Emma was born 150 years ago in Newton at the Historic Mershon Mansion, which still majestically stands at 1111 N. Third Ave. E. Her Father James, who helped found the Newton Congregational Church back in the 1850s, is portrayed in a number of local History Journals. But, to a degree, others in the family were in the shadows.
Local Historian Larry Hurto brought Emma Mershon back to life in magnificent fashion during his recent program at the Newton Library. He held everyone’s keen attention during his 90 minute presentation, laced with historic pictures. Also, he read some flowery coverage of Emma’s musical programs by three different Newspapers back in the 1890s.
Those who have experienced other historic programs by Larry know how well he does his homework. His presentations are well organized with fascinating facts that have been well researched. Larry doesn’t just stand at the podium, but tends to “stroll” as he relates historical facts and figures from his fertile mind. His casual “Will Rogers” approach sets the audience at ease, yet definitely holds their attention.
Without question this “Prima Donna” of music from the past is one of Newton’s best kept secrets. Her performances at local churches and the ancient Lister Opera House are well documented, but somewhat lost in time. Emma, without question should shine as part of Newton’s history.
Several of us have suggested to Larry that he might prepare a condensed version of Emma’s life, with fascinating highlights and pictures that could be presented to local Service Clubs, and other organizations. This would again help spread the word about a fantastic National and International Figure from right here in the Newton Community. She might also be “discovered” on national TV Programs such as 60 Minutes. This should not be considered as a pipe dream.
Meanwhile, I am just one of many of who thoroughly enjoyed this story by Larry Hurto of a very fascinating figure from Newton’s past. We would encourage him to schedule an “encore” presentation again at our Library, and explore a condensed version of his great program for broader usage. I am glad to be counted as one of his many admirers.
John D. McNeer