Hill Country Living
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It’s a Wagner Week and here’s an unusual one from head-honcho of the Wagner Letters crew: patriarch Daniel. He’s the one who built the big house on Dupuy. Although a loving parent, he’s typically a strictly business type of dad. He doles out checks freely, limits conversational topics to logistical matters, scolds his kids if they make a bad grade (this is usually limited to John Henry!) and signs his letters to his own children with his business signature: his initials. But here, on his birthday, he seems to be contemplating life.
A very sad element to this letter is that Danial writes about the birth of his first grandchild, Dudley, not knowing that in five days the child’s mother will be dead. Katie Becton Wagner, the lively and much-loved wife of Daniel’s first son, John Henry, dies from terrible childbirth complications. She was 19 years old. I imagine if Daniel had written this letter a week later, he wouldn’t have that rumination stated in the first two lines.
Water Valley Miss
My Dear Jessie,
This is my birthday and I am 51 yrs. old, it makes me feel sad when I allow myself to think of it. Time may go slow to young folks but it passes rapidly with old ones. Why it doesn’t seem long since I was a boy and I am only now beginning to realize that I am getting old…51 and nothing done! How many failures in life! I look about me among those I have known in early life and how few have made a success! Not one in five! Men and women! Among all of them not one has succeeded as well as I, both in finance matters and happy home surroundings, for all of which I am divinely thankful and full of sympathy for the less fortunate ones.
I am going off tomorrow morning to attend the Banker Convention at Natchez. I will then go to Greenwood, then to Memphis, then to Oxford to meet your mother. She and Aunt Mary will leave tomorrow evening for Oxford and mama will stay all week. I expect to be back home next Friday. See that you have a letter waiting here for me.
Mama is feeling a little better than she did. I want her to see Dr. J__ when she goes to Oxford.
We are now having lots of fine strawberries and flowers. I wish you were here to enjoy them. John and Katie and the baby are all well. The nurse had the baby up here this morning. He is growing finely and have named him after the Bank of Water Valley, that is Daniel Dudley Wagner. He should do well with that name, shouldn’t he! They will call him “D.D,” I suppose.
We all wish you very much joy and many happy returns. We will all think of you on your 18th birthday and pray that your life will be a success. With much love, I remain your devoted father.
P.S. Say to Ms. P to send bill if you owe anything. D.R.W.