Mary Lenna Dupree (1869 - 1925)

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Birthplace: Wake, North Carolina, United States
Death: Died in Cedar Fork, Durham, North Carolina, United States
Cause of death: Died of a stroke at 6:45am
Managed by: Daniel Dupree Walton
Last Updated:

About Mary Lenna Dupree

Mama’s mother died when Mama was about two years old. Grandpa remarried in about six months, I have heard. This seems to me lacking of regard for the dead, but all his children never seemed to think hard of him. I never heard one of them criticize him for that. They seemed to think that “Pa” could do no wrong. As one of the cousins said, “Pa was a powerful pa.” They told anecdotes about great things he did. My full aunts and Mama may have criticized their step-mother, but they didn't criticize their father. If Pa was so powerful, why did he rush into a second marriage so soon after his first wife's death?

“Pa”, or Grandfather Dupree, died when Mama was about twelve years old. Aunt Ida and Uncle Will were married and independent of parents, but Mama and Aunt Callie were in the old home with their step-mother and her children. Mama and Aunt Callie got the idea that they were going to be charged for board. They had small legacies from a grandmother on the maternal side {about $400.00 apiece). Mama was determined not to give up hers. She wanted it to go to school on. She left the paternal home and went to live with Aunt Ida and her husband, Uncle Bill Stone. They made her like one of the family. She worked with them, hard on the farm, but she did go to school.

In those days education was largely at academies, Mama attended an academy. She paid $8.00 a month for room and board. Later she taught small schools. Some of them were called subscription schools, so called, I believe, because parents paid a small amount per pupil. Mama taught one in Burlington and studied music there. This is what I understood from things I heard and from a piece of music I have that was written by her music teacher.

She was a fine music teacher, published her own music. The piece I have of hers, “Oakdale March,” is one which Mama had. I wanted to save it, but the paper it was written on was coming to pieces, I tried to order it, but it seemed to be out of print. Finally I laboriously made a copy by hand. This I made a few xerox copies of. The piece is easy and beautiful both. Mama loved marches. It says on the piece, “Published by J. W. Armstrong Co., Engers, Philadelphia.” and added “also published by Geo. D. Mears, Raleigh, NC.” As long as it is out of print, I consider the copyright out of date, I presume it is all right to make copies by hand and by xerox, as I did.

I asked Mama where she met Papa. It seems she was a pupil when he came into the community to teach school, Papa was ten years older than Mama.

Later she taught several years. I think she once taught in a school with Papa. When she married, she stopped teaching. That was the custom in those days. She retained profound respect for education and always encouraged us to continue in school. As my brothers and sister did not have college education, Mama had me keep account of my expenses and charged me with the amount until I paid for it. I suppose the account was fairly accurate, I was writing checks on Papa’s bank accounts. The old checks were more or less an account. I should not have had more than the others did from her and Papa. What she did about it was only from her sense of justice.

One visit I enjoyed most of all visits was one I persuaded her to make to me when I was teaching in Glen Alpine, NC. My cousin, Lalon O’Briant, now Lalon Daeke, came with her. Mama said Lalon was a fine traveling companion and took good care of her. I sent Mama money to get a seat in the chair car, but she would not use it. She said if she was not able to sit in the regular coach, she was not able to come. She said she was not as tired after the train ride as she was every day at home, doing what she usually did, housekeeping. It happened that the landlord and land-lady there at Glen Alpine were some of the best friends I ever had anywhere. They were the Brinkleys. They appreciated the little I did to help out at church. They made Mama and Lalon’s trip enjoyable. Of four teachers boarding there, Mama and Lalon's choice was my choice.

Mama and Papa moved into his house in the Swift Creek community of Wake County, NC when they were married. Uncle Jim had ruffled Mama’s feathers about that house when he was being what he considered smart at a party. Everyone was teasing Papa and Mama. Uncle Jim's contribution to the teasing was, “He's got a farm and home ready down home. I don't see why he doesn’t take her to it.” Mama said she thought, “I suppose he’ll wait till she's ready to be taken to it.” That was Mama, an independent soul.

