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Margaret Prescott Montague


Writer Margaret Prescott Montague (November 29, 1878-September 26, 1955) was born at Oakhurst estate at White Sulphur Springs. Her father, a graduate of Harvard who had studied law in London, had moved to West Virginia for health reasons.

Montague’s books were set primarily in the southern mountains. The Poet, Miss Kate, and I, published in 1905, was a loosely written story including character sketches, descriptions of nature, and philosophical ramblings. The Sowing of Alderson Cree, her 1907 novel that later was made into a movie, was set in West Virginia and revolved around a feud. In Calvert’s Valley (1908), Linda (1912), and Deep Channel (1923) provided character studies of mountain people. Her brother was superintendent of the state school for the deaf and blind in Romney, and Montague’s interest in the students there inspired her Closed Doors (1915). She struggled with visual problems herself, including night blindness, tunnel vision, and later cataracts.

Montague wrote two stories in 1923, ‘‘Up Eel River’’ and ‘‘The Today Tomorrow,’’ both featuring the mythic lumberman, Tony Beaver. Her Tony Beaver tales were collected into the book, Up Eel River, in 1928. Tony was a sort of West Virginia Paul Bunyan. In the book he and his crew cut timber and ride logs, raise a garden of monstrous-sized vegetables, make moonshine powerful enough to make a rabbit spit in a bulldog’s eye, and receive a visit from Miss Preserved Green. Miss Preserved is a soul-saving missionary woman from Maine or Spain, they can’t remember which, and they send her home an enlightened woman. Tony’s exploits capture the spirit of early West Virginia logging camps. According to Montague, Eel River and its inhabitants were the products of the fertile imaginations of West Virginia woodsmen, although it is possible that the tales and Tony himself were invented by Montague.

Montague departed from mountain themes when she wrote ‘‘England to America’’ about World War I. This story, which won the O. Henry Award in 1919, was praised by President Woodrow Wilson and considered to be a plea for a league of nations.

Montague died in Richmond, Virginia.

Written by Debra K. Sullivan


  1. Ambler, Charles H. & Festus P. Summers. West Virginia: The Mountain State. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1958.

  2. Conley, Phil, ed. West Virginia Encyclopedia. Charleston: West Virginia Publishing, 1929.