Her pen stained the meek blank page and upon her strokes, it became priceless. The world at large may know not of Evelyn Hannah but those who stroll in the circles of literature are well acquainted. She had the gift; a gift which grants access into the sacred circle of the elite minds; a gift of which most of us seek our entire lives yet find ourselves wanting. Rather, if luck does find us we only get to peer into the window, from the cold, at the collection of talent as they congregate by the warm fireplace of immortal solace and drink the cider of success. However, Evelyn Hannah had an invitation to such party; it could not be held without her presence.
Most, who descend from the proud lines once arranged in Upson County, may recognize her name as one of the co-authors of The Early History of Upson County, Georgia. This timeless piece of literary work, although an inspiration, is not the purpose for her membership in the distinguished audience of the Cosmos’ great authors, nor was it her first work of literary composure. Her first work came one Sunday evening in her early childhood when young Evelyn wrote a protesting and salutary essay titled “The Cruelty of Parents”. All great writing needs inspiration, and Evelyn was stirred by her mother’s insistence that Evelyn change from her Sunday dress after Church. Nevertheless, it was her work Blackberry Winter, which was published in 1938 that led to her coronation of one of the great writers.
Evelyn was the daughter of Jefferson Davis Hannah and Jessie King Hannah and idled hands knew not her touch, she was ambitious; and in an aimless drift, she would not steer. Writing was her plea to life, not playing piano or competing in the trivial games some play, as they gave no succor to her aspiring soul. However, her passion drew a frown upon her mother’s face, as she did not approve of Evelyn’s proclivity of passing the time. Therefore, when Evelyn Hannah began the project of Blackberry Winter, as an adult, she sought a private place to write, which required her to be very secretive and to leave home at all hours of the night. Her mother thought she was sneaking around with a married man. Although a covert meeting, it was not with the betrothed of which Evelyn met but with the characters in her mind that were inspired by her research for the county history. She decided to take these characters and place them in front of the backdrop of the time when South met North and war was all the rage. As a result, of her mother’s disapproval, it was not until the publishing company of E. P. Dutton decided to publish her manuscript that Evelyn informed her mother of her book. Evelyn once stated that one late afternoon she received a telegram informing her that her book would be published, she then rushed up the stairs of 200 Hightower street to tell her napping mother of the good news and provide the exposition of her past behavior. Upon Evelyn conveying the achievement, most never know, her mother replied, “have you finished watering the camellia downstairs.” Sadly, however, Evelyn was not able to share the news with her father, as he died a short time before.
After the brave journey up the stairs of her family home, Evelyn received word of the incredible popularity of her book and began another journey, as she would have a lecture tour around the United States. However, the borders of her homeland could not contain the storm of her words as the fire jumped the pond to England, and it was time for Evelyn to shine her light in the shadows of Big Ben. While there, Evelyn wrote as a correspondent to the Atlanta Constitution and met Robert Sommerville, an editor for London News-Chronicle and agent of E.P. Dutton publishing company. Robert Sommerville was in the company of genius and beauty, and he knew it. As a result, a romance blossomed from that English Garden of words and punctuation and the two were married after World War II. It was during this time that the literary mastermind published yet another book, this time titled Sugar in the Gourd.
Just as we follow her letters as they sail across the page, Robert followed her as she sailed back across the Atlantic. Evelyn and Robert would settle near Atlanta, Georgia where Robert would later become the Director of Atlanta’s Transit system and lecturer at Emory University, the University of Alabama, and University of Wisconsin. Although not many more books were published under the hand of Evelyn, she never lost her passion for the written word, as she was one of the founders of the Roswell Library in 1956 as well as serving on the Atlanta Public Library Board of Trustees in the 1960s and 1970s.
Though her words she impressed upon the page are immortal; Evelyn Hannah was fleeting, and departed this world from her home in Roswell, Georgia on May 7, 1982. Evelyn would once again travel down that familiar road home, this time to join her husband, mother and father in the family burial plot in Glenwood Cemetery of Thomaston, Georgia.
Once Blackberry Winter was published, it would seem that Evelyn Hannah’s life changed rapidly. She left her small Georgia town to go on lectures all over the world. Therefore, the sights she gazed upon were terrific, one could surmise. If only Evelyn were here to tell us of all that she saw, of all of the things she observed during her incredible life. Perhaps, like in 1939, when Marjorie Rawlings won the Pulitzer Prize for the book The Yearling; and Evelyn watched as her novel Blackberry Winter came in second place, losing by just one vote.
Evelyn’s family home at 200 Hightower St. Thomaston GA.
Hannah family plot at Glenwood Cemetery in Thomaston Georgia
Evelyn’s grave marker in Glenwood Cemetery
Evelyn’s husband Robert’s grave stone in Glenwood Cemetery
Entrance of Glenwood Cemetery Thomaston, Georgia