Mary Burnham was born in Avery County where she grew up and attended Mission School for her first nine years of education. She then went to boarding school called Hannamore Academy in Ragerstown, Maryland. Ms. Bornham continued her education at Hood College in Fredrick, Maryland and Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She then worked at Swarthmore College for four years as a librarian. She also went to UNC for graduate study in ancient and Medieval history. Ms. Burnham worked as a librarian in the department of zoology at Cornell University and at Shaddock Hospital in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts where she met her husband and eventually after retirement made her way back to the Valle Crucis area.
Ms. Burnham explains the history of the Mission School she attended. Ms. Burnham goes into detail about the Valle Crucis community including its history, major events, and the current differences compared to her childhood. Her memories of the area also include politics, specifically elections and the typical transportation of the area. Ms. Burnham then speaks of the traditions and customs of the area such as quilting and weaving. Other traditions she talks about include picking herbs, folktales, and group activities she experienced as a child. Ms. Burnham recollects the Great Depression and its effects on the neighborhood including the public schools and churches.