Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. and Louise Adelaide Hughes


Happy anniversary to Cephas Love Wilson Jr. and Louise Adelaide Hughes, who were married 81 years ago today, August 15, 1936.

Cephas Love Wilson Jr. and Louise Adelaide Hughes. This was the second marriage for Cephas Jr., his first wife, Mary Baker, died in Washington, D.C.  They had one daughter, Shirley B. Wilson. Source: Ancestry.com

Cephas Love Wilson Jr. and Louise Adelaide Hughes’ marriage license. Source: Ancestry.com

Cephas Love Wilson Jr. was Emmett’s nephew, the son of his closest brother and law partner. I’m been intrigued by Cephas Jr.’s story, mostly because this is the one branch of the Wilson family descendants that I’ve been unable to locate. But, over the past four years, small details about this branch of the Wilson family tree reveal themselves.

Imagine my excitement to find Cephas Jr.’s marriage records the other day! There’s a lot of information here, and of course, I can’t resist picking these documents apart. Here’s what I found:

  • Louise Hughes, a schoolteacher, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of George Warriner Hughes and Ida Hughes. According to the 1920 U.S. Census, George managed a restaurant in Allegheny County. The Hughes family was large; Louise was the second oldest. By 1930, the Hughes family (minus Louise and her younger sister, Florence D.) had moved to Cincinnati, where George was also managing a restaurant.
  • George was born in Florida; his sister, Florence P. Warriner, was a well-established music teacher in Jacksonville. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, Louise and her younger sister Florence D. were living with Florence P. Warriner.
  • Another aunt, Adelaide Hughes, was also a school teacher, and living in the Florence P. Warriner household in 1930 — so, a household of schoolteachers, all in the family!
  • In 1930, Louise is listed as a student — she was only 18 at the time — likely still in high school, or at least in college. Sure enough, there’s a yearbook photo of her!

Louise Adelaide Hughes, Senior, Class of 1929, Robert E. Lee High School. Source: Ancestry.com


Louise Adelaide Hughes, Freshman, pledged Delta Zeta sorority. Florida State University, 1930. Source: Ancestry.com

Stunning, wasn’t she?

According to the 1940 U.S. Census, Louise did not graduate from Florida State University; the highest level of education attained is listed at second year college. If she was a Freshman in 1930 (right after the stock market crash), that meant she only went as far as here sophomore year (meaning she probably left around 1931 or 1932). The same census reveals that Louise is a teacher in the public schools (despite not finishing her degree), and that Cephas Jr. is a photographer at C.W. Dishinger Studios in Jacksonville. It isn’t specified what subject Louise teaches at the public schools, but I believe she probably taught music, as her aunts and sister (with whom she was living in 1930) were music teachers.

Somewhere between 1932 and 1936, Cephas Jr. met Louise Hughes. I like to think that Ceph’s mother Lula might have had a hand in getting the couple together, as she was musically gifted, and seriously tied into the music community at this time. Perhaps Lula knew Florence Warriner; perhaps the two ladies introduced the young people.

“Chipola River” by Mrs. Lulu (Lula) May Grether. Perhaps the Warriner-Hughes music teachers played this song, or had their students play the song! Source: Floridasheetmusic.com

The witnesses to the wedding were Louise’ sister, Florence D. Hughes, and J. Richard Grether (1897-1961). According to Richard’s WWI draft record, he was tall and slender, with gray eyes and light brown hair. His WWII registration card lists him as an employee of the Barnett National Bank in Jacksonville, with a ruddy complexion and a weight of 150 pounds, and living with his father, John Dillon Grether, at the family home.

Grether was the son of John Dillon Grether (1870-1943). John Grether married Cephas Jr.’s mother between 1925 and 1930, after the death of Cephas Sr. in 1925; J. Richard and Cephas Jr. were stepbrothers.

The Rev. Frank August Gustafson was the past of the Church of the New Jerusalem, also known as The New Church. This was Louise’ church, as Cephas Jr. was raised as an Episcopalian.

