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Local History

Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey

 Ozarks loses writer and poet in Mrs. C. P. Mahnkey’s Death
Daily News August 14, 1948

"One of the outstanding poets and personalities of the Ozarks, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey, 69, wife of C. P. Mahnkey and mother of Douglas Mahnkey of Forsyth, Taney County representative in the state legislature, died at 11:20 o’clock yesterday morning at her home at Kirbyville.

"Mrs. Mahnkey was known to thousands of readers as an authority on Ozarks lore and a writer with a rare gift for portraying the intimate, human things of life with both realism and sentiment. Nothing was too small for her observation and comment, and she wrote with a very personal, charming, and characteristic style.

"Her first writing, beginning when she was only 14 years old, was for the Taney County Republican and for 55 years she scarcely missed an issue, until the past two weeks. In 1936 she was recognized in a contest by the Crowell Publishing Company as the outstanding country correspondent in the nation, and made a journey to New York which she always remembered as wonderful but a little terrifying. For many years she has regularly contributed poetry, reminiscence, and neighborhood comment to the Springfield Daily newspapers’ Waste Basket, and has had a very wide following.

"With snowy white hair and gentle manner, Mrs. Mahnkey also was a person of charming and distinguished appearance.

"Her illness first appeared about a year ago. In May of this year she spent a week in St. John’s hospital here, then returned to her Kirbyville home to carry on until the end.

"Just before coming to the hospital she wrote with acute premonition the following “Farewell”

O life I wish you were more frowning
And not so sweet and gay
For then I would not mind the going
For I know I cannot stay.
O life the lovely things you gave me
Let me love them while I may
For I know I cannot take them
When I have to go away.

"Even when too ill to leave her bed, she continued to write, both her regular column for her own Taney county paper, and characteristic reports to the Waste Basket, to keep up a correspondence, and to receive visits from many friends.

"Mrs. Mankey was born at Harrison, Ark., the daughter of Col. Alonzo Prather, a Union soldier from Indiana who came to Arkansas after the war as an educator, and helped to establish the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. When she was 4 years old, her family moved to Taney County, where she lived all the rest of her life. Her father, Colonel Prather, represented Taney County in the Missouri legislature for six terms.

"She attended elementary school at Kirbyville. There was no high school in the county, but she attended the summer 'portable schools' or institutes for several seasons and came to Springfield to attend business college for a short time, long ago, her son, Douglas Mahnkey, said yesterday.

"About 1900 she married C. P. Mahnkey and for about 40 years, up until four years ago, they operated a country store, with which they ran the post office, for more than 30 years. Mrs. Mahnkey was a postmistress, part of the time at Oasis and the rest at Mincy.

"She joined the Christian Church in 1912, and was an active member in the Taney Hills Study Club. She gave half of the income from her published book of poems to help establish and maintain the club library.

"Mrs. Mahnkey was poignantly devoted to her family and all were with her when she died, her husband and three children. Doug had held her hand during many unconscious or semiconscious hours at the last. Roberta lived nearby and was close at all times. Reggie arrive from Salem, Oregon, only a quarter-hour before she died. She recognized his voice and presence, then seemed to let go.

"Besides her husband, two sons, Douglas and J. R. Mahnkey, and one daughter, Mrs. John Jones of Kirbyville, Mrs. Mahnkey is survived by one brother, Richard Prather, and one sister, Mrs. Adelia Prudden, both of California, and eight grandchildren.

"Her funeral services will be in the vine-covered stone Union Chapel at Forsyth tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock, and burial will be in the Branson Memorial Park Cemetery."

There is more about Mrs. Mahnkey on the library's digitized Ozarks periodicals site. The World of Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey and The Oasis Correspondent are just two. Her published work Ozarks lyrics; the song poems of the Ozarks is available to check out and her biography Candle within her soul: Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey, Ozark writer, 1877-1948 / by Ellen Gray Massey.

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