Margaret Hill McCarter was born
of Quaker parents in Charlottsville, Indiana, May 2, 1860. Going
to college and teaching school were dreams that she held even as
a girl. She attended Earlham College, a Quaker school, for two years,
and then she attended the State Normal in Terre Haute and began
teaching elementary students. She became principal of Rensselaer
High, and later became the head of the English department at Goshen
High School. She was offered a position in Topeka, Kansas, as head of the
English department at Topeka High School, in 1888. McCarter did
not plan on staying in Kansas for the rest of her life, but that
is what happened. She has said that after she arrived a voice said
to her, “This is your town.”
She met William Arthur McCarter in Topeka, and married him in 1890.
They had three children: Katherine, Jessie, and William. She began
writing novels when her children were school-aged, but was very
proud to be a woman who cleaned her own house and took good care
of her family.
McCarter’s A Bunch of Things Tied Up with Strings
was her first published book, in 1901. She went on to write and publish
other short books, such as Cuddy, and Other Stories,
and The Cottonwood’s Story. In 1903 she wrote Overflowing
Waters, the story of a destructive flood that happened that
year. She donated the profits from the book to flood victims. McCarter’s
first novel, The Price of the Prairie, took five months
to write, and was published in 1910. It went through three editions
that first year, and earned a column and a half review in the New
York Sun. Twenty years after its publication she had earned
$75,000 from its sale. She published many other successful novels,
including A Master’s Degree, A Wall of Men,
and Homeland: A Present Day Love Story.
McCarter received three honorary degrees: a Master’s from
Baker University and Doctorates from Washburn University (D. Litt. 1919) and Emporia
*Biographical information obtained from “Margaret Hill McCarter,
Topeka Novelist,” by Zula Bennington Greene, published in
Kansas Authors of Best Sellers, published by Kansas State
College of Pittsburg, 1969, and compiled by Gene DeGruson.
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Books and Pamphlets
A Bunch of Thing Tied Up with Strings. Topeka: Crane &
The Candle in the Window. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company,
The Corner Stone. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company,
1915. London: C.F. Cazenove, 1915. New edition is now available on Amazon.com
Christmas Eve in the Day Coach. Topeka: Charles H. Trapp,
The Cottonwood’s Story. Topeka: Crane & Company,
1903, 1904, 1906, 1907, 1912, 1914, 1916.
Cuddy, and Other Stories. Topeka: Crane & Company,
1902, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1912.
Cuddy’s Baby: A Story of Kansas Folks. Topeka: Crane
& Company, 1907, 1908,. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company,
Homeland: A Present Day Love Story. New York and London:
Harper & Brothers, 1922. New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1924.
In Old Quivira. Topeka: Crane and Company, 1908, 1909,
A Master’s Degree. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company,
1913. London: C.F. Cazenove, 1913.
Overflowing Waters. Topeka: Crane & Company, 1903.
Paying Mother: The Tribute Beautiful. New York and London:
Harper & Brothers, 1920.
The Peace of the Solomon Valley. Chicago: A.C. McClurg
& Company, 1911, 1915, 1916, 1921.
The Price of the Prairie: A Story of Kansas. Chicago: A.C.
McClurg & Co., 1910, 1912. New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1913.
The Reclaimers. New York and London: Harper & Brothers,
1918. New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1920.
Vanguards of the Plains: A Romance of the Old Santa Fe Trail.
New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1917. New York: A.L.
Burt Company, 1919.
A Wall of Men. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company, 1912.
New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1914, 1928.
Widening Waters. New York and London: Harper & Brothers,
1924. New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1926.
Winning the Wilderness. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company,
1914. New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1916, 1928.
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A Poem by McCarter
As a Tale That Is Told (Published
in Sunflowers: A Book of Kansas Poems, edited by Willard
This is the tale of Kansas, and this way her legends run
From the dawn of the day on her eastern rim to the going down of
Whatever is done in thy valleys, whatever is said on thy heights,
Thy losses, and crosses, and sorrows; thy triumphs, thy joys, and
Tho’ the deed be done in the shadow, and only a murmur the
The eyes of the nation behold it, the ear of the world has heard.
As the Kaw runs to the Missouri, the Missouri runs on to the sea
And their waters in misty beauty fall back from the clouds on thee,
So the winds from the corners of heaven bring back thy message to
Out on the desolate highway that led to the Spaniards’ land
Went the unknown trader and trapper o’er the cactus-fringed
path of sand,
Where these wardens of commerce went building the trail down to
old Santa Fe,
With unmarked graves for their milestones over stretches of wilderness
Where the Pawnee Rock stood, a fortress, grim citadel of the Plains,
Where the blood of Comanche victims the Cimarron desert stains—
The Kaw has told the Missouri, the Missouri has told the sea,
And the iron-clad engines of traffic today bring their treasures
From the Lakes to where the Sierras dip down to the sunset sea.
Fertile and fair lay thy prairies, awaiting a pioneer’s hand
Sheltered by cottonwood branches, the brave little cabin home stands
Where the staunch-hearted lover of freedom in an unequaled terrible
With the ruffian from over the Border has made his last stand for
‘Til defenseless he falls like a martyr in the wrath of the
torch’s red glare—
Is there no voice to tell of this hero, no ear that will list to
Yes. The Kaw has told the Missouri, the Missouri has told the sea,
And the roar of a thousand cannons on battlefields thunder thy plea,
From that deed by the darkness enshrouded comes the sunburst of
Here in the “short grass” country with distances dreamy
The sturdy young claim-holder builded a sod-covered house for his
Though the Cheyenne put on his war-bonnet and went forth by bands
Though the drouth and the locust and cyclone joined hands in a force
He planted his grain by all waters, his service can never be told
And the seed that fell by the wayside has brought forth a hundred
For the Kaw has told the Missouri, the Missouri has told the sea,
And food for the starving millions, thy broad-acred bounty shall
The toil begun at the “grass roots,” brings riches and
honor to Thee.
Broad are thy skies, over-arching, and fair is thy land to behold
Thy schools are the pride of thy people, thy churches are manifold.
In the veins of thy sons, strong and noble, is the blood of a pioneer
And the demon they fight on thy border is the demon that lurks in
And patiently still wait thy daughters, their God-given rights to
When a citizenship universal thy brow with new laurel shall dress
The Kaw will tell the Missouri, the Missouri will tell the sea,
And the power that uplifts a nation, the leaven of history
Through a whispered word on the prairie will shout from the skies
The prophet, Ezekiel, has written that fronting to Eastward stands
A house, from under whose threshold the waters pour, healing all
The fishermen of Engedi spread their nets and rejoice day by day,
The trees on its banks never wither, the deserts with blossoms are
And so may we write of this Kansas, a house fronting still to the
So long as its sons and its daughters shall do as their fathers
While the Kaw runs to the Missouri, the Missouri runs on to the
The throb of the blossom-starred prairies, the pulse of the world
And the limit no man shall measure, for the end is Eternity.
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McCarter was a member of the Kansas Authors Club. This is her name tag from the 1935 Kansas Authors Club banquet.
A program from a discussion led by McCarter
This poem about Topeka was published by McCarter in 1901
Manuscript for the poem "Fall Styles in Trees" with corrections and McCarter's signature
*These images have been generously provided by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, where these McCarter artifacts are part the Topeka Room's Special Collections)
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Download one of McCarter’s novels, Vanguard of the Plains,
from the Project Gutenberg site.
Margaret Hill McCarter on Kansas Historical Society's website.
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