The house Cephas Jr. listed as his residence in the marriage license application is still standing; Louise’s home at 816 Oak Street is not. And the house where Cephas Jr. and Louise Hughes Wilson lived in Jacksonville (built in 1940) is still standing.

The address where the marriage took place — 4240 Marquette Avenue — appears to have been a private home in 1936. It is hard to tell if the house at that address today is the original Gustafson home. This was Gustafson’s home address (according to the Jacksonville City Directory in 1936); it was not uncommon for weddings to be held at home, especially if the bride and groom were of two different religious faiths.



What’s the first thing most folks would do in an emergency, if you had to let family members know that you were injured in an accident, or seriously ill?

You’d call them. And, more likely than not, you’d probably connect with them almost immediately.

Thanks to the miracle of modern telecommunication — we’re always accessible to other human beings at any time of the day or night. And it’s economical. I don’t give a second thought about the economics of calling my sister (who lives on the other side of the country) during the day: I just pick up the phone. But back in the 70s and 80s, I can remember having to wait until 5 or 6 pm to make a call to a friend who lived in the next county, because the rates would be lower.

(Aside: Here’s an interesting and informative article on the cultural shifts that telephones have brought over the past 100 years. The focus of the article is how the telephones have been depicted in film, but the historical background is well written.)

In Emmett’s day, and especially during his congressional service days (1913-1917) a telephone call (and in particular, a long distance call, as mentioned in the link above) was a big deal:

  • Telephones were still the accessories of the wealthy and upper-middle class by 1913.
  • Many communities, especially rural, were not completely (or consistently) wired for telephones.

Rural folks cutting telegraph and telephone lines for clothes lines. Priorities! Source: The Chipley Banner, February 18, 1899, p. 3 in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

  • Long distance calls were expensive, and you didn’t telephone someone long distance without a reason. [Some businesses charged $5 for three minutes (in 1913 dollars), which is the equivalent of $60 in 2017.]

I started thinking about this yesterday when I came across my notes about this event:

Source: The Pensacola Journal, December 21, 1914, page 1, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Here’s the background:

  • Emmett was admitted to Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. at least a week earlier.
  • He was unconscious and his kidneys had shut down; he also went into delirium tremens, which was (and is today) sometimes fatal.
  • The condition was so serious, both Cephas Love Wilson and Frank C. Wilson Jr. were summoned to his bedside in Washington, D.C. This was neither an inexpensive nor easy trip for either of Emmett’s brothers.

My question is, were they contacted by telephone or telegram?

I am leaning toward telegram, because although Cephas had a telephone in both his home and office, and would have been accessible, the officials at Providence Hospital would probably not have known that — and, likely they would have used the tried-and-true telegram.

The cost associated with making the phone call from Washington to Marianna would also have been time consuming, and quite expensive. It was simply more efficient and economical to get the telegram to Cephas ASAP. 


Finally, take a look at the story that ran right below the article on Emmett’s brothers being summoned to Washington, D.C.:

Was the article on drinking an unfortunate placement or was the publisher sending a message? Source: The Pensacola Journal, December 21, 1914, page 1, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

At this point, Frank Mayes’ widow Lois Mayes was the publisher of The Pensacola Journal, and she was not a fan of Emmett’s. (The love-hate relationship between Frank Mayes and Emmett Wilson is an interesting story for another day.)

Lois, and the political movers-and-shakers of Pensacola, knew Emmett had a problem with alcohol. Most of Emmett’s colleagues and friends were now stepping away from him, tired of his behavior and wary of the professional fallout from associating with a known drunk.

Was the placement of this article on drinking an unfortunate coincidence or was it done on purpose?


Pleas the Photographer


Charles Earl Pleas’ advertisement in the June 23, 1904 issue of The Chipley Banner.

Charles E. Pleas was a Quaker and a professional photographer who relocated to Chipley in the 1890s. He was of several professional photographers who opened studios in Chipley in the early 1900s.

Pleas was born in Indiana in 1867, the son of Elwood and Sarah Griffin Pleas. Elwood was a lumber dealer, according to the 1880 U.S. Census. An interesting biography of the Pleas family is found here.

