2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
(By Sally Tippett Rains) –Just as the month of November reminds us of the birth of Margaret Mitchell (Nov. 8, 1900) and is celebrated by Gone With The Wind enthusiasts; the month of August marks the anniversary of her death. Mitchell was hit by a car Aug. 11, 1949 and lingered in the hospital until her death on Aug. 16. She died at Grady Memorial Hospital, which was a far cry from St. Joseph’s Infirmary where she had been hospitalized many times in her life.
From childhood to adulthood she spent many nights at St. Joseph’s and felt comfortable because one of the nuns on staff was her beloved cousin, Martha Anne “Mattie” Holliday– who since entering the convent went by Sister Melanie. By the night Mitchell was taken to the hospital for the last time, Sister Melanie had been dead for 10 years, but Mitchell’s husband John Marsh probably wished she was there to offer him some comfort as she had done in the past.
According to a cousin who was interviewed for The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind, Mitchell visited Sister Melanie once a week during her adult life. She had many conversations and took notes on brown paper bags she used to bring her cousin groceries. Towards the end of Sister Melanie’s life she was blind and Mitchell loved visiting with her and hearing her stories. She had always loved the Civil War stories of her great aunts, and Sister Melanie was their cousin, and of the same generation. When you read the whole story it is no wonder that when Margaret Mitchell was writing Gone With The Wind, she named a character Melanie. She had lived through the Civil War and Sister Melanie was also first cousin to a famous Wild West character.
Doc Holliday, famous for being involved in the Gunfight at OK Corral and being friends with Wyatt Earp, died in Glenwood Springs, Colorado in 1887 and his friend Kate Elder shipped a box back to his cousin, Sister Melanie, of the Order of the Sisters of Mercy in Atlanta, GA. This simple act of shipping his final belongings to his cousin helps corroborate a story that links several storylines in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with The Wind to the famous icon of the Wild West. Holliday was in fact in Mitchell’s family tree.
In her book about Doc Holliday, A Family Portrait, distant cousin Karen Holliday Tanner talks about a gold stickpin that was owned by John Henry “Doc” Holliday being sent back to Sister Melanie, the cousin of Doc Holliday after he died. This was a special stickpin given to him by his uncle as a going away gift, and he wore in his lapel as he boarded a train from his home in Georgia and headed out West, never to return.
“Doc Holliday” was actually John Henry Holliday, of the Georgia Hollidays, a wealthy, respected family of doctors and lawyers. Mary Anne Fitzgerald (the niece of Margaret Mitchell’s great grandfather Philip Fitzgerald) married Robert Kennedy Holliday (the uncle of John Henry “Doc” Holliday).
That marriage put Doc Holliday in Margaret Mitchell’s family tree and so started the union of the Holliday and Fitzgerald cousins whose parents helped them survive the Civil War. Mitchell’s great aunts and her grandmother visited with, attended parties with, and at various times lived with their Holliday cousins. This was brought out for the first time in detail in The Making Of A Masterpiece through a scrapbook kept by one of Margaret Mitchell’s cousins.
Sister Melanie gave the stick pin to her brother James Robert Holliday (1864-1943) and he passed it on to his son Edward R. Holliday. According to Tanner, Edward’s daughter who lives in Decatur, GA owns it.
During the time the book was being written, that Holliday cousin’s husband, was very ill. She was interested in the book and wanted to contribute due in her personal connection to Margaret Mitchell as she said she was the only living direct relative of Sister Mary Melanie and Doc Holliday.
Tanner mentioned a special close relationship between John Henry Holliday and his cousin Mattie, she stopped short of saying it was romantic, but author Tom Barnes who wrote Doc Holliday’s Road To Tombstone said it was definitely romantic. He interviewed a cousin on John Henry’s mother’s side who was his source and he knew of romantic letter between Holliday and the woman who would become Sister Melanie. Barnes said once he went out West they corresponded and she always hoped he would come home to her, though the family would have been against the two getting together romantically. After the Gunfight at OK Corral she realized he was never going to come home and eventually she entered the convent (a familiar storyline in GWTW).
Edward Holliday’s daughter, the Mitchell/Holliday cousin who now does not want her name mentioned, spent several weeks with this author going over memories of her visits with Sister Melanie and of knowing Mitchell and her nephews.
Mitchell had no children of her own, but her brother Stephens Mitchell had two sons and she talked about seeing them at various family events and at church. She described the nephews in detail and also her feelings for Margaret Mitchell and even her theories on Mitchell’s death, but those descriptions were removed from the rough draft and ended up on “the cutting room floor” as they say in the movies, as per her request.
As this author put together the part about Doc Holliday’s involvement with the Holliday and Fitzgerald side of Margaret Mitchell’s family, this cousin was told about it and abruptly asked not to be mentioned in the book. In fact she emphatically requested all her interviews be left out of the book, and out of respect for the woman who was going through a rough time with her husband so ill, the author complied. Soon after, her husband who was a award winning poet, novelist, and playwright died at the age of 78.
The thing that this woman did confirm was that Mitchell regularly visited Sister Melanie, and she knew she was John Henry Holliday’s cousin and Sister Melanie did tell her stories, and Mitchell wrote them down.
The interesting thing about history is new books are written all the time and just as Tanner and Barnes’ books vary in facts here and there, another author, Gary L. Roberts came out with Doc Holliday , The Life and Legend and has a few facts different even still. That’s why it’s called “his-story.” History is nothing more than stories passed down, but it is fun to try to piece together how things all fit together.
And here’s one last interesting fact: Doc Holliday’s life was August to November and Mitchell’s was November to August: John Henry Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887), Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949). Both were very young when they died: Holliday was just 36 and Mitchell was 48. Besides some relatives, Mitchell and Holliday shared the date Nov. 8th: thirteen years to the day after Holliday died, Mitchell was born.
For more information on “The Making Of A Masterpiece, The Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind” www.GWTWbook.com.
To contact Sally Tippett Rains, please “like” GWTWbook.com on Facebook.
Rains is the author of 11 books and is the content manager for RobRains.com, a website covering St. Louis sports. If you are a St. Louis sportsfan, please “like” RobRains.com (Journalist) on Facebook, also.