Wanda and Helen [Muir]
untsville, Ala., Oct. 8th, 1898.
Dear Wanda and Helen:
Yesterday noon we got here from Chattanooga, passing through beautiful hilly and mountainous scenery all the way -- more than a hundred miles -- all covered with a close growth of trees, except the little valleys and clearings of the settlers covered with weeds and corn and cotton. The trees are junipers, maples, many oaks, some of them with long narrow leaves that make them look like willows, two kinds of magnolia, linden, ash, liriodendron, elm, beech, sorrel, nyssa, liquidambar, yellow wood, celtis, five or six kinds of hickory, chestnut, etc. etc. etc. I never before saw so many hickory trees. Some of them are broad branching, 100 feet high and 3 feet in diameter, and just loaded with nuts -- among them is the pecan, the same as ours only here it grows wild among other trees and is very large. When you ask the nigger boys if any of the different kinds is good they always say "Yes saw"; like, in emphasis, the Yankee boy's "You bet". One would think that squirrels would be churring and barking in every tree, and so they were long ago. Now they are nearly all killed by the sharp-eyed hunters. I have not yet seen a single wild beast in the woods -- not even a chipmunk, and very few birds. At Tuscaloosa I saw and heard a few mocking birds, and blue jays, while crows are cawing most everywhere. When we were going to Chattanooga a man and his wife and 4 children came into our car, the man carrying a little boy, the mother a baby, and one of the larger children carried a box with a cat in it about the size of Madagascar, the other a box full of little guinea pigs. They must have been as fond of animals as you are.
But queerer than any other of the animated creatures are the little Nig children. Some are black and some are brown, and some are yellowish buckeye color; some are dressed and ribboned and ruffled like the showiest flowers, and some are not dressed at all, but all grin gloriously when you look at them.
Huntsville is an old town situated in a broad beautiful valley at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, and in the residence portion there are many fine old homes with broad verandas, great columns in front, and surrounded by spacious gardens and groves dotted with statuary. In one I counted four oaks from 4 to 5 feet in dia[meter] with grand leafy heads, and many magnolias and elms. The walks were bordered with box and flowers of many kinds I never saw before, while the huge mansion with its airy verandas seemed big enough for a dozen families.
We hired a carriage and a darky this morning and drove up [into] the mountains east of the town through an extremely interesting forest full of rare prizes for botanists. The views to the West and North from the top are perfectly glorious in color and features, low swells and hollows -- mere dimples -- in the broad valley bounded at a distance of 20 or 30 miles by Cumberland Mountains, fairy blue and soft in outline. It would take many a page to describe it, however imperfectly. You must come and see it some day, though it’s mighty rough getting here. There are two or three camps of soldiers here and the town is full of them, some drunk. The business part of Huntsville is dirty and confused, like most southern towns, and the hotels horrid.
Tomorrow night we expect to be in Lexington. In an hour or so we will be spinning back to Chattanooga to spend the night and start for Kentucky in the morning. Love to Mamma and Maggie. Heaven keep you darlings.
[Envelope addressed to Miss Wanda Muir, Martinez, California.
Postmarked Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 8, 1898, 9 P.M.].
1898 Oct 8
Original letter dimensions: 24 x 15.5 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to Wanda and Helen [Muir], 1898 Oct 8." (1898). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 2198.
Reel 10, Image 0365
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