Pistol Packin' Mama

Every family has tales of courage and great achievements. Mine is no different. But it’s interesting that everyone ignores the bad. If you spend time at a Thanksgiving with us, you will hear about my grandmother shooting the biggest bear in Colorado, how Rev. Henry Fry introduced the Emancipation Bill in Virginia in 1785, and how John Christian Bullitt created the city charter for Philadelphia. You won’t hear stories about Captain William Tucker's retaliation for the 1622 Jamestown Indian massacre. He negotiated a peace treaty and then poisoned the liquor at the treaty celebration. This killed about 200 Powhatan Indians. Nobody uses this as a nighttime story.

One of my favorite ancestors is Lucy Meriwether Lewis Marks.

Lucy was born in Albemarle County, Virginia in 1752. In his book Lewis and Clark: Partners in Discovery, John Bakeless, describes Lucy as “a Virginia lady of the patrician breed, a benevolent family autocrat, with a character so sharp and definite that her twentieth-century descendents still refer to her as Grandma Marks.” The stories, filtered down to me are about her intellect and undaunted courage. She owned a large library, which was unusual for a woman at that time. She was an herb doctor which was probably better than doctors who believed in "bleeding.". And she was tough. Supposedly, during the Revolutionary War, she saved the plantation by wielding a rifle and driving away a party of drunken British soldiers. And, like my grandmother and her bear story, she was a great marks-woman. A tale often told is about a group of men who left Locus Hill on a deer hunt. They returned at the end of the day empty handed and exhausted. Fortunately, while they stalked the woods, Lucy shot a large buck in her front yard, and it was dressed and cooked when they returned.

Lucy’s life was filled with war, deaths, marriages, and scandal. Her son, Meriwether Lewis died, supposedly, from suicide. Until her death she maintained that he had been murdered. As an aside, most of the family continues to believe in the foul-play theory. John Hastings Marks, another son, died at a “retreat” for the mentally ill. Even after these deaths, and the deaths of her two husbands, Lucy continued to ride horseback, serve as an herb doctor, and run the farm. She was 85 when she died in 1837. Her stories have become part of the family yarn. Strangely, there are quite a few stories that involve women and guns. Hmmm.

Many thanks to Christine Adreae’s website on Lucy Merwiether Marks

Family tree courtesy of Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies © 2009 Jefferson LibraryMonticello

The Paper Trail

Paper promotions are the first items to be discarded every time I’ve judged a competition. The other judges typically say, “Well, they don’t count. You can do anything you want.” Oddly, that’s not true. There is a client with specific needs, audience goals, budgets, and logistical issues. So when the other judges say that I want to knock them up the side of the head. I will admit, however, that working on projects for Mohawk Via is my favorite activity. There are so may moving parts between the concept and technical issues. I need demonstrate multiple printing situations on multiple papers. The most recent project that will hit the streets in a few weeks, Mohawk Via Paper and Printing, used 20 forms, each with different inks. I love piecing it all together to take best advantage of the presses.

One of the reasons I love working on Via is Mohawk’s commitment to sustainable practices and education. The most important aspect in making something sustainable is to make something useful that will be kept. The Mohawk Via materials have always been educational. There are no fancy photos of a flower for no reason. They are textbooks on printing and paper.

Mohawk Via Paper and Printing started with the idea of making a satirical sex education manual, but about printing. It was a cute idea, but quickly became apparent that it was a one-liner joke. It was getting in the way of the purpose of the piece—to provide printing solutions and examples. Around the same time, I visited Virginia. I found a unique American point of view in the art, architecture, and design at Williamsburg, Monticello, and the Virginia Historical Society.

This American point of view: expansiveness, honesty, plain speaking, compassion, diversity, and courage tied in perfectly with the attributes of Mohawk Via. So the final piece moved in that direction. The sex ed manual might have been funny, but the Albert Bierstadt painting on the Via Smooth page is sublime. The final version will be in inventory on October 18th at mohawkpaperstore.com

The Ghosts of Virginia

Last week, I traveled through North Carolina and Virginia. Part of this visit was for speaking engagements. I also wanted to do some family history scouting in Virginia. In the same way that people return to the county of their ancestors in Ireland, or the village in Italy, I wanted to visit my roots. The only experience I have of Virginia is either stories told by my grandmother, or history books. I expected that I would be a cousin to everyone I met on the street. Oddly, this wasn’t the case. As I was reminded, it’s not 1850. I was surprised to find many streets named after family members, and Colonial Williamsburg was like a family reunion. I had some of the best fried-chicken of my life. I met some remarkable people working incredibly hard for their community. And, I now know what Henrico and Albemarle counties look like.

My grandmother talked about Virginia in a poetic and tragic way. I assumed that it was because she was dramatic. But, I found myself feeling the same way. I felt a constant undercurrent of family history everywhere I went. I thought about the great achievements and terrible deeds committed. The entire time, I was aware that all of these people were gone, all of their accomplishments completed by the 18th century, and that the families had long ago dispersed. I definitely felt the ghosts of many of them at each stop. Whether it was Peter Meriwether Fry at the Jefferson Hotel, or Dr. Thomas Walker at Castle Hill, or Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, I could see their world through my eyes.

Robert Carter house

paint color detail, Colonial Williamsburg