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Hill Country Living

Wagner Letters On Display During Crawl


It’s a Wagner Week but, more importantly, it’s Water Valley Art Crawl week! This means I spend all “free” hours of my days and nights getting my stores ready for the onslaught of visitors. Art Crawl is the best event in Water Valley, in my opinion. It’s a combination between a tour of homes and an art event – perfect for the nosy/art-interested types such as myself. 

Yalo Studio is in a transition phase right now (hence no shows lately ) where I’m in the process of turning it into a space for a series of residencies. So, while all that gets organized and arranged and somehow funded, Yalo Studio’s contribution to Art Crawl this year will feature the Wagner Letters on display. It’s a massive collection and if you have any interest in any of this then I suggest you stop by! 

This week’s letter is a great example of Maria-style writing. One of her signature moves is to build you up and then immediately knock it all back down. Like in this letter where she wishes John the happiest of birthdays! And then immediately lets him know Grandma’s basically dead. Classic Maria. I also love when she goes on about her brother Gene’s greedy wife. Man, she hates that woman. This letter also mentions Mamie Wagner! The murder victim…but in this letter she would have only been 15 years old and surely not a Wagner yet, right? 

Maybe a different Mamie Wagner and I don’t have my family tree in front of me now so I can’t check this. Repeating names happens constantly in these letters so it wouldn’t be unusual for this to be an entirely different Mamie Wagner. Other Classic Maria-isms are complaining about her gross illnesses, commenting on how bad and old some one else looks, and talking about who is moving where and why, but with no real detail whatsoever and doing all this in a totally stream of consciousness fashion. 


Home Oct. 7th, 1886

My Dear Son,

I have thought of you so many times today, it is your birthday and I know you remember it too. I sent you a box and hope you got it today and enjoyed it. Grandma is in bed and seems to suffer much pain when she moves around. Aunt Sis is looking better then when she came down. Gertie Evans is not right well, is at home these three days and it makes Corinne mad for her to stay at home, she wants to stay too. 

Aunt Sis & I went over to see Mamie Wagner. She was in bed sick, something like “cholera morbus,” Hiram likes his new school very much, I read a letter to his  step mother from him. 

Gene has not come yet, don’t know whether he will come soon or not. They are as unsettled in their minds as you and she knows she wants money to spend and all she can get. He is trying to please or die at his attempt. 

Ma sends you her love and says she hopes you are well. I believe I am billious, I feel so. 

Mrs. Dupuy was here today at dinner with us. Miss Emma Crofford is no better, she looks so much like Aunt Corinne did the last winter of her life. 

The sun shines very warm but the nights and mornings are cool. 

How is it with you? There is no news that I know of. 

Cull Collins and family are at Mrs. Simmons. I have not seen any of them yet, the roads are very dusty and dry. Aunt Sis and I went home with Grandpa and he took some honey out of a gum and we had some for supper that night, only gone a little while. Mrs Polk was over yesterday, they are not going to move and I am so glad for they are such clever good people. I love them ever so much. 

Mr. Pearson is going to move to Memphis soon. You know he is the “police force.” 

Emma and Cassie Evans are in Memphis, they are anxious to come on down here, they think it dull there, they may come in a short time. Well, John, I will close so I don’t think this can be of much interest to you, with lots of love & kisses from your loving Mother.

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