Hildur Dahlstrom Beall

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Our next installment on Emmett’s secretaries features Hildur (or Hilda) Dahlstrom Beall (1892-1975). According to my research, Hildur was Emmett’s secretary in some capacity from about 1910 to 1914, but she was primarily Walter Kehoe’s secretary (as he was the one paying her salary, as you’ll see further on in our story).

Hildur was born in August 1892 in Nebraska, the daughter of Swedish immigrants Gustavus and Lida Dahlstrom.

According to the U.S. Census for 1900, the Dahlstroms were living in Saunders, Nebraska, where Gustavus (who was also known as Gus) was a traveling salesman for sewing machines. But it must not have been successful, because an advertisement in the June 28, 1910 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates that he had a successful fruit and lunch business in Pensacola for 10 years:

A want ad in the June, 28, 1910 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates Gus had a successful fruit and lunch business in Pensacola for 10 years when he decided to sell it and move to another state. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Hildur lived with her parents at 1013 E. Jackson, and upon graduation from Pensacola’s public schools, attended Minnie Kehoe’s stenography/business school. Her first job was at Pensacola Office Equipment Company:

Hildur’s first job out of steno school. Source: The Pensacola City Directory, 1909, via Ancestry.com

During this time, Gus had his house, 1013 N. Jackson Street, on the market — and it had been on the market since 1907:

The Dahlstrom house was put on the market in late 1906. Gus had a hard time trying to sell this house, as the listing ran on and off for years between 1906 and 1910.

The Dahlstrom’s house at 1013 E Jackson in Pensacola is still standing — it was built in 1900 — and is charming. I wonder why Gus had such a hard time selling it? Source: GoogleMaps

By 1911, the house still unsold, Gus was ready to move on:

From the December 26, 1911 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Gus’ house sat unsold for five years by this time. Maybe it was because of the price, which didn’t change in the five years it was on the market. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Hildur continued to live at home with her parents until they moved to Texas. She chose to remain in Pensacola working as a stenographer (and a notary) for the law firm of Kehoe and Wilson:

From the Pensacola City Directory, 1911. Source: Ancestry.com 

By 1913, Hildur is living in a boarding house owned by John Gautesen, and is the stenographer for Walter Kehoe, now in solo law practice. And Emmett is in Washington, D.C., as U.S. Congressman. Source: The Pensacola City Directory, 1913 via Ancestry.com

Kehoe’s law office is probably where she met her future husband, Phillip Dane Beall, who was a good friend of both Walter and Emmett, and a bricklayer-turned-prominent lawyer, and secretary to a U.S. District Judge:

Phillip Beall in 1913. Source: Florida State Archive.

Here is where our story gets interesting.

Interesting details to parse in this article! Source: The Pensacola Journal, June 12, 1914.

According to The Pensacola Journal, for June 12, 1914, Hildur (or Hilda) was a ‘stenographer for Congressman Emmett Wilson for several years,’ which is not correct. First, we can prove Hildur wasn’t a resident of Washington, D.C., where Emmett was for the majority of his first term in office: She’s not listed in any of the Washington, D.C. city directories, nor is she named in the Congressional administrative records for Emmett’s first term. Nope. Sure, she worked with Emmett while he was Kehoe’s junior partner in Pensacola, but to hint she was consistently his stenographer, as if this was an ongoing or regular job for her, is incorrect.

For the record, Emmett’s secretary in Washington, D.C. was Jefferson Davis Stephens, which is reflected in both the Congressional administrative records and the Washington, D.C. city directories. It’s possible that Emmett may have hired additional stenographers, but if he did, they would be listed in the Congressional administrative records.

And because Emmett was close friends with Phillip Beale and knew Hildur for a few years, it made sense that he’d attend their wedding.

But what was Hildur doing in Washington? Certainly not to bring him home to her wedding.

A second article in the June 14, 1914 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates that Emmett made the trip to Pensacola on the same train as Hildur.

Hildur she was likely dispatched to Washington a few months before her wedding to help Stephens manage Emmett on Capitol Hill.

At this point in 1914, Stephens had his hands completely full. Not only was he the de facto congressman the Third Congressional District while Emmett was, um, indisposed most of the time, he was preparing to graduate Georgetown University Law School. Stephens has big plans which did not necessarily include Emmett (and which we’ll talk about in my next post on Emmett’s secretaries featuring Stephens).

I’m convinced Hildur knew Emmett’s and the Florida Democratic Party’s secret; i.e., that Emmett was a political train wreck about to happen, that the party needed to hold on to that seat by any means necessary, and that she could be trusted to keep her mouth shut, help prop Emmett until he either sobered up or a new candidate was selected.

In any rate, after the wedding, Hildur and Phillip Beall settled down in a house at 1505 E Gadsden in Pensacola, and Hildur apparently did not return to work. She raised two sons, Phillip Jr. and Kirke. Phillip Sr. died in 1964; Huldur in 1975.

I wish I knew if Huldur kept a journal or there exists any correspondence from her time working with Emmett Wilson during the early 1900s, and while Emmett was in Congress.

