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Mary Norcott Bryan, 1841-1925
A Grandmother's Recollections of Dixie
New Bern, N.C.: Owen G. Dunn, Printer, [1912?].


Mary Norcott was born in New Bern, North Carolina in 1841 and grew up on Woodlawn Plantation, her father's estate. She was sent to boarding school in Washington, D. C. for her education. Upon returning to Woodlawn, she met and married Henry Ravenscroft Bryan. After their marriage, they spent two years traveling across the South. They returned to North Carolina, where she gave birth to a son, Norcott, shortly before the Civil War. Bryan died in 1925.

Bryan's memoir, A Grandmother's Recollections of Dixie (1912?), is presented as a collection of letters written to her grandchildren describing the antebellum South. Bryan discusses her pleasant life at Woodlawn, her relationships with the slaves, and her experiences at boarding school in Washington. She includes memories of being a refugee during the Civil War, the destruction of her home, the poor treatment she received from Union officers, and the desperate plight of southern civilians during the hostilities. She paints a grim picture of Reconstruction, which she believed was worse than the war itself. Because of the difficulties of Reconstruction and afterward, Bryan praises the Ku Klux Klan for keeping order in communities. Bryan's history includes anecdotes of North Carolina history as far back as the Colonial period. Recollections offers a wide-ranging, sometimes sentimental description of antebellum southerner's image of her land, history and culture.

Harris Henderson

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