In the mid 1940s, when Marguerite Henry's editor Dr. Mary Alice Jones suggested the story of the Chincoteague Pony Penning swim as a children's book possibility, Marguerite packed her bags and traveled from Wayne, Illinois to Virginia. She stayed at Miss Molly's Inn on Main Street and there, the beloved story Misty of Chincoteague was born.
Today Miss Molly's Inn continues to welcome guests with warm hospitality, comfortable accommodations and tasty breakfasts that will make you want to move right in and take up permanent residency.
While researching for my book Marguerite, Misty and Me, I had the pleasure of staying at Miss Molly's for the first time in 2022, and I just spent a week there for Pony Penning 2023. What a wonderful bed and breakfast it is! (A blog post review of Miss Molly's Inn is forthcoming, but for now I want to share about Marguerite's stay.)
Back to 1946. . . the owner of Miss Molly's Inn suggested to Marguerite that she meet Clarence Beebe, who was THE expert on Chincoteague Ponies. He had a ranch with dozens of ponies he bred, trained and sold. It was the family business.
When Marguerite met the man readers of Misty of Chincoteague will remember as whiskery-eared Grandpa Beebe, she connected immediately with the horseman. And when she met his grandchildren, Paul and Maureen, she was smitten. The young siblings became the protagonists in Misty of Chincoteague, which was published in 1947 and garnered a Newbery Honor.
Side note: one of the people I interviewed for Marguerite, Misty and Me who was friends with her during the later years of her life shared that in hindsight, Marguerite would not have used the real names of the members of the Beebe family. It weighed on her—the fame they never asked for. I remember reading a fan letter to Marguerite in which a child asked for the address of the Beebe family. Marguerite replied something to the effect that the family were not letter writers. She diplomatically was trying to shield the family from at least one passionate fan.
According to Cindy Faith, the director of the Museum of Chincoteague and tour guide extraordinaire of Step Through Time Tours, Marguerite made many visits to Chincoteague Island. When Grandpa Beebe died she returned for his funeral. She did the same for Grandma Beebe. When Misty gave birth to Stormy in the midst of a devastating Nor'easter, Marguerite flew to the island straight from a research trip in Europe. She was there for the premiere of the Misty movie in 1961.
I don't know how many times Marguerite stayed at Miss Molly's Inn, but I do know that she and Wesley Dennis, her illustrator, sat on the porch and worked through story details back in 1946. In fact, it was on that porch where he planted the seed of an idea about the story which became King of the Wind. Marguerite's book of the Godolphin Arabian was the 1949 recipient of the Newbery Medal. You can read more about the behind the scenes of her medal win in the chapter "The Pinnacle of Success" in Marguerite, Misty and Me.
The absolute best Marguerite Henry at Miss Molly's story I read which made me chuckle was in a letter from Marguerite to new owners I believe in the late 1980s. She recalled that while staying at Miss Molly's (which is steps away from the water), she found a seahorse and had him in a vase and took him up to her room. Apparently it was a male seahorse great "with child"--or should I say "multiple baby seahorses." Anyway, she was mortified when she realized that the creature had spewed infant seahorses all over the curtains of her room. The word she used was they were "appliqued."
And that is why if you look at the last page of Misty of Chincoteague, just before the Acknowledgements, there is a seahorse—Marguerite's inside joke.
Thanks for reading and I hope you'll read my horse girl memoir Marguerite, Misty and Me and it will make you fall in love with horses all over again. :)
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