Bob Powell Published

February 15, 1950: Author Fannie Kemble Johnson Dies

This Week in West Virginia History is a co-production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Author Fanny Kemble Johnson died in Charleston on February 15, 1950, at age 81.

Born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1868, she moved to West Virginia in her late 20s and began her writing career. She and her husband, Vincent Costello, moved from Charleston to Wheeling in 1907, and back to Charleston in 1917.

She was known for her short stories, which were featured in such diverse publications as Ella Mae Turner’s 1923 compilation Stories and Verse of West Virginia, in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, and in some of the leading literary magazines of the 20th century, including Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, and Century.

Her story “The Strange Looking Man” was included in a collection of best short stories from 1917, and her work “They Both Needed It” was featured in a best stories collection of 1918. In 2000, “The Strange Looking Man” was also included in the Oxford University Press’s anthology Women’s Writing on the First World War.

Her one and only novel, Beloved Son, was published in 1916. It’s set in the Natural Bridge area of Virginia, where Fanny Kemble Johnson was raised.