Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lilla Pool Price (1848-1914) and Lilla Price Savino (1883-?)

Lilla Pool Price
Composer, Musician, Poet
Born April 20, 1848, Washington, North Carolina
Died September 2, 1914, Portsmouth, Virginia

Lilla Price Savino
Poet and Housewife
Born November 1881, Elizabeth City, North Carolina?
Died ?

Lilla Pool Price and Lilla May Price Savino were mother and daughter, both native to North Carolina and both contributors of verse to Weird Tales. Lilla Pool Price was born on April 20, 1848, in Washington, North Carolina. Her grandfather, Joseph Bamford, was an English immigrant and a professor of music. Lilla's mother, Laura Bamford, was also a musician and played the organ at Christ Church in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Like her mother and grandfather before her, Lilla Pool was an accomplished musician. She also composed songs, including the music for "Carolina" and "The Banks of the Old Pasquotank" by her cousin Bettie Freshwater Pool. Lilla Pool Price's poetry was published in a book called The Chant of the Seasons and Other Poems.

Lilla Pool married Charles C. Price of Pennsylvania. The couple had one daughter, Lilla May Price. Born in November 1881, presumably in Elizabeth City, the daughter Lilla married an Italian shoemaker, Frank Savino, in 1906. The Savino family lived in Portsmouth, Virginia, for many years afterward. During those years, Lilla Savino began reading, then writing letters to Weird Tales. The first appeared in the March 1925 issue. Seven more followed before the decade ended, as did the two poems by women of the Price family. Lilla Pool Price's poem, "A Grave," came first. It was published in the June 1926 issue of Weird Tales. "The Haunted Castle" was Lilla Price Savino's contribution. It was published in the April 1928 issue.

According to Literature in the Albemarle by Bettie Freshwater Pool (1915), Lilla Pool Price's husband died young, leaving her a widow with a daughter. The 1900 census however shows Charles C. Price, age forty-four, living with his daughter, Lilla Price, in Elizabeth City. His wife is absent. I can't say why. Bettie Freshwater Pool offered what might be a clue:
She was for a number of years a recluse, and possessed many of the eccentricities of genius, [Bettie wrote]. The people of Elizabeth City will long remember the old house on Main Street, shaded by old trees—the house where the Banshee walked and the piano talked. Here dwelt the recluse, the musical genius of North Carolina. How often in the silence of the night that old piano under those skilled fingers would "make the welkin ring," and all along the street people would stop spellbound, listening to the witching music.
Perhaps when the census taker came around, Lilla Pool Price was hiding away in her house or some other place. In any case, by 1910, she was widowed and living in Elizabeth City. That census was her last, for she died on September 2, 1914, in Portsmouth, Virginia. I presume she went there to live with her daughter. Unfortunately, I don't know anything more about Lilla May Price Savino. The 1930 census record is the last I have found for her.

Lilla Pool Price's Poem in Weird Tales
"A Grave" (June 1926)

Lilla Price Savino's Poem and Letters in Weird Tales
"The Haunted Castle" (April 1928)
Letters to "The Eyrie"
Mar. 1925
June 1925
Nov. 1925
Mar. 1926
Feb. 1928
Dec. 1928
Aug. 1929
Nov. 1929

Further Reading
You can find an excerpt from Literature of the Albemarle on the wesbite Find-A-Grave, here. The entire text of the book can be found on the website of the Eastern North Carolina Digital Library, here. You can read about Bettie Freshwater Pool (1860-1928) at the website Documenting the South, here. Incidentally, Bettie's first book was called The Eyrie and Other Southern Stories (1905). She could not have known that her young cousin would one day write to a letters column of a very similar name.

Author and songwriter Bettie Freshwater Pool wrote about herself and her cousin, Lilla Pool Price, in Literature of the Albemarle. She also authored a collection of tales called The Eyrie and Other Southern Stories (1905). Almost two decades later, after she and her cousin had passed away, Weird Tales began using the title "The Eyrie" for its letters column. 
A little to the southeast of Elizabeth City and across the Albemarle Sound lies Roanoke Island, the setting for one of the first weird tales to take place in America. Established in 1585, the English colony at Roanoke disappeared mysteriously, its members never to be seen again. The Roanoke Colony was in the news again last week when researchers from the British Museum revealed that they had discovered an image of a fort on a 425-year-old map of the area. The image has been hidden for centuries under a pastedown and shows a fort in what is now Bertie County, farther up Albemarle Sound. Maybe someday soon there will be other clues as to the fate of the Roanoke colonists.

Among those colonists was Virginia Dare, first English child born in America. A romantic myth has grown up around the girl with the improbably symbolic name. The image is of a young European woman living in the wild, perhaps even transformed into a white doe. The statue shown above is from the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, North Carolina.    
Virginia Dare's image has been used in commerce and popular culture for more than a century. This postcard from the 1907 Jamestown Exposition and showing the baptism of Virginia Dare is one example.
Virginia Dare has also been used as a brand name for wine . . .
And tobacco. Here she looks a little more coquettish. The image of the swan evokes the myth of Leda and the Swan.
The image of Virginia Dare has also been used on postage stamps. This one was issued in 1937, thirty years too late to use it on your Virginia Dare postcard.
Finally, if wine is a little out of your league, you might try Virginia Dare Ginger Ale, part of a line of soft drinks that included root beer, lemon soda, and grape soda. 
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. Lilla Mae Pool Savino is also buried in the Christ Episcopal Church in Elizabeth City, NC, sharing a tombstone with her husband (He might actually be buried in Plymouth, VA). The home she lived at in 1928, is on the Plymouth Halloween Ghost Tour (the Gaffos House, named for folks who lived their in the 1960s, with the ghost there since the 1850s). The dates on her tombstone are (1884 - 1939, but she could have shaved a few years off her birth