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On Faith

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Source: The Smart Set, April 1913, p. 119, via Google Books

I think Emmett probably read this magazine. The articles and writers were pretty much up his alley.

And if he did, I like to think he might have seen this poem. It’s lovely.

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Speaking of faith, I’ve been slogging away with what I call ‘adjunct Emmett’ writing; i.e., submitting articles about Emmett and my research to different journals over the last week. The whole submission process has been quite a grind — several times I’ve thrown my hands up in frustration and/or cursed the product — but the end result is worth it. I have faith that Emmett’s story is meant to be!

I have one article in development right now, and I’m trying to meet a deadline (Wednesday). Once I put that article to bed, I’ll be back this week with another installment on Emmett’s secretaries.

Whoa, Nellie!

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Nellie Browning Mills (1876-1964) was never Emmett’s official secretary, but she did work for Emmett as she was the main stenographer and typist at the San Carlos Hotel in Pensacola, Florida from 1910 to at least 1917.

Nellie’s ad that ran in The Pensacola Journal, April 19, 1917. The San Carlos Hotel promoted itself as a ‘home away from home,’ which included top-notch administrative services to its customers. Emmett used her secretarial services when he stayed there between 1914-1916. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Emmett used Nellie’s shorthand and typing services when he stayed at the San Carlos Hotel during the years 1914-1916, while he was was home from Washington, D.C. During this time, his ‘home address’ was actually the J. Walter Kehoe residence. But, Kehoe had decided to run for Emmett’s congressional seat when Emmett ‘decided’ in early 1915 not to run for a third term — so to avoid conflict of interest, Emmett stayed at the San Carlos.

I found three different business letters that Emmett sent to his private secretary in Washington, Jefferson Davis Stephens, with stenographer’s initials “NBM” on the lower left hand side of the page. It wasn’t difficult to track down the person with the initials “NBM”; I confirmed that Nellie was “NBM” by reading several copies of the Pensacola City Directory, and she was, indeed, the only professional stenographer in Pensacola with those initials.

You’ll find this next article really interesting:

Notice who officiated at the wedding — and the witnesses! Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

This became newsworthy — and garnered a story in Colliers!

Source: Colliers Magazine, July 25, 1916, via Google Books.

Isn’t this great?

So, who was Nellie Mills?

Here’s the article I found on Nellie when she moved from Meridian, Mississippi to Pensacola in 1910:

Nellie arrives in Pensacola, and it makes news! Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Nellie was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, and attended Massey Business College. She apparently was one of their star students, because she remained after graduation to teach typing and shorthand (eventually running the shorthand department) for about six years.

An historic postcard featuring the typing class at Massey Business College, 1920. Nellie is not in this photo, alas. Source: Digital Archives of Alabama.gov

Apparently, Nellie was not just a popular secretary at the San Carlos; she was liked and well respected enough to have been nominated for Mardi Gras Queen in 1915!

The Pensacola Journal, January 17, 1915. Source: GenealogyBank.com

It was a tight race, according to The Pensacola Journal:

Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Alas, Nellie didn’t win — Gladys Pierce did. But the fact Nellie was nominated and supported by so many locals speaks volumes of the esteem in which she was held.

Also, alas, I have not found much more about Nellie beyond 1917 in the news. According to U.S. Census records, she moved to Miami-Dade County sometime after 1920, and the last official record I have on Nellie is her address at a boarding house in Dade County:

Apparently, she was retired and keeping house at the boarding house in 1945. Source: Florida Census for 1945

The last record I have for her is the Florida Death Index listing, which indicates she died in May, 1964.

I’d love to know more about this interesting person who used to work with Emmett.

Emmett’s Secretaries: B.A. Murphy

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When I started tracking down Emmett’s secretaries, I didn’t know what to expect. Mostly I started looking for Emmett’s secretaries because I hit a brick wall with Emmett himself (there’s very little primary information from him). At present, I’ve found as much as I can about and from Emmett’s siblings and their descendants, and I’ve tracked down as many of Emmett’s close friends and their descendants as I can to-date.

Still, I feel like there may be more to find about Emmett’s personal story — so what better source than Emmett’s support staff? The tricky part would be finding them. But if Emmett’s secretarial staff were good, they’d have kept attorney’s day books and office journals. It’s a long shot, but worth it to track these folks down. Where to start? Public records.

Who Was B.A. Murphy?

If you recall from an earlier post, Emmett moved to Pensacola in September 1906, after his disappointing tenure as Nick Van Sant’s law partner in Sterling, Illinois. At this point, Emmett was starting his career over, for the third time in as many years. But because Emmett was well connected, he didn’t have to wait long to find a good job.

Emmett didn’t even apply for the position, yet he got it. Surprise? Source: The Montgomery Advertiser, September 14, 1907, from GenealogyBank.com

This good job came with administrative help. Because Emmett was basically given the job, he’d have been advised about whom to bring along as his top administrative assistant. According to the Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States for 1909, Emmett’s administrative assistant was B.A. Murphy.

