Emmett Lived Here

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This is 211 W. Cervantes Street, in Pensacola, Florida.

211 West Cervantes St., Pensacola, Florida. Source: Trulia

211 West Cervantes St., Pensacola, Florida. Source: Trulia

Emmett lived here with the J. Walter Kehoe family from 1911 to early 1913, right up to when he left for Washington, D.C. to serve as U.S. Congressman for the third congressional district.

The Kehoes rented this house, and it is not clear which side was theirs; but, I do know that Emmett’s phone number was the same as the Kehoe’s family, so he lived with them on one side of this building.

The house was built in 1908; I wish I could see the inside of the building. I drove by this house the last time I was in Pensacola; it is on a very busy (and rough looking) street, and I was not comfortable going up to the house to ask for a tour. The neighborhood is undergoing gentrification, however, and it is good to see the house still standing, and other homes from this period being saved.

I think it is odd and fortuitous that I’ve been able to find most of the homes Emmett lived in still standing.

Not the Villain

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Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. Source: State Archives of Florida.

Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. Source: State Archives of Florida.

Am I going soft on Emmett’s womanizing older brother, Cephas Love Wilson?

A friend who had read this recent essay on Cephas asked me the other day if I had changed my mind about Cephas — did I now view him as less of an antagonist?

I told her it wasn’t so much that as I’ve come to understand him better after studying him for three years.

This doesn’t mean the same thing as agreeing with or liking the guy. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a huge fan of Ceph. He cast a long shadow, had a huge ego, and never let Emmett forget who was the senior partner during their tenure as Wilson and Wilson, Attorneys-at-Law.

From where I sit, the brothers worked well together, but there were epic power struggles between them, with Emmett often landing on the losing side of the battles, and Cephas doing the equivalent of a Gilded-Age head noogie on Emmett more often than not.

But — as I’ve discovered over the past three years of research — Cephas wasn’t always a complete jackass to Emmett. He was also known to be downright generous, kind, and unselfish to his younger brother, when given the opportunity.

A few weeks ago, I was going through my file collection for Emmett’s post-Stetson chapter, and I came across this:

Emmett sworn in mid-June, 1904. But he had already been sworn in the day after he graduated law school back in May, in Jacksonville. What gives? Source: Jackson County (FL) Courthouse

Emmett sworn in at the Jackson County Courthouse, June 14, 1904. But he had already been sworn in the day after he graduated law school back in May. What gives? Source: Jackson County (FL) Courthouse

According to the court record for June 14, 1904, Emmett was sworn in by Judge Charles B. Parkhill ‘to practice law in this Circuit and inferior Courts of the State of Florida.’

Judge James W. Locke. An appointee of President U.S. Grant. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_William_Locke

Judge James W. Locke.Source: Wikipedia

But wait — I knew Emmett and his fellow law school graduates friends left Stetson University the day after graduation (May 25, 1904), took the train to Jacksonville, and were sworn in to the Florida bar upon presentation of their diplomas to the court by Judge James W. Locke.

According to the Stetson University Law School Bulletin for 1904, that was all an aspiring lawyer had to do in order to hang up his shingle — and — I knew that Emmett’s swearing-in in Jacksonville with his fellow graduates is on the record in the Duval County Archives, too.

Emmett presented his diploma to Judge Locke in Jacksonville and was duly sworn in. Source: Stetson University archives.

Emmett presented his diploma to Judge Locke in Jacksonville and was duly sworn in. Source: Stetson University archives.

Did a man have to petition every county in which he wanted to practice law? And if so, wouldn’t that be incredibly inefficient?

I posed this question (and showed the court archive record) to my colleague, the excellent Sue Tindel of the Jackson County (FL) Court Archives. It turns out that all Emmett needed to do was to be sworn in once. What happened in the Jackson County Courtroom that day was something special:

“Actually, the entry read circuit and inferior courts in the State of Florida – not just the Jackson County Bar.  It almost sounds redundant for Emmett to gain admission to the Bar in Duval County and then come to Jackson County and do it again.  Wonder if Cephas had a hand in it and made a big deal about it.

“It would have been a grand kind of thing for him to have his little brother acknowledged by the legal elite – which is what sounds like happened.”

