Stuart Smith House
Backstory and Context
Mary Routh McEnery was born in 1852 in Marksville, Louisiana, and her family later moved to New Orleans. In 1879, she came to visit family in Columbus; her cousin’s wife introduced her to her brother, Alfred Oden Stuart. They were married shortly after and moved to Washington. She started the Dear Old Town Club, a social and reading club that included fellow authors Sallie Kate Holt and Martha Carruth Robinson. Her time in Washington was relatively short: after four short years, Alfred died from a stroke, and she returned to New Orleans with their lone son, Stirling.
Her first published work was the short story “Uncle Mingo’s Speculations” in The New Princeton Review, followed by “Lamentations of Jeremiah Johnson” in Harper’s Magazine. To further her writing career, she moved to New York City and changed her name to Ruth. She achieved enough fame to engage in numerous speaking tours across America and Europe. She passed away in 1917, and was buried alongside her son in New Orleans.
A signature of her writing was the use of southern dialects, with stories mostly set in the fictional town of Simpskinsville, based on Washington. There have been two compilation books of her works: Golden Wedding and Other Tales, released in 1893, and Simpkinsville and Vicinity: Arkansas Stories of Ruth McEnery Stuart re-leased by the University of Arkansas Press 90 years later.