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Hill Country Living

A Missing Link – 1870s Wagner Letter


It’s a Wagner Week and I am publishing this letter from the 1870s. I get really excited every time I find a letter from this decade because it is the only decade I’m missing. How did I wind up with thousands of letters from 1850 – 1960 and somehow not get the 1870s? I guess that decade was in another trunk or something and it got thrown away or sold to someone. 

It’s really a loss because that time period was Reconstruction (basically, the very intriguing decade in which the South was trying to pull it together after their loss in the Civil War.) And it’s also the decade Daniel seemed to make a personality change.

His civil war letters are great and so very well written. They are descriptive and funny and loving. So are his early letters to Maria. He clearly loves her. But later on, Daniel becomes all-business, humorless, and is all-consumed in work. 

While fairly condescending, he makes a little joke or two in this early letter to Maria. I wonder if it was the last joke he ever made. Until I find the other 1870s letters I guess I’ll just have to assume so.

Also, did Maria lose her mother? Like, literally? Sounds like her mom just wandered off to Oxford on a dementia-induced whim and no one can find her.

Is it weird that every time they talk about going to Oxford I picture them in a buggy taking a left at the 9/7 split and then passing by Popeyes? Somehow in my mental vision of their travels to town, it’s the modern-day drive and doesn’t look like it probably did in the 1860s. Too bad for them, because that means they couldn’t stop at hilltop and get some Baskin Robbins or go to the good Dollar General.


Philadelphia 17th 

March 71

My Dear Wife

Yours of 13th to hand and I sit down to answer it. You cause me great uneasiness about your mother. I feel so sorry for her. I wonder where she has gone. I suppose you certainly found out by this time. Poor mother! She must suffer very much both mentally and bodily. She has had a hard time, has made a marry of herself. I hope and pray you or any of her children will never have a touch of trouble and thoroughly hope you have heard of her in Oxford. 

As for that matter you allude to about, the “Doctor”, that is all nonsense. You couldn’t help it any more than you i could and if you had told me ten times more it would have made no difference in my feelings for you — besides, the Bible says something about forgiveness. I might have committed worse things than he and still deserve to be forgiven for them– that is MY RELIGION — but I am sorry you are having such a rough time at home with you work, etc and am glad you sent for the “Record of Distinguished Women” (which I got today.) 

I presume we will now have another Florence Nightingale or Joan of Arc in our town, won’t we. 

Am glad to hear that John is over his sprain, poor little fellow. I think of you and him nearly all the time. That is, you know, I don’t think of you and him sometimes when I am with other gals but when I ain’t, I do.

Am nearly through buying and will be home in about a well, not later. We all send our love and kisses to you and John and Ella and C. and Eug. and Hirm. and all.

Your husband etc,

D. R. W.a

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