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Autobiography of Inez Marshall

Return to the Inez Marshall Collection.

The following is a transcription of a pamphlet obtained from the
"Continental Sculpture Hall" and held in the Inez Marshall Collection

Autobiograhy [sic] of Inez Marshall,
Sculptress of Continental Sculpture Hall,
Abilene, Kansas.

[Abilene, Kan.: The Continental Sculpture Hall, 1969.]

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CONTINENTAL Sculpture Hall
"Only One of Its Kind In the World"

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This little letter is being written to you in Miss Marshall's own words, the history of how she became a sculptress.

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"I was born in Burr Oak, Jewell County, Kansas, in 1907. When I was two years of age, my father, a blacksmith, moved our family to Northbranch, a distance of about ten miles, where I grew up to womanhood."

"As a result of a truck accident about 30 years ago, I became disabled--later diagnosed as having a broken back. At that time my brother Ray and I each were hauling wheat to the Robin Hood Mill in Sioux City, Iowa, and returning to Glen Elder, Kansas, with loads of corn. On this trip, I had been driving day and night and was just two miles south of Lyons, Nebraska. I dozed off at the wheel for an instant, and aroused to find I had barely missed a bridge abutment and was driving on a very soft shoulder. As the truck was being pulled into the grader ditch, I quickly turned off the ignition switch to avoid a fire. The steering wheel struck me in the abdomen when the truck turned upside-down, and the last I remembered was dirt falling on me through the floorboards. How long I lay there, I don't know. When I regained consciousness, I climbed through a window and walked to the edge of the road, unaware that I was hurt. Two men (wonderful people) stopped, quickly loaded me into their car and rushed me back towards Lyons. As we rode, I began to feel something hitting my hand. I looked down to discover I was literally drenched in blood

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from a head wound. These men hurried me to a doctor who gave me a pill, sewed up the two-inch gash in my head, advised me that the shock would be great, but that I would be okay."

"I left the doctor's office, walked one-half block to hire a wrecker to take me back to the truck, get it up upright and back on the road. A friendly farmer came by and offered to scoop the corn back into the truck for me. In payment for this kindness, I had him take the very dirty grain home for hog feed. From that day to this, I don't remember driving that truck home to Northbranch--crossing a railroad track, passing through a small town, driving up in front of my parents' house. However, when I stepped out of the truck, it was as if a curtain had been lifted, and I fully realized where I was. My precious mother was hurrying toward me crying out, 'Inez, did something happen?' I told her there was a little wreck, but I was okay. She led me to the house exclaiming, 'You're white as a sheet!'."

"My struggle began when, the next morning, I could not get out of bed and looked bruised from head to toe. For a year and a half, I lay in bed unable to gain my strength. One morning, I felt an urge to immediately get to the front door. Mother and Father managed to get me into a rocking chair and then on to the front door. My gaze fell upon a small rock,

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possibly 2 x 3 inches in size, laying [sic] in the yard. Where this came from, I know not, as there were no rocks around our place; and, I certainly wasn't thinking of 'rocks,' as I was in constant pain. I asked my father to please bring that little rock to me. He did. After handling it for a moment, I said, 'Dad, hand me your knife.' As though she anticipated my need, my mother quickly brought her 'dough board' from the kitchen, covered with a newspaper, and laid it across the arms of my chair. It seemed that someone guided my hand as I began to carve, as I still didn't have a plan in my mind. As my hands progressed, I soon was amazed to see this little rock turn into a sculptured squirrel with his tail over his back."

"As the days rolled by, other things to carve from rock kept coming into my mind. My father arranged for my brother, Ray, to bring a truck load of rock from the farm of Ralph Sherman, a customer of my father's blacksmith shop. I carved and chiseled that whole load up into small items. Then one night, I talked with my father about selling my carvings, possibly by placing a small advertisement in a magazine. He handed me a dollar, the cost of the ad. I mailed all of my carvings to people responding to this ad, bringing me a return of $167. The little squirrel was sold to a lady in Winona Lake, Indiana."