When he did “take her to it,” she did not enjoy it very well. The community was very different from Nelson, NC in Durham County, which had always been home to her, though it was but sixteen miles away. She had always been accustomed to going to Sunday School and enjoying it with friends. Grandma considered it a sin to work horses on Sunday except for emergencies. Grandma Walton, a missionary Baptist in a family of Primitive Baptists, had ideas like those of the Primitive Baptists of the particular group. They believed in going to preaching one Sunday in a month and going to preaching and conference one Saturday a month, but not in Sunday school attendance. She must have been a very severe person, though she was what she considered kind to Mama. Grandpa Walton, Mama said, was a very kind person, like a father to her.

Across the road from Papa’s home was a very thick wood. Mama began to dread that thick wood. It seemed spooky. She brooded and became so lonely that Papa consented to move to her neighborhood, Nelson. He built a little house near the church, a building still standing, and I am told I was born in that house. Women had their babies at home in those days. Papa and Mama lived there a short while, then moved to a cabin, and still later to the place we call the homeplace. I am interested in the house I was born in, though it is not now very near the church. People began being struck by vehicles in the thick traffic, and the church was moved across the road.

As Mama had not enjoyed being in Papa’s community, he became a vital part of hers. He and she enjoyed the church, Cedar Fork, there at Nelson. Mama taught Annie Lee and me the fundamentals of music. I would not practice much, as the teacher was “just Mama.” She said she would not punish me to make me practice, as much as she loved music. She had taught school and bought a reed organ. Helen has the old organ now, but the pedal bank is too tight. Papa used to mend it if it became too tight or worn out. Its tone was very beautiful. It was a great occasion when she and Papa bought the piano, one of the first in the neighborhood. I remember our neighbor, Mr. Hugh Green's, coming down and asking her to play and let him see how graceful she looked on the piano stool. The old piano is worn out now. Papa wanted me to have it because I tried to take care of him. I was the old maid, the one left at home, I’d like to have new strings put in it, but the only one I have asked to appraise it said it was not worth doing over.

Mama taught a Sunday School class and had a soft spot in her heart for the girls in the class. Since Mama died the class has been named for her, the Lenna Walton Class. She is the best teacher I have ever had in all my experience of learning. She used to have a barrel churn and would put the milk in it and turn it while she studied the Sunday School lesson. She began early in the week and studied it almost every day, but she had a depth of penetration that would have made her a good teacher without that. The class liked to give her gifts at Christmas time, to show how much they thought of her.

Mama was a hard worker and had little patience with my physical laziness. Once I was silly enough to say I’d not wear a dress the way I'd iron it. She saw to it that I did iron it and did wear it and that Annie Lee did not iron it for me. Though she was somewhat severe in a case like this, meaning for each of us to do his part of the work, she believed in enjoying life and wanted others to enjoy it too.

Our home at Nelson was situated near those of Aunt Ida and Aunt Callie. I must have grown up thinking that one's kin lived near him, except for those in the glorified city, like Uncle Will’s family, ten miles away in Durham, or sixteen miles away like Aunt Mollie and Aunt Scrap. At Aunt Ida’s or Aunt Callie’s one could see the grown-up young people, like Blanche Stone or Tully O'Briant. They even sometimes played the guitar and sang. The songs were those of the period, over-sentimental, often with someone dying, as in “The Dying Girl’s Message,” beginning with “Raise the Window Higher, Mother; Air can never harm me now,” “The Gypsy's Warning,” “Jack and Joe,” “I Wish I were Single Again,” “Change the Green Laurels to the Red, White, and Blue,” or “Two Little Girls in Blue,” Aunt Callie’s daughters, Lula and Lalon, were nearer Annie Lee’s and my ages. Aunt Callie’s whole name was Eva Carolina Dupree; Aunt Ida's, Nancy Ida Dupree. They were Mama’s whole sisters, and Uncle Will (William Robert) Dupree, her whole

