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MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE and the town of Falmouth

One of my favorite books as a child was Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, and it is still a favorite with many, many children who check it out of the library every year. Set on the little island of Chincoteague, Misty tells the story of Paul and Maureen Beebe and the horse that they loved. What I did not know until just this year was that the illustrator, Wesley Dennis, actually grew up in Falmouth! It was a library patron visiting the reference room who recently mentioned to us that Wesley Dennis had grown up here. His is certainly a name to add to our legendary locals.

According to his obituary in the Falmouth Enterprise (September 6, 1966):

“John Wesley Dennis, artist and illustrator, died Saturday night at Falmouth hospital. He was 63. Mr. Dennis, whose home was in Warrenton, Va., had been living and working this summer in his native Falmouth. … Wesley Dennis did the illustrations for John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. He collaborated with author Marguerite Henry in a series of children’s books. … He was born in Falmouth, son of John W. and Ida Morgan Dennis of Davisville Road. He attended schools here and before finishing Lawrence High School went to Boston to study at the New School of Design and to do free lance drawing and illustrating for Boston newspapers. He went to Paris to study for a year, then worked in New York. From earliest days he had a love of horses, but his view of art as a career was strictly practical. ‘Just a business,’ he said many years ago, and that was the way he approached it. … This summer he had been at the summer place in West Falmouth owned by David Garland, his step-son. Mr. Dennis had spoken to friends of buying property in Falmouth and settling down here.”

If you’d like to learn more about Wesley Dennis, you’ll find an extensive collection of information about him and his art at www.wesleydennis.com, a web page that was created by a fan named Abby Beall. You’ll even see a photo in which he is clearly wearing a Falmouth t-shirt!

One caveat about Mr. Dennis having been born in Falmouth … we could not find him listed as being born here in the town annual reports, so we suspect he arrived during the early years of his life, but was actually born in Boston (which is what the New York Times obituary reports).

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1. Meredith Evans Presbrey D.Min. | Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Fascinating information.

Yes, Misty was one of my elementary school (almost middle school, as defined in the 50s) most adored books. 

Over the intervening 50 years or so, I have dreamed of making a trip to Chincoteague.  We’ll see…

Thank you for the local reference!

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