Recently published book provides colorful glimpse into McCreary County history and the Gilreath family of Marsh Creek
Marla J. Selvidge began a personal journey in 1987 to reveal her McCreary County ancestors. In the process, she discovered so much more, not only about past generations, but about herself as well. Her findings are now chronicled in her recently published book, “Life Everlasting and Twelve Mile Blues.” Being from Roseville, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, Selvidge began researching the family name of her mother, Mary Gilreath Selvidge, after discovering an old map with the town of “Gilreath” on it while hiking in North Carolina. That chance encounter with an old map led to a thirty year labor of love to unearth the roots of her McCreary County ancestors.
Selvidge, the daughter of William Lester Selvidge and Mary Melvina Gilreath Selvidge, grew up in Michigan, the daughter of two Southern transplants who met and married after journeying north to find work during World War II.
As a child, listening to her mother’s tales about Marsh Creek, Jellico Mountain, Holly Hill, Pine Knot, Williamsburg, Stearns, and Whitley City, Marla J. Selvidge envisioned the hollows and hills of her mother’s childhood home in Kentucky as a sort of paradise. Those stories, about a hollow “where no one owned anything of value, but everyone knew and loved each other,” quickly painted a picture in Marla’s mind of a location that was “the only place people really knew how to live.”
The book, dedicated to Selvidge’s mother, her Aunt Myrtle Gilreath Baird, and her Uncle Homer and Aunt Thelma Gilreath, details the author’s annual, extended, childhood visits during summers to McCreary County. Touching on everything from watermelon, ticks, outhouses, and more, the book gives a colorful glimpse of life in McCreary County during the mid-1900s and chronicles the history of the Gilreath family that sprang from William Matt and Sarah Ann Gilreath who traded their wagon and mules for two tiny houses and approximately ninety acres of land on Marsh Creek in 1859. “I wanted to show the Southern culture as a wonderful way of life we don’t have in the North,” author Selvidge commented. “I became emotionally involved when I wrote the book. I realized I loved my Gilreath relatives and the mountains so much. I actually grieved for the house, the way of life, and the people that are gone. I hope, in a way, my book helps to keep all of those things alive.”
Marla J. Selvidge Ph.D., author of “Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues,” is Professor Emerita at UCM. Selvidge has published numerous academic texts and articles along with her first novel, “Denimonde.” In 2014, she published her book, “For the Love of Elvis.”
Selvidge lives with her husband, Thomas C. Hemlin, Ph.D. and two well-loved dogs, Prince Charlie and Princess Twinkers, in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. Her book, “Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues” is available through Amazon and will be available locally. The book is also available at the McCreary County Public Library.