Augusta Evans Wilson was an author whose books
have been among America's best sellers. She was born in Columbus, Georgia, in
1835, and moved with her parents by covered wagon to San Antonio, Texas when
she was a young girl. Later, she and her family moved to Mobile, Alabama,
where, at the age of 15, she wrote her first book, Inez, A Tale of the
At the age of 18, she wrote her second book,
Beulah, which sold over 22,000 copies and established her as Alabama's
first professional author. But St. Elmo was to be her most famous novel.
Hotels, steamboats, cigars, and even towns were named for it. Literary critics
were less than kind, however. One wrote, "the trouble with the heroine of
St. Elmo was that she swallowed an unabridged dictionary." This turned
out to be a compliment, in spite of the critics, the public loved the idealized
heroines and heroes, the eloquent marriage proposals and stern punishments of
her novel. St. Elmo was adapted for the stage and screen and ranks as
one of the 19th Century's most popular novels.
Augusta Evans Wilson was also the author of
Macaria and Vashti. The success of all her novels earned her fame
throughout the United States and she financially benefited as well.
During the Civil War, Augusta Evans nursed the
sick at Fort Morgan on Mobile Bay, and visited the troops at Chicamauga. She
dedicated one of her novels to the brave soldiers of the South.
Augusta Evans married wealthy Colonel Lorenzo
Madison Wilson and moved her favorite writing desk to his estate, Ashland, on
Springhill Avenue in Mobile. Here she entertained and, following
Madame Le Vert's reign, was considered
Mobile's First Lady.
Augusta Evans Wilson died in 1909 and was buried
in Magnolia Cemetery. Her epitaph reads in part: "What has she left? Love,
friends, devoted as few mortals can claim. A nation bereft." She truly was a
woman with the American spirit.