Forgotten Trails – by Lydia Grimes

Published 10:11 pm Monday, December 29, 2008

By Staff
Downing never a reform school
The first thing I want to do today is to apologize for anything I might have said last week that offended some of the readers.
Never, in my wildest dreams did I think that the letter I included in my column last week, would be taken the way that some of you did,
Downing Industrial School was never, by any stretch of the imagination, a reform school. It was only thought that by a few individuals who were not from this area. They didn't know anything about what the school was all about. They only knew that the girl was put there by her father and they perceived it as a reform school.
Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Downing Industrial School was a highly respected school and I have found nothing to suggest otherwise. For all of you who were offended, I am truly sorry.
Now, back to another story.
I don't have a time frame that fits this lady into the Downing Industrial School, but she may have been associated with it.
Mary Segers was born in Indiana, probably in the early 1900s, as she was married in 1920. She spent her childhood in Indiana and she graduated from Pratt Art Institute and Columbia University in New York after which she supervised art in the public schools in Indiana and Illinois.
Mary married the Rev. Albert Segers in 1920 and he later became the pastor of East Brewton Methodist Episcopal Church. They moved to Brewton and within a short period of time, he died, leaving Mrs. Segers alone, as they had no children. She continued to live in the area and must have been a whiz at land dealings.
She bought land and continued to buy for many years, until she had bought up quite a few acres. She, it is believed, also shared her love of painting and may have even had classes here. Her obituary said that she continued her interest in art throughout her life and was associated with the Art Guild of Alabama
Nothing else is known about her life, at least to me, except that she continued to live in this area. She wrote her will in July of 1960, and named as her executors, Clara B. Williams, Earnest A. Johnson, and Joe B. Thompson Jr.
If there is anyone who knows anything, and I do mean anything, about this lady I would love to hear from you. I would love to hear some stories and even more important, know where any of her paintings are. Surely there were some that were left in Brewton.
She also left her money to be used for scholarships for students chosen by her executors. If you know of any recipients of these scholarships, please let me know. Mary Segers funeral services were held in Brewton with Craver's Funeral Home directing, but her burial was in Louisville, Ga., where her husband was buried. At the time of her death she was survived by two brothers, five sisters and one step-daughter. If you know of Mary Segers, please contact me, even if it is a small story or painting.
Until next week, happy hunting.