Mary Nelson Carter was not always a “southern writer” as advertised by her original publisher. She was a Northerner from a family of New England Yankees. The daughter of a well-heeled merchant captain from Nantucket and an Irish mother, the family lived in New York City, and later Fairfield, Connecticut. Their historic pre-Revolution home is one of the few buildings in Fairfield to survive the war, and is still standing today.
In 1863 she married a New Yorker, Charles Carter, at All Saint’s Church, in New York City. He had served as a doctor in the union army, and they were married while the Civil war still raged. After the war they relocated to the Philadelphia area where Charles began a medical practice. It was from there that their life-long love of the mountains of North Carolina began. After making several extended trips to that area, they fell in love with the people and the culture of the mountains around Blowing Rock. Finally, due to an epidemic that hit the area in the 1880s they decided that his skills as a physician were needed by the folks of Blowing Rock, more than by the people of Philadelphia, so, Blowing Rock became their new home. Mary died there in 1908, ten years after her husband.
Mary Carter and her husband are both remembered in Blowing Rock for their contributions to the community. 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 Reverend 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.
Her only known work to date, North Carolina Sketches: Phases of Life Where the Galax Grows was published in 1900. It was originally released a part of a three-part series of books about local cultures of the south. It will be joined, later in 2012, by a previously unknown work, begun by her, but not completed before her death.