I mention this because I think this would have been something Cephas would have done for Emmett, especially because no one from the Wilson family was on hand to attend Emmett’s graduation ceremony from Stetson University. I haven’t found out why — I do think it is odd, particularly since Emmett was the valedictorian.

Regardless, Cephas and the Wilsons were proud of Emmett’s accomplishments, and I believe this special acknowledgement went far to mend whatever disappointment Emmett may have felt.

Working the Media

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Emmett’s grand niece Elizabeth alerted me to another Cephas find the other day.

All but one photo I have of Cephas features him in a bowtie. Nice detail of his watch chain. Also, I note the strong resemblance between Cephas and Emmett.

Every photo I have of Cephas features him in a bowtie. Emmett preferred neckties. Source: Katie’s granddaughter.

The clip was a reprint in another Florida state paper; the type does not look like the style used by the Marianna Times-Union between 1900-1918 (based on my reading of all available hard copy). I'd estimate the date of this article around 1902, based on the issue in the article.

The clip was a reprint in another Florida state paper; the type does not look like the style used by the Marianna Times-Union between 1900-1918 (based on my reading of all available hard copy). I’d estimate the date of this article around 1902, based on the issue in the article. Source: Katie’s granddaughter.

One immediate takeaway from this piece was interesting — Ceph described as gossipy. Honestly, I don’t find that surprising. Cephas knew the value of the media in building one’s political career, as did Emmett.  Both Ceph and Emmett were ambitious, so they would make sure to befriend the press, taking advantage of every opportunity to see their name in print.

In her message to me with the clips, Elizabeth added: “Every time I think I’ve hit the bottom of the family papers, more emerge (still a big box in the shed).”

That’s excellent! You know I’m always willing and able to drive the two hours just to root around in boxes, and catalog or scan documents. Just say the word!


Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

In other Emmett Wilson book news, I’m outlining the next chapter, which is about Emmett’s move to Sterling, Illinois, to work as law partner to Nicholas Van Sant.

This was a big move for our hero; he did this thinking it was permanent, tinged with an attitude of slight arrogance and hubris, particularly in the eyes of Cephas. It was supposed to be a permanent move, but it didn’t work out that way.

It would turn out to be one of the most teachable, humbling moments of Emmett’s career.

A History Vacation

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Readers, for the first time in three years, I stepped away from our friend Emmett, the year 1905, and all things work- and research-related for over a week.

I stepped way back, in fact; all the way back to the War of 1812!

My family and I visited Niagara Falls, Ft. Niagara, and Ft. George, across the Niagara River, in Ontario. It was a vacation filled with history, and (surprise), my kids loved it.

First, there were the amazing falls.

Atop the walkway access to the falls. Horseshoe Falls at the top of the photo, American Falls on the left.

Atop the walkway access to the falls. Horseshoe Falls at the top of the photo, American Falls on the left.

The American-side tourist boat, the Maid of the Mist, is blue. The Canadian-side tourist boat, the Hornblower, is red.

The American-side tourist boat, the Maid of the Mist, is blue. The Canadian-side tourist boat, the Hornblower, is red.

Ready to hit the falls!

Ready to hit the falls!

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I tried to take more photos as we were approaching the falls, but the power of the water and the wind together were incredible, and my phone was getting really wet. The force of the wind and water reminded me of being in a hurricane. The whole experience was great — especially since it was 95 degrees that day.

After the boat ride and a walk up steep wooden stairs alongside the American Falls.

After the boat ride and a walk up steep wooden stairs alongside the American Falls.

The next day, we drove up to Ft. Niagara. We had a picnic on Lake Ontario, and then spent the day lost in the War of 1812.

My sons playing on the rocky beach of Lake Ontario.

My sons playing on the rocky beach of Lake Ontario.

The gatehouse to Ft. Niagara.

The gatehouse to Ft. Niagara.

A view of the castle at Ft. Niagara from the watch tower. All of these buildings are original to the fort, and are well maintained.

A view of the castle at Ft. Niagara from the watch tower. All of these buildings are original to the fort, and are well maintained.

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Across the river is Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. A beautiful little town.

Incredibly well maintained dining quarters and storage areas.

Incredibly well maintained.

The plaque on the castle wall.

The plaque on the castle wall.

