Husband: Harold Ernest (Bob) Poyser (Fig. R559a. See also Figs. R554e, R558b)
Father: Harold Poyser
Mother: Mary Poyser
Born: 1895, Sydney, Australia

Wife: Mattie Jane (Matt) (Wood) Poyser (Fig. R559b)
Father: Lewis E. Wood [R005]
Mother: Emma (Burger) Wood [R005]
Born: 11/19/1895, at “Wood home near Nimrod Hall”
Died: 9/14/1962. Buried in Horeb Baptist Church cemetery, Bath

Married: 6/12/1924, at Nimrod Hall; William B. Moore, minister

Edward (Ned) Poyser, b. 11/18/1929 [R605]

In 1912, Mattie (16) badgered her father into sending her to live with her brother Kemp and attend school in Philadelphia. Her sabbatical was short; her father recalled her to Bath County as soon as he learned there were negroes in her Philadelphia school.

In 1918, with the help of Dr. Henry A. Taylor, a regular guest at Nimrod, Matt began training at the School of Nursing of the Memorial Hospital in Richmond. Apparently at the outset she was in a 3-month program the School offered, but it soon changed to a full-fledged 3-year Registered Nurse program. She was one of 13 who graduated in the class of 1921, 5/31/1921. For reasons that are unclear she had to stay on until the end of the year to get her Pin and Diploma.

After that she visited her sisters in Hampton Va., and began work there as a private nurse for patients in their homes. In the summer of 1922 she came to Nimrod and helped there, but also contracted for home nursing care in the vicinity. In the fall she and two of her Richmond classmates went to New York City to pursue their careers. Matt’s position was at the Fordham Hospital. On 10/6/1922 her parents received a long charming letter with her first impressions of the big city:

“...The hospital accomodates about 450 patients and divided into 16 different wards each for different conditions. I’m third floor men’s surgical, and that is where all of the big football players are brought when they have an accident.

“I didn’t know there were so many Italians in this world! Some times I wonder if I’m in Italy or America. One can go for miles on the cars and never see or hear an American. Such a bunch of chattering―Of course lots of them are Jews but I can’t tell the difference. But we get a very low class of patients all city cases...

“I went down on Broadway and fifth Ave. Sat. afternoon and had a big time looking around. Wasn’t one bit afraid. It is so easy to find the way―each street corner is well marked. They don’t seem to have any sign of traffic law. Automobiles, horse, cars, and people all go along together and cross in front of each other. One might get you any minute if you don’t look out...”

In the spring of 1923 Matt transferred to Bellevue Hospital, where she did graduate studies in Social Nursing. Sometime that year she met Bob Poyser at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, which had a program for young adults called Christian Endeavor. Later in the year it began to be rumored that they would marry. Matt’s parents resisted the idea. The reason is unclear; maybe Bob was just too exotic and unknown for them. In a 3/18/1924 letter to her mother Edith Nelson took Matt’s side. Emma relented (“...I decided not to oppose Mat’s [marriage] any more for we could do nothing”). Matt resigned her position about 5/16/1924, and she and Bob were married on the Nimrod front lawn 6/12/1924 (Figs. R559c, R559d).

Little information is available about Bob Poyser. He was an Australian; his mother and sister also lived in New York; and he had a sly sense of humor. The profession he gave on his Bath County marriage license was “Electrical Engineer.” From what his son Ned heard from Matt in later years this exaggerated his status; still, in a letter of 1/20/1925 Matt wrote “Bob is spending all of his spare time on his radio and it is going to be a beauty. He is making it all himself and carrying out the remotest little detail to a perfection, and will soon be ready to hook it up now. I’m not educated radiowise but hope to become more interested in it. We missed two wonderful ‘Grand Opera Concerts’ over it since it has been under construction.” The [S089] letters suggest Bob had health problems, and in fact ultimately he died at a relatively young age.

0n 9/7/25 Matt assisted in the operating room when Dr. Peple amputated her mother’s left foot. She remained with Emma as long as feasible, but finally had to return to New York. She and Bob had moved from Manhattan to Long Island, and Matt had different employment (“general field duty”).

Matt and Bob’s son Ned was born in 1929. The Woods never seem to have taken to Bob; in 1932 the couple divorced, and Matt and Ned returned to Nimrod Hall. Ned’s account follows: “Beyond her child and her family, Matt’s greatest love and relaxation was to ‘work’ the flower garden at Nimrod to provide flowers to decorate the tables in the main dining room.

“She was employed in Franklin Roosevelt’s ERA program (Emergency Relief Administration) in 1933 as the first ERA Supervisor of the area in charge of Alleghany, Bath, Highland, and Botetourt Counties which was then handled by one agent in each county. She dealt with many of the social concerns that still plague us today, but with a much more straightforward approach. There was no difference toward black or white. If a woman on welfare got pregnant, Matt instructed her doctor to ‘tie her tubes’ when the baby was delivered. If she learned of welfare money going for alcohol, the recipient got no more money and the store that sold it got no more welfare business. She frequently got work for her clients and told them that if they lost their job, there would be no more welfare. She put numerous men on the WPA work program. She got Sam Snead his first job as a caddie at the Homestead. Her problems in her work were usual dinner time conversation with her father, who offered frequent counseling.

“In 1937, when she thought that welfare would be winding down (and it probably would have if administered by her criteria), and Ned was to enter school, Matt moved to Newport News Va. to direct the health program of the city school system. She went there to expose Ned to the best education she thought that she could make available to him, and the day after he graduated from high school she returned permanently to the Lyons property [in Bath County], which she had purchased, adjacent to the Camp property.

“In 1939 she opened Camp Nimrod for Girls on land given to her by her father, and with a $1000 loan from him at the then unheard of interest rate of 6%. The buildings were built with lumber sawed on the property and the construction was supervised by her brother Kemp, who had also returned to Nimrod. She saw to it that the Camp sustained high moral and religious standards under her leadership. The Camp grew well under her guidance and she continued to operate it until her death in 1962. The Camp was then sold to Matt’s brother Frank [R563], who turned it over to his daughter Sarah to operate.”

Sources: [S003, S052, S072, S089]