Charles Pleas married Lillie Conley in Richmond, Indiana on February 4, 1891; according to the marriage license, he was living in Clinton, Arkansas at the time. The Pleases moved to Washington County in the mid-1890s.

Pleas maintained a professional photography business up until around 1920, when he switched to farming full time. You see, Pleas’ big claim to fame was introducing kudzu to Washington County. He developed his interest in horticulture studies into a full-time kudzu farming.

Although the invasive plant was introduced to the United States during the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, it wasn’t yet well known in the Southeast. But in 1905, Pleas, who had an extensive side interest in horticulture, thought the dense, fast-growing and inexpensive fine would provide an excellent solution to local soil erosion problems, especially since kudzu was drought-resistant. Pleas recommended it to other local farmers and landowners, since it also proved to be an inexpensive forage product for livestock. (An interesting story about kudzu, Charles Pleas, and the invasiveness of the plant can be found here).

Horticulturists report that kudzu can grow up to a foot a day. Image source: HGTV.com

Little did Pleas realize that kudzu farming would prove to be a prolific and fast-growing business, becoming the focus for the remainder of his career.

Charles remained in farming until his death in 1955.


Some of the photographs and negatives belonging to Charles Earl Pleas are located at the University of West Florida Archives. Some of the images that have been scanned in can be found at this link.

Man and woman in black, photographed by Charles E. Pleas during the 1890s. I wish there were more information available on the subjects in this photo! Source: University of West Florida Archives



Julian Wilson & The Steamer “Gertrude”


Yesterday afternoon, I was going through my notes (looking for something else, naturally) when I found an article from the July 26, 1906 issue of The Chipley Banner, which reported Emmett’s twin brother Julian, “… a purser on the steamer ‘Gertrude’ was in town visiting his father at home, and left on Sunday to take his run on the ship.”

Of course, I had to stop what I was doing and track this down. Was it possible that there was information about the Gertrude out there?

Sure enough, the wonderful Florida Memory (run by the State Archives of Florida) came through. I found two photographs of the steamboat “Gertrude,” which ran up and down the Chattahoochie River.

The steamboat “Gertrude”, between Apalachicola and River Junction. Source: Florida Memory

I spoke with Julian’s daughter, Jule, several months ago, who told me that Julian and Emmett had become experts with the telegraph while they were teenagers working for the P&A division of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad around 1900.

Emmett did not feel a calling to the life of telegraphy, and set his sights on higher education and the law in 1900. Julian, however, liked telegraphy and Morse code, but he took a break from the railroad around 1903, and joined the crew of the Gertrude, just to mix things up.

Another view of the steamboat “Gertrude,” taking on a supply of wood. Source: Florida Memory

The job of purser was a natural fit for Julian; he was only with the steamship company for about two years (Jule thinks he didn’t care for life on the river), then returned to the L&N. He eventually became an accountant, and spent the rest of his career with the L&N. “My father loved working for the railroad,” Jule said. “He enjoyed going to work every day.”

By the way, the date of the original article that got my attention is interesting: Only a month earlier, Emmett came home permanently from Sterling, Illinois. Either The Chipley Banner was just now making note that Emmett was taking a long ‘vacation’ from his job back in Illinois, or Emmett’s family decided to say something, since it was obvious Emmett wasn’t headed back up North anytime soon.

Chipley’s Telephone Girl


The last time I actually spoke with a bona-fide telephone operator was about 15 years ago, and that was only after working my way through a robotic menu of options, and waiting on hold for about five minutes while listening to classic rock converted to elevator music.

It must have been interesting to be a telephone operator, also known as a “telephone girl” or “hello girl”, in the early 1900s.

