Sunday, March 10, 2013

Daughter of North Carolina Patriots: Mary Lyde Williams

“Mrs. Marshall McDiarmid Williams, a portrait artist of renown, living in Faison, Duplin County, here first opened her eyes to the light of day in 1866, as Mary Lyde Hicks, daughter of Captain Lewis T. and Rachel (McIver) Hicks.” Her father, who commanded Company E, Twentieth North Carolina Regiment….was the grandson of Captain Thomas Hicks, who not only fought for independence in the Revolutionary War but was also a member of the Provincial Congress from 1774 to 1778. He was descended from the Hicks family of Virginia, an old and honored family of that State, whose ancestral line goes back to Sir Robert Hicks of Glouster, England, and through him to Sir Ellis Hicks, who was knighted by the Black Prince in 1356.

Mary Lyde William’s husband was the son of Captain John Marshall Williams of Cumberland County who first enlisted in the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry, and later in the Fifty-fourth North Carolina Regiment with brother-in-law Colonel K.M. Murchison and serving under General Stonewall Jackson.

Mrs. Williams spent her girlhood largely as a student in the Faison Academy and St. Mary’s School at Raleigh…and studied [portrait painting] under F.G. Fisher at Washington, D.C., and afterwards under Alexander of New York. In a few years she began to paint portraits and soon achieved a State reputation, being known today as one of the foremost portrait painters of the South. In the State Building in Raleigh….she has many portraits of jurists and philanthropists. The walls of the Confederate Museum at Richmond are adorned with Mrs. William’s portraits.

Mrs. Williams is also well-known in the United Daughters of the Confederacy, of which she was State President from 1912 to 1914, and she was on the advisory board of the Women’s Confederate Home at Fayetteville, North Carolina. She was chairman of the Gettysburg committee for placing the North Carolina Monument at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She was State regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution and also with the Colonial Dames….[and] first vice president of the State Historical Society and formerly belonged to the Council of the Scottish Society. During the Jamestown Exposition she was collector of Colonial antiquities for Duplin County. At the Gettysburg ceremony unveiling the North Carolina Monument in July 1929, Mrs. Williams said:

“[The Daughters of the Confederacy], who inherited a spirit of indomitable courage which so possessed them that they were determined, even in defeat, that the valour of their fathers should be acclaimed, saying of them "They shall be known in every latitude and named in every tongue and down through all the ages their story shall be sung." They said "Come forth O! ye sons of the South! Leave your awkward plows, forget the memory of your beautiful homes in ashes, with only the scent of the magnolia and jasmine left! Lift up our heads ye followers of the immortal Lee and Jackson! Remember, you lifted their names higher and higher until they are written on the horizon in letters of gold, making a celestial height which cannot fade away! Come forth and let us decorate you with the Southern Cross of the Legion of Honor. It is not made of rubies or gold, it has no commercial value but it represents all that was lofty in principle, pure in patriotism and dauntless in courage."

(Source: North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Archibald Henderson, Volume V, North Carolina Biography, Lewis Publishing Company, 1941, pp. 49-52)

North Carolina’s War Between the States Sesquicentennial
“The Official website of the North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission”



Museum brings local history back home


Like fingerprints etched in mortar, the brushstrokes visible beneath the layers of pigment offer a glimpse of the creator behind the image, of a young woman who recognized the raw dignity of faces and images all but invisible to many of her social and cultural contemporaries.

As the daughter of a plantation owner, Mary Lyde Hicks wasn’t expected to take notice of the field hands and laborers that populated the shacks and back roads of her hometown. Born in Faison in 1866 shortly after the close of the Civil War, the daughter of Isham Faison, owner of Faison Plantation, found herself drawn to the images of African-American plantation workers, tenant farmers and handy men of her hometown, many of whom were former slaves struggling to reestablish themselves after the devastation of the war.

Having developed an early interest in painting, Hicks studied under several well-known artists of the day, including F.G. Fisher of Washington D.C. Soon afterward, she embarked on a career as a portrait painter and achieved statewide recognition for her talent and unique subject matter. Today she is recognized as one of the south’s foremost portraitists. Twenty-eight of Hicks painting have survived and are currently on display at the Museum of Archives and History in Raleigh.

In addition to her art, Hicks was also active in the civic life of her community. She served as the state president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy from 1912-1914, and was a member of the board of directors of the State Hospital at Raleigh. Four of her children served in World War II.

In an effort to return a part of the county’s history to its place of origin, Anne Taylor and Inga Flake, of the Faison Museum, recently inquired about purchasing Hicks’ paintings from the Museum of Archives and History. According to Taylor, the paintings, which were donated by Hicks’ son, B.F. Williams, were given to the museum under stipulations that prevent them from being sold. As a compromise, the museum offered Taylor and Flake 11×17, high-quality reproductions of the paintings, which are currently being housed at the Faison Museum.

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