Source: Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States, 1909. Published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. Source: Google Books

But to be perfectly candid, when I first saw the secretary’s name, I immediately thought: Youngish fellow, probably didn’t go to college, wearing a dark suit. Despite my best intentions, I dug into the research with dreaded preconceived notions.

And boy, was I ever WRONG!

Meet B.A. Murphy

Youngish fellow? Oh hell no — although — granted, I was initially thrown off with my first information from the obituary/cemetery search:

How many women in 1908 used a male-sounding name? Bertha went by “Bert”. Bert Murphy. Photo by Earth Angel of Find-a-grave.com

 

Rather, this is a portrait of an interesting, ambitious young woman who overcame major social and economic barriers that I take for granted in the 21st century to become a successful, independent woman.

Meet Bertha A. “Bert” Murphy, 1876-1967.

Bertha was lived and was educated in Roberts, Escambia County, Florida public schools. She graduated from high school (probably in Roberts, although I have not officially confirmed that to date), and went right into one of the few available/acceptable job markets for single young women in 1900: Education.

The U.S. Census for 1900 lists Bertha, age 23, as a teacher in Roberts, Escambia County, Florida, and living in her parent’s home along with her siblings Gerald (a log-scaler), Pearl (in school at present, but who would later become a nurse-anesthesiologist), Clifford (a stenographer) and Ruby. Bertha’s father, W.H. Murphy, was a saw mill owner.

Roberts, Florida is in the blue oval; a bit of a schlep to Pensacola back in the day of dirt roads and horse-drawn wagons. Source: University of South Florida

Bertha was probably thankful she lived at home with her family, as public school teachers in Florida earned (on average) $5-10 a month in 1900, but Bertha had bigger plans for herself. She was smart and ambitious; there were bigger fish to fry in Pensacola, and that’s where we find her next, in 1906.

Bertha is a notary public and a stenographer, working in the law offices of Maxwell and Reeves. Source: The Pensacola Journal, October 27, 1906, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Yep — that’s Maxwell and Reeves, as in, Emmett’s uncle, Judge Evelyn C. Maxwell. The same uncle who offered Emmett a job (or, at least a desk) in late September, 1906, when he moved back to Florida after the Illinois experiment. Emmett and Bertha, then, knew each other and worked together. She must have been a pretty damn good stenographer, then, for Maxwell to have (most likely) recommended Emmett offer Bertha a second job as his clerk when Emmett was made assistant district attorney in 1907. Bertha held down that second position as a clerk in the district attorney’s office until 1909.

Additionally, per the Pensacola City Directories, Bertha continued to work as a stenographer for Judge Maxwell until 1910, biding her time, building her experience, making important connections.

B.A. Murphy, in partnership with Minnie Kehoe, running a school!  Source: The Pensacola Journal, June 16, 1912, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

And Bertha was never, ever, what one would call a slacker:

Bertha consistently maintains her notary public bond most of her life She’s definitely self-sufficient. Source: The Pensacola Journal, March 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

and, she dabbled in real estate.

Bertha owes back taxes on property in Pensacola. But I don’t believe she was in trouble. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

Here’s the reason why I don’t believe Bertha was in any kind of financial trouble:

Bertha made a personal $50 cash donation to this cause. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

If Bertha made a $50 donation towards an important charitable cause (which is something she did for most of her life, by the way), she was able to pay the delinquent taxes on her property  ($50 in 1911 is equivalent to $1,221 today). She was doing quite well for herself, thankyouverymuch.

[Meanwhile, our Emmett was working in Walter Kehoe’s office (he and Walter weren’t law partners yet; rather, Emmett was ‘renting’ or borrowing space in Walter’s office, and had been appointed States’ Attorney in 1911. Emmett appeared to be working hard (and I believe he was), but when I think about how Bertha was literally building her professional foundation brick-by-brick, solid, it feels like Emmett’s foundation was flimsy and ‘temporary,’ based on the fact that pretty much all of his opportunities were given to him. Nothing was ‘given’ to Bertha, really, or to Minnie Kehoe, which is why I admire these two women so much. But I digress.]

Fast forward eight years to May 18, 1919.

Emmett has been dead almost a year.

And Bertha?

Bertha is in the Big Apple. Source: The Pensacola Journal, May 18, 1919, via chroniclingamerica.gov

Bertha eventually moved back to Pensacola between 1924 and 1927, a full-fledged realtor. It’s unclear if she had much success in the lumber business, but she appears to have done well with real-estate. Bertha shows up in the U.S. Censi for 1930, 1935, and 1940 as a realtor, and residing with her mother and siblings at 1906 E. Strong Street.

Here’s the last available census information on Bertha, the 1945 Florida State Census:

Bertha and her siblings in 1945. She’s still a realtor. Brother Gerald is a salesperson and divorced; Pearl is an anesthesiologist, Stella (a sister-in-law; widow of Clifford) keeps house, and Askin (a nephew; son of Clifford) is a clerk. Source: Ancestry.com

That’s all I was able to find about Bertha. She died in 1967, and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Pensacola, along with her siblings.

I would love to find a photo of Bertha, or read one of her letters or journals — and I would love to find out if she had ever written anything in a journal or letter about her experiences working with Emmett.