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Hot Springs – The Good One And Bad One

Hill Country Living
By Coulter Fussell

It’s a Wagner Week and if you would like to forget about hurricanes and coronavirus for a minute then read the second and third paragraph of this 1902 letter from Walnut, North Carolina. Go ahead and take yourself a mini-vacation of the mind. This guy could write very compelling travel brochures! After I read this letter, I found myself searching on Airbnb for cabins near Walnut, North Carolina and asked my family if they’d like to take a trip to the mountains. Walnut is right near Hot Springs, North Carolina. It sounds wonderful. The second letter comes from the other Hot Springs. The one in Arkansas. I’m not sure D.R. Wagner was gifted the travel writing talent of G.D. Able.

Other than vacation descriptions, these letters also include my other two favorite Wagner Letter recurrences: casual references to severe illness and vague descriptions of drama described in terms of “the ____ affair.” Here we not only have the mysterious Banks Affair but we are also gifted the not-so-mysterious Wilkes-Walker Affair! I imagine someone in the Wilkes-Walker met a bad fate and I wonder which one it was; Wilkes or Walker?

Walnut N.C.

July 21, 1902

Dear Eugene,

I received your letter on the 17th of July, several days ago; was glad to hear from you and specially to know that you and Burney were getting along so nicely with the Banks affair, and I believe that I am steadily improving and hope before I return that all the Malaria in my system will be entirely eliminated.

The nights are delightful for sleeping, we use cover every night and usually close the windows, the days are very pleasant.

We enjoy bathing in the Mountain streams, about 200 yards from our boarding place is a splendid pool and falls, the water carries down a distance of ten or twelve feet and give out a most exhilarating shower, creek is a little longer than the town branch in Water Valley and is almost a series of cascades down to the French Broad River, a half or three quarters of a mile away.

I trust that your father keeps in good health.

I regret exceedingly to hear of the Wilkes-Walker affair, but such results are not unusual when involved in gambling.

With very kindest regards to you all and to Mr. Wagner and family,

 Yours very truly,

G. D. Able

 Hot Springs, Ark

May 18th, 1902

 Dear Eugene,

Yours to hand, it will soon be time to look for you at home. I will not go until next Friday, we are all tolerably well, though. I have some pain yet. It’s hot here. Dudley and Kalista each enjoy being here. I will be glad to get home. Lots of badly afflicted people here and I am glad I’m so well off.  I was 62 years old yesterday, my how time does fly! Excepting the Rheumatism, my health is very good. I think this trip has done me a lot of good. Everything is quiet and dull at home and no news here.

We all send lots of love,



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