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Writer Melville Davisson Post (April 19, 1869-June 23, 1930) was born in Harrison County. He became immensely popular as a writer starting with his 1896 short story collection, The Strange Schemes of Randolph Mason (Putnam). He continued to publish until his death. Much of his work is set in the 19th-century West Virginia countryside, but he used a wide variety of other settings as well.

His best-known works are the Randolph Mason series, published in three volumes, and the more successful collection, Uncle Abner: Master of Mysteries (Appleton, 1918). Post wrote other short works, mostly detective fiction, including the Monsieur Jonquelle series and the Walker of the Secret Service series and many articles, essays, and treatises. Among Post’s longer works are Dwellers in the Hills (Putnam, 1901), The Mountain School-teacher (Appleton, 1922), and Revolt of the Birds (Appleton, 1927), which are all underrated but indicative of Post’s varied and huge talent. His total output was approximately 230 titles.

Post’s Randolph Mason is a ruthless New York lawyer, not to be confused with the easy-going Squire Randolph who features as a sidekick figure in the Uncle Abner stories. Mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner named his Perry Mason figure for Randolph Mason, though the scrupulous Perry Mason stands in high moral contrast to his namesake.

Post’s love of the outdoors, the forests, and the weather shows through in all his major works. In ‘‘Woodford’s Partner’’ in Strange Schemes of Randolph Mason (Putnam, 1896), Post takes six pages to describe the Valley of Virginia as if he were standing on a mountaintop delivering a lecture. It is a tribute to the farmers, the cattlemen, the traders, and businessmen who lived and died and prospered in the land between the frontier and the East Coast.

From a long line of Western Virginians, Post’s local roots date back to 1773 when Daniel Davisson settled in the heart of future Clarksburg. With a law degree from West Virginia University (1892) and the successful launching of a writing career with Randolph Mason, Post married Ann Bloomfield Gamble Schoolfield in 1903 and together they traveled the world and the East Coast before settling down at the ‘‘Chalet’’ in Harrison County. Their European adventures helped Post find settings for much of his other work. Their one child died shortly after birth, and Mrs. Post died of pneumonia in 1919. Still rising in skill and fame, Post loved horseback riding and while riding in 1930, he fell. He died of the injuries and was buried in Harrison County.

This Article was written by Charles F. Moore

Last Revised on November 17, 2017

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Norton, Charles A. Melville Davisson Post. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1973.

Anderson, Jack Sandy. Melville Davisson Post. West Virginia History, Jul-67.

Brady, James Francis (Brother James Damian, F.M.S.). "The Life and Work of Melville Davisson Post." M.A. thesis, St. John's University, 1954.

Cite This Article

Moore, Charles F. "Melville Davisson Post." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 17 November 2017. Web. 12 July 2024.


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