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Hill Country Living

Hill Country Living
By Coulter Fussell

Hello, to the sub-set of column readers who are Wagner fans! A mid-January day in 1886 Water Valley wasn’t too different from one today. Here we have a letter from school-aged Corinne writing to big brother, John Henry, who is off in North Carolina at Bingham Military School.

I really love the kid letters. Kids are able to put things simply and plainly, often without filter or great opinion. It’s true observation. They also thoroughly report on the weather, the plants, the animals, the food they eat, illnesses and developmental milestones of their brothers and sisters. The partial history of Water Valley that the Wagners provide wouldn’t be as thorough without the contributions of the many, many dozens of children’s letters. For instance, I learned what a cubeb is from reading this letter. It’s medicinal spice, and I’m honestly not sure why a little girl is asking for it! Man, what all we could know now if all the Water Valley kids of 1886 had the opportunity to document their lives…

I feel bad for Baby George in this letter. Nobody needs the badness breaking out on them.

Water Valley
At Home
Jan 24th, 1886
Dear Brother,

We would all like to see you very much. This is my second letter to you. I have written to Hiram. You said you hoped I was getting fine reports, I am. I got the medal, a pink box of paper day before yesterday. At the examination I got a book and a Christmas Card.

It sleeted night before last and it was on the ground yet Jessie and I slid on it with a plank. It is pretty cold now. The badness is breaking out on George in sores. He plays with Jim yet.

We were all very glad to hear from you. It was received and read with pleasure. This is the first time I have had the medal. I was very glad when I found out that I had it. I like to play on the sleet. Jessie’s leg hurt her last night and she is not up yet. George fed the little birds a while ago and he calls them his.

I would like to see you. Calista staid with Grandpa last night and has not come back yet. There is not much news to tell you. Uncle is going home tomorrow morning. I wish you would write more to me, I never received any answer to my other letter.

The top of the houses are all covered with sleet. Papa said he was very glad to hear you would continue to study and so do I.

Are you well now? How do you like your room mates? Do you remember last winter when you brought those cubebs? I wish I had some more.

Write very often. I hope you will write to me soon, I remain you loving sister,

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