brother. Mama's name was Mary Lenna Dupree. She said her pa named her Lena, but always spelled it Lena and pronounced it Lenna. She changed it to Lenna in writing to make it agree with his pronunciation. I was glad she did, for I love the name Lenna, but dislike the one Lena. Aunt Mittie was Mittie Alma Dupree, and Aunt Sissy was Ella Annette Dupree. Mama’s half brother was John Lewis, but he was called Johnny. I like people who do different things from the majority; so I like Uncle Johnny. He left to go to Texas. I never saw him again. It is said he said he wouldn’t return until he was a rich man. Of course, we thought he’d come back, rich or poor, but he did not. I wrote to him once in a while, but it was extremely few letters I got in return. He married out there, and I write to his wife once in a while. Since she has become his widow, she writes much more often than he did, I write to her when I’m sure where she is.

I suppose that if Blanche, Aunt Ida Stone’s daughter, had known how I idealized her, she would have been amazed. She was extremely fair and very slender. She considered herself skinny and her skin as too fair, for the sun wrought havoc with it. I thought her delicate blondness and extreme slenderness wonderful. She had a flair for dressing and could sew well for one with no more training to sew than she had. Once in a while she would ask Mama for advice about it, just as Mama asked Aunt Ida’s advice about very many household chores.

I went down to Aunt Ida’s to hear the first phonograph I ever remember hearing. I think the first recorded song I heard was “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.” I was always ready and eager to go and usually had a siege of begging to be allowed to go before I could actually do so. Picture my amazement, then, to be waked at night and told I could go to Aunt Ida’s, without even asking. When I returned after “staying all night at Aunt Ida’s” I was told I could go to see the newcomer, Paul. This arrival seemed to indicate that wonderful things were going to keep on happening.

The other time I was allowed to go to Aunt Ida’s without begging was the time of the one trip Papa and Mama had. It was to be a trip to Norfolk. That was wonderful enough, but on the trip itself Papa and Mama decided to buy tickets and go to Washington, DC by boat.

They got more out of that trip than anyone else on any trip I know about. Papa did not mind asking questions. He and Mama got information. They brought back mementoes: Annie Lee and Exum got little glasses with the capitol building on them. I got a little spoon with the capitol building in it. They also brought back “Blue Horse” cocoanut candy cooked in flat pieces. This trip furnished talk for years.

The other trip was Mama’s trip to Burlington. These experiences and memories gave added pleasures. One thing about this trip was Mama’s first taste of corn flakes, new to Mama and unknown to us. They were really better than they are now. Now they have picked up substance, but lack the crispness and springiness they had then.

Mama had few trips and much hard work, but she was sprightly and cheerful. Exum's having to go to World War I saddened her. When it was about time for him to come home, Mrs. Hugh Green, whom we called “Aunt Ella,” said her step resumed the springiness of a girl’s.

In fact, she never lost her erect bearing, the keenness of her mental outlook, or her interest in the world. Her ardent desire was that the world might become better.

--Beulah Walton in "Some Wake Waltons"

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Mary Lenna Dupree's Timeline

1869
October 31, 1869
Wake, North Carolina, United States
1870
July 13, 1870
Wake County, North Carolina, United States
1880
June 4, 1880
Age 10
Wake County, North Carolina, United States
1892
July 20, 1892
Age 22
1893
November 22, 1893
Age 24
Wake, North Carolina, United States
1894
1894
Age 24
Cedar Fork, North Carolina, United States
1895
June 4, 1895
Age 25
North Carolina, United States
1897
October 16, 1897
Age 27
North Carolina, United States
1900
June 1, 1900
Age 30
Cedar Fork, North Carolina, United States
1903
January 14, 1903
Age 33
North Carolina, United States