A portion of an editorial about telephone girls. Source: The Pensacola Journal, February 1, 1912. http://www.chroniclingamerica.gov

There weren’t many jobs in technology for women in the early 1900s; most of the ‘socially acceptable’ jobs were teaching, nursing, stenography, or housewifery. There were women telegraphers (Emmett was a telegrapher with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in high school, and when he was home from college during breaks), but they were a rarity, especially in rural depots. Not everyone had a telephone, and the service was haphazardLegislation was introduced in 1903 to erect telephone poles and string wires. Phones were in Chipley prior to 1903, but it took a few years for the communities to organize the utility; make things ‘official.’

A switchboard operator in Richardson, Texas, around 1900. The switchboard and operator probably looked similar in Chipley, Florida. Source: Vintage Everyday

Also, while there were telephones in Emmett’s hometown at the turn of the century, they were mostly owned by businesses and the wealthy.

But Chipley had telephone girls! One of them was Lucile Cook McGeachy.

According to The Chipley Banner, Lucile was one of the local ‘telephone girls’ before she married Stephen E. McGeachy, a pharmacist.

Stephen McGeachy, pharmacist. Did Stephen and Lucile “court” on the telephone exchange party lines? Source: The Chipley Banner, January 4, 1912; http://www.chroniclingamerica.gov

The October 13, 1904 issue of The Chipley Banner states that “Miss Lucile Cook is the voice of the telephone exchange in Chipley.” There is no other mention of her service to the telephone exchange in later issues of the paper; Lucile and Stephen were married December 27, 1904, and she may have stopped working after that date.

Marriage license of Stephen McGeachy and Lucile Cook. Source: Ancestry.com

Unfortunately, the marriage was short-lived. Lucile Cook McGeachy died in 1908.

Lucile Cook McGeachy. Source: Find-a-grave.





Time Out


Although I’ve made a few posts here on the blog this month, I took some time away from Emmett Wilson & the research starting on July 1, because I was feeling burned out. After four years of near-continuous digging into and piecing together Emmett’s life, I was starting to resent him, and the book. I needed a break.

So, I went to Canada for 10 days, did a bunch of hiking and reading books that were completely different than gilded-age Florida politics. It did a lot to recharge my batteries, and give me a fresh perspective. Here’s some pictures from a few of the hikes:

Mt. Rundle, Alberta and the Bow River.

Grassi Lakes, Alberta. The water, which comes from a glacier, is perfectly clear and blue-green.

There were bear sightings along the way.

My children and their cousins swimming in one of the glacier-fed lakes. It was 92 degrees that day in Alberta.

Mountain flowers galore.

There was a Miner’s Day parade in downtown Canmore.

The parade consisted of two marching bands, three antique cars, a group of citizens representing the miner families in the Province, and mine pony.

The parade was over with in 15 minutes.

The rest of the time, I read a bunch of books.

I read these (plus the one below) in two weeks.

And there was one more — I had to return it the day after I got home from Alberta, and it was the best of the lot:

Killers of the Flower Moon. Source: Amazon.com

I could not put the Grann book down. I read it the entire flight from D.C. to Calgary. What was intriguing (at first) was the way Gann “fell into” this story, which was much like I fell into Emmett’s research. It took Gann years to piece the research together, and he talks about the internal wrestling and validation about the research process. He got caught up in the story of the Osage, and it became a huge part of his life — much like Emmett’s story has become mine.

It’s good to be back. But things will be a bit different. Because I was feeling burned out, I realized I needed to take healthy time away from the research, read other writers (because it really helps my writing in the end), and incorporate more balance into my workday.


He Holds Desperately


“By nature touchy and suspicious, the alcoholic likes to be left alone to work out his puzzle, and he has a convenient way of ignoring the tragedy which he inflicts meanwhile upon those who are close to him. He holds desperately to a conviction that, although he has not been able to handle alcohol in the past, he will ultimately succeed in becoming a controlled drinker. One of medicine’s queerest animals, he is, as often as not, an acutely intelligent person. He fences with professional men and relatives who attempt to aid him and he gets a perverse satisfaction out of tripping them up in argument.”

Jack Alexander (1903-1975)
[John Hollis Alexander]
Saturday Evening Post, March 1, 1941,”Alcoholics Anonymous”