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An era passes with Margaret Carr's retirement

Photo by Jeff Woodburn Mrs. Margaret Carr is surrounded by several former editors of the Coös County Democrat – (from the left) Eileen Alexander, Gene Ehlert and John Harrigan (who also owned the paper) and the current editor Art McGrath. (click for larger version)
October 05, 2011
LANCASTER – An era closed last Thursday, when the Coös County Democrat's long-time social correspondent Margaret Carr stepped down after 31 years of chronicling the coming and goings of her native Lancaster. An active centenarian and holder of Lancaster's Boston Post Cane, Carr was, according to the Democrat's editor, Art McGrath, an "important link to and repository of our local history and culture."

Three former Coös County Democrat editors – including John Harrigan, Gene Ehlert and Eileen Alexander – joined McGrath at a small retirement celebration at Mrs. Carr's home. They paid homage to her endurance, elegance and meticulous attention to detail.

Her copy was always perfect," said Alexander, "it never needed to be edited."

Mrs. Carr lived through great changes since she started writing for the Democrat in 1980, Ehlert said but "Margaret continued to do everything by hand in incredibly perfect penmanship in ink with never a cross-out and page after page of details about people's lives."

With the same fastidious care, Mrs. Carr would comb through her contacts to gather pertinent news on countless people. She recorded the basis news of life in a small town. Each week she told her readers who was sick, had company, and went on a trip or an outing; who got a new job, a promotion and also who had a special birthday, anniversary or graduation.

Mrs. Carr had a tremendous network of friends and family and this web grew larger with each passing year and as children were born, grew older and had children themselves. She kept it all in a wide alphabetized binder with the names of many long-time residents and their children (and their spouses and their children).

She kept a close eye on natives who left the region, she wrote of their marriages, children, job changes but most of all she told readers when they came home – and what they did. When they were "tending graves" she got that too.

Mrs. Carr recalled how she became Lancaster's correspondent 31 years ago. She got a call from Lancaster's social correspondent Kitty Murphy with the innocent question "Do you have any news." But Murphy had other plans; she wanted Carr to replace her. She did just that and learned, "People don't call in as they wish you would," she said, "so you kind of have to go after it."

The Coös County Democrat is believed to be the only weekly newspaper in the region that still carries community social notices or columns. Twenty years ago, there were nearly a dozen columnists covering the various towns in the region, now this paper has just one. It is written by Jefferson correspondent Wilma Corrigan. "It's a challenge to find people who are willing to do this," said Harrigan and do it well you have to have deep connections in the community and care deeply about the area. Genealogists say these social or gossip columns are integral way of telling the story of a place and the people that lived there.

Mrs. Carr's niece, Annetta McGinnis will take up Carr's mantle and her list of contacts.

Mrs. Carr's writing career began at the Lancaster Academy, where she was the exchange editor of the school newspaper, "The Lancastrian." A Lancaster native, Mrs. Carr grew up on a farm in East Lancaster and remembers coming to town on horse drawn sleigh and vivid details about life many years ago. A video of Mrs. Carr's retirement party is available at www.WhiteMtNews.com.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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