Mary Murfee
(Charles Egbert Craddock)
Novelist of Southern Life
1850 – 1922


Mary N. Murfree was a novelist that portrayed Southern life and scenery, occupying a unique place in the literary field. Her early sketches were published in the Atlantic Monthly and her stories met with great success. She opened up a new field and people read her stories with great enjoyment.

Born Mary Noailles Murfree in Murfreesboro , Tennessee on January 24, 1850 , she was born into a prominent family after which the town was named. She spent at the family’s Murfreesboro Estate, Grantland, but moved in 1856 to Nashville , where she was to grow into adulthood.

Her father was a lawyer, William Law Murfree and her mother was Pricilla Dickinson Murfree. Both parents encouraged their daughter’s education, both intellectually and culturally, so Mary grew up in a literary environment.
Because of partial paralysis caused by a fever when she was four, Mary wasn’t able to participate in sports, so turned to reading instead. Because of her disability, Mary began her education at home, but upon moving to Nashville , she was enrolled in the Nashville Female Academy . After graduating, she was admitted to Chegary Institute, a finishing school for girls in Philadelphia , when she was seventeen. It was during her years at Chegary that she developed a passion for music and poetry.

Throughout her childhood, the Murfree family spent summers at Bersheba Springs in the Cumberland Mountains , a popular resort for wealthy southern families. It was there that she gained first hand knowledge of the character and customs of mountain people that would later influence her writings.

At the age of twenty-two, Mary made plans to pursue a writing career. Two years later, her first article, “Flirts and their Ways”, appeared in Lippincott’s Magazine under the pen name of R. Emmet Dembry. In 1876 she sold her first two mountain stories to Appleton ’s Weekly. In 1878, The Atlantic Monthly published an article of hers under the pen name of Charles Egbert Craddock.

During the nineteenth century, there were few educated women it was uncommon for a woman author to pursue a career in writing. Women writers often used pseudonyms that were masculine to gain greater success. Mary’s publishers thought that they were dealing with a man and were greatly surprised when she visited Boston and called upon them.

Some her greatest works are “Where the Battle was Fought”, “In the Clouds”, “The Story of Keedon Bluffs”, “The Despot of Broomsedge Cove”, “The Stranger People’s Country”, and “The Prophet of the Great Smokey Mountain.”