Today’s Wilson family essay is about Emmett’s older brother, Everard Meade Wilson, 1873-1914.
Meade was the fifth son of Dr. Francis C. and Elizabeth Wilson. He went by “Meade;” named for Everard Meade, Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, and husband of her sister, Lucy Brockenbrough Maxwell Meade. Meade was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, when the Wilsons and Meades lived next door to each other. It isn’t clear if the Meades or the Wilsons owned their property; given the low estate totals ($180 and $150, respectively), I’d say they didn’t.
Here’s what I’ve learned about Meade in the Wilson family research:
While three of the eight Wilson brothers ran for political office and had public service careers, Meade was more of a behind-the-scenes kind of fellow. He was politically active, well connected, well liked and respected. Almost all of the sources I’ve found about Meade are consistent: He valued the importance of his family’s solid reputation, he understood the importance of getting along with his peers, of an excellent work ethic, of being reliable, of doing his best possible job every single day. Meade was a positive force in the Wilson family, without a doubt.
Meade got his start at the bottom of the rung with the L&N Railroad, along with his brother Frank. It wasn’t too difficult for the Wilson boys to get a job with the railroad; they were able to use the influence of their grandfather Augustus Emmett Maxwell, who had once been president of the Pensacola & Montgomery Railroad. But it wasn’t a sinecure for either — both Frank Jr. and Meade worked hard and earned their stripes. Working for the railroad back then was a great job for a young man, especially one who lived in a small town; it was akin today to working for NASA in a lot of ways: Travel, excitement, exploration of new places, while earning a wage and getting great on-the-job training.
Meade eventually became a conductor (as did Frank), joining the Order of Railway Conductors. This was an important job, as the conductor was considered the ‘captain’ of the train (which I did not realize). You can read about the importance of the conductor on trains here, a great resource from the Smithsonian Institution, and a transcript of one of the meeting rituals, here.
Emmett, Julian, and Walker also earned their first work experience via the L&N Railroad too — you can bet that the older brothers Frank Jr. and Meade put in a good word for them, and because both Frank Jr. and Meade were highly valued, well respected on the railroad, their word meant something. Regardless of their brother’s influence, both Emmett and Julian also had to work their way up the railroad ladder — starting with jobs that included sweeping out the depot, handling baggage, dealing with surly customers, and the like. Eventually, the twins became telegraphers — another valued position with the railroad.
Meade’s career was going well until September 26, 1906, when a devastating hurricane (probably a Category Five storm according to today’s standards) hit Pensacola. Meade was on a train that day, and was one of three seriously injured, as his train went through a culvert.
It doesn’t say how badly Meade was hurt, but obviously, it must have been serious. The engineer died of his injuries. And, there were probably other underlying health issues, as Meade resigned from the railroad less than a year later, in 1907. This must have been a tough decision for him: He was clearly someone who enjoyed going to work every day.
That was not the end of the road for Meade, though: Politics ran strong in the Wilson men. Meade was popular; it would make sense that he would parlay that popularity into politics, probably at the encouragement of Frank Jr., Emmett, and Cephas.
Meade ran for office at least once:
Even though he didn’t win, Meade often served as a ward heeler, serving as a precinct captain in several elections, helping with registration/voting, and, definitely backing Emmett when he eventually ran for Congress in 1912. (Yes, he was a member of the Emmett Wilson Club!)
And, even though politics didn’t work out, Meade found a lucrative and successful career in insurance and real estate. By 1909, Meade was affiliated with the Union Central Life Insurance Company. After a few years, Meade became an agent for the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company.
At one point, Meade worked in the same office building as Emmett, the American National Bank Building, just a floor down from his younger brother. (When Emmett died, the only thing he had left of value was a life insurance policy with the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company. I wonder if Meade was the one who sold Emmett his a life insurance policy? Emmett purchased his policy in 1912, as he began his run for Congress. It seems likely, doesn’t it?)
Meade was married to Carolyn “Carrie” Bond Wilson, from Bluff Springs, Florida. They had two sons: E. Meade Jr., and Francis C. (who eventually changed his middle name to Maxwell, in honor of his great-grandfather, Augustus Emmett Maxwell).
Meade may not have found success in politics, but he was active on a variety of community organizations; for instance, he was vice president of the municipal campaign committee of the Jacksonville Board of Trade in 1913. But I get the idea that his health was often the speedbump in an otherwise active, fast-growing career; there are several articles in The Pensacola Journal over the years that mention his being unwell, and a sojourn in North Carolina to rest and recover.
Meade seemed to be doing well for himself and his family: His career was solid with Fidelity Mutual; in 1913, he even went to Washington, D.C., to visit Emmett (now a U.S. Congressman) while en route to the company’s home offices in Philadelphia.
But in 1914, his health appears to have gone downhill rather quickly and unexpectedly; he’d been sent to North Carolina to recuperate.
He seemed to be doing better, but the next day:
According to Meade’s death certificate, the cause of death was fast-moving pulmonary tuberculosis.