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Hill Country Living

Hill Country Living
By Coulter Fussell

The big Yellow Fever epidemic for our region was in 1878. It was terrible. Google it and read some stats/first hand accounts if you feel like getting even more depressed about contagions. In 1905 there was a smaller break out of Yellow Fever, primarily in New Orleans. Water Valley, very smartly, went on lockdown. The 1878 Yellow Fever epidemic was surely still in the living memory of lots of 1905 Water Valley folks, so I imagine they only wanted to learn a hard lesson once. 

In these 1905 letters D.R. Wagner is the writer. He’s writing from the road because they are running from the fever. His son is managing the mill and store for him. D.R. Wagner certainly seems homesick and seems to want to be at work. 

In the second letter from a few weeks later, everything is more confused and jumbled. The letter is scrawled quickly, their plans are changing according to various and unreliable reports, friends are going to different cities. Yet, in true Wagner fashion, they still take time to tour the city in an automobile!

Atlantic City, NJ August 2nd, 1905

Dear George,

Your letter read. I am glad you are improving. I am sorry that Kalista is not well. Tell her to write. I wish Frazer was home also. I wrote him some time ago. 

The yellow fever — some is real bad and the quarantine will cease a lot of trouble and suffering. I am very glad our town people are not demoralized and are so conservative. If people keep cool and live temperate and not get scared and panicky, there is very little danger even if fever is in town. 

I think we are getting along very nicely at the mill. We have plenty of orders and the account from the farm is also encouraging. 

We are all well here and having a very nice time but I get lonesome occasionally and want to be at home. There are crowds here all the time but I don’t know many people. 

I suppose you are taking inventory now! That is quite a job! We have lots of stuff we must get rid of such as stoves and wagons etc.

I am glad you discovered a leak in the cellar and hope by now its stopped and cellar is dry.

We all send love,


D.R. Wagner

Hotel Kennert


7 A.M.

Aug 31, 1905

We landed hear O.K. at 6 pm and will have our tickets fixed this A.M. and start for home tonight from Washington. We have telegrams from home and Memphis saying “come on” that conditions were “improving” but Mrs. Hubron had a message from her husband saying “Go to Swanee. Do not come into Mississippi.” So I suppose she will stop off at Chattanooga — Mrs. Thompson will go on. Continued…St. James, Washington 12 AM — Had tickets fixed and got off at 9 am, landed here at 10:15 & will take an automobile trip around the city at 2. Will leave at 10 pm. Have heard nothing more about fever in Mississippi.

D.R. Wagner 

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