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New Impressions From Old Film

For the past two weeks, the focus has been on reading back issues of The Chipley Banner from 1893-1904, and getting details about the gaps of information during Emmett’s boyhood. I finished the reels and they are on their way back to the University of West Florida.

There wasn’t much there specifically about Emmett, but there was quite a lot about his family, including his father’s remarriage to a local widow with two daughters, as well as major life changes going on around him (mostly his siblings’ marriages, deaths of children, serious illnesses, new jobs in other cities).

It is fortunate to have Emmett’s hometown paper available for research. Chipley was a town of about 400 in 1893, with two newspapers — the Banner and the Verdict — both of which published once a week. The papers reported, in detail, everyone’s comings and goings. The Chipley Banner was into everyone’s business, which, thankfully, has been a great way for me to “get to know” the locals, even more than 100 years later. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find The Chipley Verdict on microfilm or hard copy to date).

Chipley, Florida, 1906. Image source:

Chipley, Florida, 1908. Image source:

Speaking of getting to know people, The Chipley Banner has been a great source of information on Louis Wiselogel, the father of Emmett’s sister-in-law, Lula Wiselogel Wilson.

Louis was an outsider, a transplant from Illinois who moved to Florida to take advantage of mild weather and good business opportunities. He was a Republican in the midst of Democrats; a successful businessman and farmer in an economically depressed community. But, Louis Wiselogel made it his business to be a loyal, hardworking, dedicated member of the Chipley community, and that is what people noticed — and wrote — about him in the paper.

True, Wiselogel’s politics made him a minority in the community, but he was always portrayed as a decent, hardworking neighbor. He was a ‘can do’ guy, someone you could rely upon, and someone who saw everything as an opportunity. One article in The Chipley Banner praising Wiselogel asked why couldn’t Florida’s own native sons be as successful?

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Then, one can also observe the indirect personality profiles in the articles; for example, that of Kate Langley Jordan Wilson, Emmett’s stepmother. I feel certain that the Wilson children liked her and respected her; she was never an ‘evil stepmother.’ But from what I’ve read about her, it seems that she held herself apart from the Wilson children: She neither set out to replace their deceased mother in any way, nor did she go out of her way to become very close to them.

For instance, every time the paper mentioned Emmett or one of his siblings in Chipley for a visit, Kate was never mentioned as part of that visit. On occasion Emmett’s grandfather A.E. Maxwell would visit Chipley, and he was always referred to as Dr. Wilson’s father-in-law (that is, in the present tense, at the time the article was written), and that he was visiting Dr. Wilson, period, with no mention of the current Mrs. Wilson.

We know that death doesn’t end relationships established by marriage; however, the way the news items appeared seemed (to me) almost dismissive of the second Mrs. Wilson — but the second Mrs. Wilson didn’t seemed too bothered by it.

Just an observation from a 111-year distance.

One final impression that has struck me as I read the film, was that Emmett’s progress in school, on the job, and in college, all seemed to be very hard won for him. His progress from high school, to college, then to law school wasn’t as straight of a line or as uneventful as I had originally thought. At one point, it appears that he had to start over completely, as in: Move back home, save up, and try again.

When Emmett moved back home, interestingly, all the other Wilson siblings were already gone (except for the youngest son), and that must have been tough on Emmett, as he was moonlighting to earn money to get on his own once again. Emmett was smart, and he was capable, but I don’t think I’d call him ‘brilliant.’

Hard-working? Yes. Dedicated and persistent? Definitely. But brilliant? No. Sorry, Emmett.

It was hard to write that, by the way.

Today I made contact with the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, and the next time I’m in Tallahassee, it will definitely be on my list of must-see places.

Source: Florida Historic Capitol Museum

Source: Florida Historic Capitol Museum

About four years ago, they had had an extensive exhibit on campaign memorabilia. I contacted the museum; the museum put me in touch with the collector himself!

Unfortunately, he didn’t have anything in his collection about someone as obscure as Emmett Wilson (or, Cephas Wilson), but I enjoyed talking with someone who likes talking about Florida history from that era.

Somewhere out there is an “Emmett Wilson Club” button. Somewhere out there are Emmett’s scrapbooks. The search continues!

I thought I’d share something odd I found in the microfilm this week.

Taken out of context, it would seem that Chipleyites were preparing to wage war on something? Source: The Chipley Banner, 1904

Taken out of context, it would seem that Chipleyites were preparing to wage war on something. Source: The Chipley Banner, 1904

At first glance, I thought: “You can actually purchase a battle axe? This is one fully stocked general store!”

A little more research revealed that the ‘Battle Axe’ was the name brand of a shoe that was made in Virginia, and was so tough, the manufacturer dared you to chop them open per the advertisement: “They stand dissection and inspection!”

An ad for the Battle Axe shoe. Source:

An ad for the Battle Axe shoe. Source:

The shoes were made at the Stephen Putney Shoe Company in Richmond, Virginia. I’d love to see a pair of these shoes; surely if they could stand being hacked open, they would have withstood the passage of 111 years?

Finally. Good news!

Hooray! The Escambia Courthouse Archives has reopened!

Hooray! The Escambia Courthouse Archives has reopened!

The Escambia County Courthouse archive is open again, thank goodness! It was closed last April after a major storm swept through Pensacola; I was worried that the records were damaged, but I have been assured everything is fine.

This means I can plan the next research trip to Florida! Too bad I can’t do it this week; we’re having the coldest weather of the winter here in D.C.  Brr!

Stay warm, wherever you are!

Categories: Book Family Research Status

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
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