The Many Talents of a Remarkable Woman

Erik Dubbs, Staffer

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“Art is full of jealousy. The people that can’t paint get jealous of the people that can… and that’s why they hate me,” says Margery Wheeler Mattox of Pine Grove. At 93 years old, Wheeler Mattox is an avid painter and proud owner of the historic ‘Nutting Hall’ in this town. Wheeler Mattox is guiding tours through her small-town home. While touring her home, Wheeler Mattox informed the background of her homestead… ‘Nutting Hall’ was first built in the years of 1823-25, for much of the first half of the 20th century, the home was claimed in ownership of the Wigton family. Eventually James Nutting had married the daughter of William Graeff who had previously purchased the house in 1937, hence, ‘Nutting Hall’.

In the past, Wheeler Mattox had owned the home alongside her older brother, a nationally renowned author, veteran, and award winner, Richard ‘Dick’ Wheeler. ‘Dick’ Wheeler had published over 18 books in his lifetime.

Wheeler Mattox herself is the author of ‘A Lifetime of Illusions’ and illustrator of a children’s book about Daniel Boone. Wheeler Mattox included select characters in her novel to be a representation of the “flavorful” people in her life. “I’ve painted over 800 paintings,” says Wheeler Mattox proudly.  “I burn the ones I don’t like, which is a lot of them I guess.” Wheeler Mattox laughs. Regarding her work, Wheeler Mattox fervently believes, “I don’t take credit for my work because I simply do not know how I do it. It’s my hands maybe, I don’t know… it came to me as a child and I’ve just done it ever since. It’s always been my greatest hobby.”

“Margery has always been too critical on herself,” says friend and caretaker, Louise Miller. “When she says she’s going to burn a beautiful painting, usually for a ridiculous reason… I hide the painting in the attic or somewhere else and she usually forgets about it.” Miller says in Wheeler Mattox’s presence, the both of them erupted in laughter. “I guess she’s right.” Wheeler Mattox responded, still chuckling.

For nearly fifty years, Wheeler Mattox bought and with— took on the task of restoring the history of the home. While being extremely talented in the field of painting, Wheeler Mattox also is inconceivably adept in other arts such as crocheting. To furnish one of her kitchens in the home, Wheeler Mattox took it upon herself to braid a rug. “I’ve had this rug for about maybe 60 years,” says Wheeler Mattox referring to her décor. “It’s made of my old dresses that I used to dance in as a young girl, I cut up the dresses for the fabric and braid them together. I cut up this really pretty green dress that I made years back for some splash of green in the color of the rug. The material I got was barely the amount of green that I wanted. I really shouldn’t have cut up that dress. Well, there’s one of my regrets. Can’t do anything about it now,” says Wheeler Mattox comically grinning to herself. Back in the day, Wheeler Mattox was an avid square-dancer, she made all of her dresses for dancing. Reminiscing about her favorite dress, a red gown she’d made for a gala at Gettysburg University, that if she’d remembered correctly, Dwight E. Eisenhower was supposed to be a guest but ended up being a no show. Wheeler Mattox says sarcastically, “He was my date that night, so I guess I was without company. But that’s okay.” Wheeler Mattox chuckles through a sarcastic grin.

Having suffered a stroke about four years ago, Wheeler Mattox admits her memory isn’t as keen as it used to be. While touring the home, you may observe there are handwritten notes around many relics around the house. Wheeler Mattox says, “Because of my memory, I leave the notes around the important places, they’re to remind myself what happened and what everything is about. It’s really important to me that I have the history all down so I know I at least have that going after I’m gone.” On a positive note, Wheeler Mattox is a devoted supporter of any supernatural theory, she fervently believes the house is haunted by soldiers from the war, and every past resident of the home that have died there as well. Apparently, the house had withstood a great amount of deaths. “I had a psychic come to the house, she was one of those good ones too, we waited a year for her,” Wheeler Mattox explains. “She told me the soldiers constantly walk the hallways to this day. She looked at a table that wasn’t mine and asked me if this was my table. I of course said no, and asked why she pondered. She said, ‘Because the woman behind me told me it was her table.’ I was spooked beyond belief, so I made sure to tell her that the woman better get herself out of my house and don’t let the door hit her on the way out!” Wheeler Mattox explains this laughing with the sincerity of comedic expression. “After my brother passed I decided to leave the light in his quarters on so I can honor him and respect him,” Wheeler Mattox explains. “Some days I come in and the light switch is turned off! I always make sure to turn it back on. But it turning itself off… It simply cannot be anything but supernatural!”

Wheeler Mattox had painted a painting of a Native American woman many years back, the idea for the painting just appeared in her head one day and she decided to make it a reality. “I had painted this painting,” Wheeler Mattox explains. “I made it up and called her Maria, and she was beautiful. Months afterwards I was going through some of my brother’s unopened letters and brought it upon myself to open the one in hand. The letter said he had previously researched our heritage and found we were Native American. I was ecstatic, and then I kept reading my brother’s research and he said our great grandmother’s name was Maria, and she was a Native American woman! I painted my great grandmother. That isn’t just coincidence. I don’t care what anyone says; too many things happen.”

        Miller and Wheeler Mattox are constantly restoring the historic home as there is constant upkeep with a homestead as large as Nutting Hall. Wheeler Mattox doesn’t hesitate to consider Miller a dear friend and vice versa. The relationship the two women have is as comical as it is unbreakable. The summer of 2017, Wheeler Mattox and Miller decided to start a new project for restoration. The two would be taking on the task of remodeled Margery’s greenhouse after one of the many devastating floods Pine Grove suffers from. After long hours of work in the heat, the Greenhouse was remodeled and Wheeler Mattox had a dream perhaps a little too late, “I make every day count,” Wheeler Mattox explains. “I would’ve wanted to turn this Greenhouse into a gift shop… if I was 20 years younger! But I don’t want live that long. I’m bored.” says Wheeler Mattox erupting in laughter. Margery explains her nighttime routine, “I make sure that every night I say goodnight to my portraits and photographs of family. There hasn’t been a night that I’ve missed a farewell to them. It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

        Wheeler Mattox is still offering tours of her home along with the explanations of her life and her brother’s. Tours are given upon request, therefore, if you are interested in touring ‘Nutting Hall’ contact Louise Miller, owner of the Pine Grove Theatre. A friendly tip for touring with Margery; she likes the spectators to show interests in the things she has to say. It is very important to her that you keep her conversationally active… she especially dislikes when people tour her home and say nothing to her. She likes feeling as if it isn’t a tour, but as a visit of friends to her home.  The experience is nothing like you’ve ever had before. Also, you are able to meet one of Pine Grove’s hidden all-stars, and witness her many beautiful oil paintings. She is also featuring a library in her basement of her brother’s research books that he’d use to write his renown novels. Wheeler Mattox’s prints of her paintings are available for sale at the Made in PGA store in Pine Grove.