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"Upon advise of my doctor, I had to quit work for a short time. My back condition was becoming worse and breathing the rock dust was bothering my chest. After too short a time, I couldn't resist going right back to it, and Dr. Joe Poppen, formerly of Downs, Kansas, insisted that he would be sending me to Arizona if I didn't get away from that dust. So, I did stop my carving for a short period of time, again. However, plans for larger pieces of sculpturing kept coming into my mind. I felt compelled to continue my work. This is when I discovered that there was a vein of white limestone in Jewell County. For some time, two ladies and two boys from Burr Oak furnished the white limestone for me to carve."

"Chiseling the rock by hand is very slow, and it wasn't long until I found I could not fill the mailorders fast enough. I was becoming physically weaker, as the effort was too much. So, I had to discontinue the mailorder business, and physically rest."

"From this point on, I felt that nothing else mattered. My main objective was to chisel rock. Rock, to me, had a very special meaning--it denoted strength, determination, something to anchor to, something to hold steady when all else failed. The work 'rock' is used in the Bible so many times. It was just wonderful (and still is) to study rock. So, at night--yes, while it

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was quiet and people were sleeping--I continued my chiseling of rock. By now, I had so many large pieces completed, I could not find a building in either Northbranch or Burr Oak to house my work. Portis, Kansas, did have a building available to meet my needs; so, I moved to Portis, and for a few years continued my sculpturing there."

"In 1968, Continental Sculpture Hall, here in Abilene, Kansas, was built as the special home for my sculpturing work. All of my pieces, weighing from a few ounces each to hundreds of pounds, were moved to Abilene. A quarter-ton hoist, fixed on heavily reinforced 4 x 4 uprights, was used to successfully move and arrange the larger items for display."

"Over 450 pieces of art work, the result of my 30 years of sculpturing and painting, are on display in the Hall. Everything has been painted to denote natural color. The native white limestone and magnesium limestone rock used came from Jewell and Osborne Counties, Kansas. I have experimented with ground rock, sometimes using additives, and perfected a hard rock which I use on certain pieces. The only tools I ever use are knives, chisels, hammers, saws, hand braces and bits, hand planes, and a great many crooked screwdrivers. I do not use machinery or electric tools of any kind. All pieces are 'free hand'--no

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molds or casts are used. I just take a huge chunk of rock and start chiseling, the pattern or plan being in my mind only."

"Here are descriptions of a few of the displayed items you will see in the Hall."

"A MODEL T CAR, 1914 model, complete with motor, transmission, U joints, drive shaft. Both doors open, turtle raises up in back. There are threads on the raditor [sic] cap--the cap unscrews, and water in the radiator. The car is around 3 1/2 feet long, approximately 600 pounds in weight. It even has lights and tail light, but no gas in the tank. It is native limestone, painted black with yellow spokes on the wheels and brass color radiator. Many, many people have told me it was worth the price just to see the car alone."

"ABRAHAM LINCOLN FAMILY, life size, seated in their own dining room. Abe himself weights over 500 pounds."

"An eleven room HOSPITAL, where you can see the doctors, nursery with babies, dining hall with complete table setting with victuals on the table."

"A large CHURCH with people."

"A LOG CABIN with people, and a rock stove in it that really burns wood and smoke comes

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out of the chimney."

"We sincerely hope that you who have visited us enjoyed the tour as much as we enjoyed your visit. We trust that you will tell yours friends, club and school groups, etc., about CONTINENTAL SCULPTURE HALL and help us to make it a wonderful educational place of interest. I personally take all visitors on the 40 minute tour, explaining the features of each display, and am most happy to answer questions as we move along."

"Plans for the near future include a work room for me to continue my sculpturing. This will be open to visitors who wish to watch me at work."

"Remember, it is the only one of its kind in the world--Continental Sculpture Hall, located south of the Eisenhower Center in Abilene, Kansas."

Inez Marshall

April, 1969

Last Modified: May 22, 2006 - 14:36

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