, Conn.

She married Dr. Charles Carter, a doctor in the Union Army, in New York in 1863.

After the Civil War, the Carters relocated to the Philadelphia area, where Charles established a successful medical practice.

The Carters began to make regular forays to the mountains of North Carolina, where they fell in love with Blowing Rock and its inhabitants.

When an epidemic hit the mountain region in the late 1870s, the Carters decided that the doctor’s medical skills were needed more in Blowing Rock than in Philadelphia, and the couple moved there full-time.

While Charles Carter tended to the sick and injured, Mary Carter worked to improve the literacy rate among her new mountain neighbors.

The Carters lived in Blowing Rock until their deaths, Charles’s in 1898 and Mary’s in 1908.

“Mary Carter and her husband are both remembered in Blowing Rock for their contributions to the community,” Vayo said. “In Mary’s case, it was her long work fighting illiteracy in the region and the establishment of a free library, in a building they built right on the lawn beside their house, that secured her place in the town’s history.

“Her ‘Lend-A-Hand Library,’ which she started, working with Rev. William Savage, the Episcopal minister in Blowing Rock, slowly grew over the years, until, in 1928, long after her death, it became the Blowing Rock Community and School Library.”

The Mary Nelson Carter Memorial Lend-a-Hand Library at one time held more than 1,000 books. Its book borrowing service was “free to mountaineers, but visitors pay $1 per season.”

A publishing company called McClurg in Chicago first published “Phases of Life Where the Galax Grows” in 1900. The book was part of a series, titled “North Carolina Sketches.”

Carter based her book on conversations with folks who lived in the hills and hollows around Blowing Rock. Many of the stories feature the women of Appalachia and their remembrances of life during and after the Civil War.

Carter took pictures of her interviewees, and several of them now are featured in a newly republished edition of “Phases of Life Where the Galax Grows.”

“The area was changing quickly, and the old culture was being pushed out by a wave of new residents, and she wanted to record as much as possible before it was gone,” Vayo said.



‘A Fox in Paris’

Vayo described the storyline of “A Fox in Paris” thusly: “On a sultry August day in the summer of 1836, a young boy from the countryside of Bordeaux is abandoned to his fate on the streets of Paris by his unscrupulous cousin. Far from being the ‘City of Light,’ for the poor and the homeless, the city can be a dark and dangerous place. For 11-year old Lucien Lehun, this is his new home.

“After the death of Lucien’s well-to-do uncle, his cousin takes control of the family estate and decides to rid himself of his new ward and steal the inheritance left to Lucien. It is this selfish ambition that lands Lucien – frightened, penniless and alone – on the streets of Paris with only his treasured copy of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ to call his own.

“As Lucien struggles to survive, it is the lessons learned from his uncle and the constant companionship of a very special dog that prove more valuable than money. The little dog and the boy become an inseparable team, caring for each other through good times and bad, like Crusoe and Man Friday in Lucien’s favorite book. By staying true to the values of generosity, charity and optimism, instilled in him by his beloved uncle, they not only survive, but thrive against all odds.”

For more information on Mary Nelson Carter’s books, visit http://www.infonouveau.com.

Additional Images

Mary Nelson Carter
Photo submitted

‘A Fox in Paris’ was an unfinished manuscript by Carter, discovered more than a century later by her great-great-grandson.
Image courtesy of Infonouveau

Author Mary Carter Nelson documented the lives of people living near Blowing Rock between the time of the Civil War and the turn of the century.
Photo submitted

Carter based her book, 'Phases of Life Where the Galax Grows,' on conversations with folks who lived in the hills and hollows around Blowing Rock.
Photo submitted

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