Monday, June 04, 2012

[Book Review] PAST TIMES by Perre Magness

Nonfiction/Memphis History

Marilyn reviews PAST TIMES: STORIES OF EARLY MEMPHIS by Perre Magness (Parkway Press, 1994)

In the 1990s and early 2000s, every Thursday I looked forward to reading Perre Magness’ column, “Past Times,” in the Commercial Appeal. In 1994, she published Past Times: Stories of Early Memphis, a collection of some of her “Past Times” articles about early Memphis and Shelby County.

Perre Magness starts the collection of articles at a time before the settling of Memphis and Shelby County, when Indian trade routes in Mississippi and West Tennessee lead to the fourth Chickasaw Bluff. Before Memphis was laid out, the fourth Chickasaw Bluff was a place of trade for the Chickasaw Indians. There on the bluff, James Winchester, John Overton, Andrew Jackson, and John C. McLemore--the proprietors of Memphis--laid out the town. The four proprietors, Frances Trollope, Davy Crockett, and individual histories of neighborhoods are subjects of some of Perre Magness' articles.

She writes on Mrs. Trollope's steamboat journey to Memphis and fellow passengers on the steamboat Belvedere:
"On the steamboat, Mrs. Trollope came into close contact with Americans for the first time,. She was not impressed. Particularly upset by the constant spitting of the men, she wrote, 'It is with all sincerity I declare that I would infinitely prefer sharing the apartment of a party of well-conditioned pigs.'"

Perre Magness gives us a glimpse into the people and events of early Memphis, which shaped the city of today and makes us want to explore Memphis more.

The library also has the Perre Magness Collection in the Memphis Room.

Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

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