Preparing to fire the cannon. This was done with much ceremony, and a great history lesson by the reenactors.

Preparing to fire the cannon. This was done with much ceremony, and a great history lesson by the reenactors.

King George's loyal soldiers doing target practice at a barrel at Ft. Niagara, New York. These brave souls were wearing period costumes of all natural fibers (i.e., wool, primarily, and cotton) in 95-degree heat.

King George’s loyal soldiers doing target practice at a barrel at Ft. Niagara, New York. These brave souls were wearing period costumes of all natural fibers (i.e., wool, primarily, and cotton) in stifling 95-degree heat. The redcoats said that only gunpowder, and no actual ammunition involved, because their insurance company didn’t like them to use musket balls.

The next day was spent on the Canadian side, at Ft. George.

The kids playing on the cannon outside of Ft. George, Ontario.

The kids playing on the cannon outside of Ft. George, Ontario.

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Ft. George. The buildings were rebuilt during the depression as a Canadian Make Work project; the wood was brought in from old forests in the northernmost provinces, and all of the work was done by hand -- only one building on the site is original, as the fort was burned by the U.S. forces as they took the fort from the British.

Ft. George. The buildings were rebuilt during the depression as a Canadian Make Work project; the wood was brought in from old forests in the northernmost provinces, and all of the work was done by hand — only one building on the site is original, as the fort was burned by the U.S. forces as they took the fort from the British.

Fort George musicians and historians discussing the fort and their duties during the War of 1812. The soldier in red translated for French-speaking guests.

Fort George musicians and historians discussing the fort and their duties during the War of 1812. The soldier in red translated for French-speaking guests.

My son dressed up as one of King George's soldiers. This was a great hands-on, educational visit for kids of all ages.

My son dressed up as one of King George’s soldiers. This was a great hands-on, educational visit for kids of all ages.

Now that I’m back in the office — and in the 21st century — I’m ready to get back to work!

Lynx-Eyed Guardian

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Emmett’s grand-niece (his sister Katie’s granddaughter) discovered a hidden cache of Wilson family clips the other day, and (God bless her), she promptly sent me copies!

Today, I’ll share an interesting one about Cephas. The source is unidentified, but it is likely a West Florida newspaper, because of the way the reporter speaks about Cephas and his family. The article is also undated, but based on the description of Ceph’s accomplishments, I’d estimate this to be around 1902.

I had to break the file into two pieces, by the way, because the original scanned file was huge.

I've noticed Cephas favors bow-ties. Source: Katie's granddaughter.

I’ve noticed Cephas favors bow-ties. Source: Katie’s granddaughter.

Great details with dates that confirm what I've dug up about the Wilson family over the past three years. And -- surprise to me -- Cephas was once a schoolteacher! Source: Katie's granddaughter.

Great details with dates that confirm what I’ve dug up about the Wilson family over the past three years. In the last paragraph, Ceph is described as ‘lynx-eyed’. And — surprise to me — Cephas was once a schoolteacher! Source: Katie’s granddaughter.

I’ve come to have a better appreciation for Cephas over the past three years. This was a guy who knew what he wanted — to be rich, successful, prominent — and his family was none of those things in the 1880s.

He didn’t even have an education: He was nine years old when his family pulled up roots and moved to the jungles of Central America, where there was no infrastructure, and certainly no established school system. Cephas was there for eight years, and when he returned to the United States — at 17 — he was a grown man, homeschooled for the most part, without a formal education. Ceph was ambitious, and knew if he wanted to be somebody, he was going to have to do it on his own.

Lacking money, education, and position, Ceph took what he did have — connections, brains, and tenacity — and used that to make his way in the world. Cephas set a goal, went after it — and, mostly, he got what he wanted.

The one goal that eluded him was the governor’s mansion, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.


Katie’s granddaughter sent me several other clips, too; I’ll share them in later posts. Some of the clips are about Emmett; they do not add a lot of new information, but what’s there is still good, because:

a) the clips are from completely new-to-me newspapers (one outside of Florida);
b) the reporting about him appears to be consistent with earlier reporting of his person and character; and,
c) the information in the articles is repetitive and/or similar to information I’ve found in other documentation — which is a sign that I’m close to the end of research in a particular area.