We continue to dissect Cephas Love Wilson’s letter to Emmett Augustus Meade, dated January 6, 1910:
“Uncle Meade” was The Reverend Everard Meade, O.D., “Gentleman, Soldier, Man of God.” He was the rector of the historic Pohick Episcopal Church in Lorton, Virginia (about 30 miles south of Washington, D.C.), which was established in 1732. Uncle Meade’s wife was Lucy Brockenbrough Maxwell Meade.
Uncle Meade was not always a minister; he started out as a teacher and the owner of a school in Pensacola in 1868, when Augustus Emmett Maxwell and his family (wife Julia, daughters Lucy [Emmett’s Aunt], Elizabeth [Emmett’s Mother], and youngest son Simeon) returned to the family home, “Oakfields,” after the Civil War.
Emmett’s father, Francis C. Wilson, was also living in Pensacola, and apprenticing with a local established physician. The backstory of this part of Emmett’s family history is in an earlier post, by the way.
The Maxwells were devout Episcopalians, as were the Wilsons, at least up until the death of Lucy’s sister, Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson in 1891 in Chipley.
The current pastor at the Episcopal Church in Chipley told me that there wasn’t a congregation there until the 1920’s, and parishoners either attended services in Marianna (20 miles away), or Eufala, Alabama. Dr. Wilson was not Episcopalian; but he and Elizabeth raised their family in her faith.
Dr. Wilson remarried in 1893 in Chipley. His second wife (Catherine “Kate” Langley Jordan Wilson) was the daughter of the local Baptist minister. Kate was devout and strictly temperance; she was a regular at the Baptist Church, but it is not clear if Dr. Wilson attended church with her. We do know that once Dr. Wilson remarried in 1893, his two daughters (Emmett’s sisters), Katie and Dora, moved in with Cephas (who now lived Marianna with his wife, Lula, and had a successful law practice). Emmett’s sisters attended St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Marianna regularly; Katie would marry Emmett Augustus Meade at St. Luke’s in 1902.
Dood and the ‘Break’ Stunts
Cephas’ description of Lula Wiselogel Wilson doing ‘break’ stunts is wonderful, and quite different than the impression I’ve had of her over the past four years — mostly, she’s come across as serious, thoughtful, kind, musically talented, creative, and long-suffering [given that she had to put up with Cephas’ infidelities, which were publicly known and at least once reported on in West Florida newspapers].
The idea of Lula as someone who would pull ‘stunts’ seems out of character for Lula, but then, the tone of this letter from Cephas is joking. I think this letter was Cephas’ attempt at jollity and relief, as Katie and Emmett Meade had lost several babies in a span of only five years. I’m certain that Katie and Emmett Meade were overjoyed with their new son, but also probably terrified that something might happen to him, as it had with their two other infant sons. This was confirmed in an interview I had with Everard Meade’s daughter, Elizabeth, who told me that Katie Meade would hover over her son for most of his childhood, and stay closely connected to him all his life (sometimes to the chagrin of Elizabeth’s mother).
Another interesting detail from Cephas’ letter is that Lula drank alcohol — at least occasionally. And, like Cephas, she wasn’t used to champagne.
Also, the gathering at Cephas’ house on January 3, 1910 with Jeanet McKinnon and Jhon Burton doesn’t appears to have been planned, but a spontaneous celebration of Katie and Emmett Meade’s new baby. Jeanet McKinnon and Jhon Burton happened to be at the Wilson’s home on Lafayette Street for dinner on the day Cephas received word about the birth of his new nephew.
One final thing to note is the fifth line of this blurb, where the party attendees talk about their hopes for the baby’s future. Cephas, naturally, wishes the baby to be a successful lawyer.
Jeanet McKinnon says she hopes the baby is ‘as nice as his father’ and ‘as sweet as his mother.’ I’m sure Cephas was ‘nice’ to Jeanet; she was related to him by marriage (her sister May was married to Cephas’ older brother Frank Jr. in Pensacola), but Jeanet didn’t know Cephas that well.
And Lula “…hoped that whatever he was, he would be the best.” That comment is exactly in keeping with Lula’s character. Lula was the kind of woman who would never push her expectations on anyone — not her children (Cephas Jr., Kathleen), not her husband, not Emmett (who saw Lula as a surrogate mother from time to time).
Lula was also the kind of woman who hoped her family members were prominent and successful, but she also knew that real happiness was more about inner fulfillment and happiness, because Lula didn’t seem to have either while she was married to Cephas.
We’ll finish up with the analysis of this letter in the next post.