Mary Jane King was born in 1896 in Brevard. A lifelong resident of Transylvania County,
she became an enthusiast for local history at a very young age due to stories
she heard from her parents, Alexander Henry King and Hessie Rebecca Clayton
King, and her grandfather, Ephraim Clayton. She was also a descendant of Nancy
Brevard, the family for which the city is named.
She graduated from Tift College in 1918 with a bachelor’s
degree in music arts. She later earned an honorary degree from Furman University.
In 1920 she married Hugh Raven Walker and they had two children: John and Jane.
Between the births of these two children, she became the first public school
music teacher in Brevard and was a founding member of the Brevard Music Lovers’
Club, serving as secretary. In 1926 she started her own business, the General
Insurance Agency, which she operated until 1957. This overlapped with the work
she is most known for, being a real estate agent, which she did from 1939-1984.
In 1927 she published her first book, a family history of the Claytons. Her
husband Hugh died in 1929 and she remarried in 1931 to Carl Caleb McCrary. The
had two children, Thomas and Martha. When he died in 1967, she did not remarry.
She became more and more well known as a historian in
Transylvania County and was part of several organizations; she was a charter
member of the Brevard chapter of the American Business and Professional Women, the
chair and founder of the Transylvania Historical Association, and a member of
the Daughters of the American Revolution. A family story states that her
knowledge of the Cherokee people and culture were called upon to name the streets
in the Connestee Falls development.
McCrary’s published works are still foundational for researchers
today. She wrote a history of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, A Goodly
Heritage, published in 1959, but is best known for her book Transylvania
Beginnings: A History, published in 1984. She donated her collection of research
and historical items to the county’s Historic Preservation Commission, which is
now housed in the Library’s North Carolina Room. She died in 1987, just three
years after the publication of her magnus opus book, and is buried in St. Paul’s-In-The-Valley
Photographs and information
for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room,
Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History
Librarian Laura Gardner. For more information, comments, or suggestions,
contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.