January 1867 - September 5, 1945
Eleanor de la Vergne Risley was born in Nashville, Tenn., and grew up in Brownington, Mo. She married a Kansas City businessman, but the marriage ended in divorce after the death of their young son. Risley moved to San Francisco and remarried. When her husband went missing and was presumed dead, she remained in San Francisco briefly, then moved back to Missouri. She ran an apple orchard near Nevada, Mo., and married a farm labor organizer. The couple moved to Fairhope, Ala., in the early 1920s and became involved with local writing groups. In 1925, Risley was diagnosed with diabetes. She expected to die shortly and wanted to travel first. Her husband built a pushcart, and the two of them walked around northern Alabama over several months.
Risley’s health improved and, in 1926, the couple moved to a cabin near Ink, Ark. They lived there for eight years, and Risley wrote a series of articles about their Alabama trip which was published in The Atlantic Monthly. She also wrote and published several books. Real Fairhope Folks was published by a local firm in Fairhope, but The Road to Wildcat and An Abandoned Orchard received national publication. The couple moved to Mena, Ark., in 1935, and to Eureka Springs, Ark., the following year. In Eureka Springs, they lived with artist Louis Freund (Risley’s cousin) and his family amid a group of writers and artists. Risley continued to write but didn’t publish again. Her health deteriorated and her eyesight failed, probably as a result of her diabetes. In 1945, Risley died at a hospital in Little Rock, Ark., following surgery. She was buried in Eureka Springs.
Eleanor de la Vergne Risley wrote nonfiction about the places she lived and the people she encountered. Real Fairhope Folks and The Road to Wildcat are about Alabama.
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Last updated on Sep 24, 2009.