October 2, 2015
Sue and I walk down Lafayette Street, also known as US 90, towards Jefferson Street, where we turn right, and walk for two more blocks. It’s mostly businesses and a church; there were homes here once upon a time. There’s an old house or two that has been converted into small businesses.
We stand at the corner of Jefferson and Clinton. “Guess where we are?” Sue asks. I’m standing in front of Hancock Bank and a massive oak tree. Obviously, it’s not the bank she wants me to guess.
“I don’t know,” I say.
“This is where Cephas and Lula Wilson’s house stood. And I’m sure the oak right in front of us was theirs.” Sue goes on to say the original property was fairly large, and there was an outbuilding in the read. She asks if I’ve seen the Sanborn Fire Maps, which would give an overview of the Wilson house as it existed in the early 1900s.
Not to digress, but the first thing I did after my meeting with Sue was to locate the Sanborn Fire Maps for Marianna — and sure enough, here is what I found about Cephas’ house::
If you haven’t studied the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, you should. These are GREAT information sources. You can find most of these online, free of charge, at different libraries (such as the University of Florida) and the Library of Congress.
Anyway, so, in 1913, Ceph’s house was fairly large. There was an interesting porch on the front, and, two outbuildings, one of which was probably a carriage house. I don’t know that they had indoor plumbing in 1913 at the house. Cephas was wealthy, though, and enjoyed his creature comforts. This may still have been an outhouse, although he would have installed plumbing when it became available.
Here’s another view the property in 1922:
The key to the maps indicate that the yellow structures are frame. Where you have a “1” indicates the number of stories, the “x” indicates a shingle roof. So, in the 1922 map, the building in the upper right corner is a single-story, shingle roof structure — probably a garage. (Cephas owned automobiles as early as 1905, according to car ownership records from FloridaMemory.com.)
In the 1913 map, the two structures in the back of the main house, according to the key, were one-story buildings with shingle roofs. The main house was also one-story, with a shingle roof. What’s interesting is that in the very back of the main house, there’s a slate or tin roof, indicated by the ‘o’ in the image.
That probably where the kitchen was located in the house. The dashed lines indicate a frame partition. Also, according to the 1913 map, there was a four-foot water pipe in the center of Clinton street; in the 1922 map, the pipe running down the center of Clinton (the dashed line in the image up above) was now six-feet in diameter. So, it is possible that Ceph’s house had indoor plumbing in 1913.
I tell Sue that Cephas, for all that he seemed to be pompous and full of himself (I’ve read some of his editorials and letters from different archives, and that’s the impression he gives), he was a loyal and decent big brother to Emmett, his twin Julian, the youngest brother Walker, and their two sisters, Katie and Dora. He took in all of his younger siblings, even after he and Lula had started their own family in 1900, and while Cephas’ house was larger than the Wilson home in Chipley, it wasn’t a mansion. Imagine how crowded it was around the dinner table — and imagine how Lula might have felt — a young woman only a few years older than Emmett having to help ‘parent’ in-laws. It must have been quite a lot to manager. And, granted, Emmett’s sisters were both married and on their own by 1902, but they married from their brother’s house, not their father’s home in Chipley.
I mention also that I thought Cephas was a bit of a jackass and chauvinistic jerk, mostly based on what I discovered how he’d treated his wife, Lula (one example of his behavior was actually printed in West Florida newspapers, see example above, to Lula’s embarrassment); but I’m not looking for any candidates for sainthood in the research. I’m sure Cephas’ relationship with his family was complicated: loving, antagonistic, irritating, and loyal, all at the same time, and not in the same increments. I’m also sure we can say the same thing about Emmett, or any of the other Wilsons.
Next, Sue and I walk to the end of Clinton Street — about four blocks — to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church where Emmett, Cephas and his family worshipped, and some Wilson family members are buried.
Sue tells me that this is not the same church building the Wilsons attended back in the day; that one burned down in the 1940. However, St. Luke’s was rebuilt, and that church — the current church — looks very much like the original the Wilsons attended.
One thing I’ve wondered about Emmett and Cephas — not that it really matters — is whether or not they were regular church-goers.
I know their mother, Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson, did her best to instill a regular catechism in the household (a family history written by Emmett’s sister, Kate Wilson Meade tells some of the details of their mother’s regular religious instruction among all of the children, particularly when they were not living near an Episcopal church). I know Emmett was a member of Christ Church in Pensacola, Florida when he lived there between 1906-1918, and he was buried from Christ Church, but I haven’t found any record of his attendance or regular contribution to the parish. Not yet, anyway.
But this was an interesting find on the inside wall of St. Luke’s:
To be perfectly honest, I don’t really think of Emmett or Cephas as church-going kinds of guys. Maybe not regularly, but as I mentioned before, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter.
Here’s what I mean: Perhaps I get this idea confused about the kind of person Emmett and Cephas were. Church-going doesn’t necessarily equate to purity of soul or spirit. At best, I think people do the best they can most of the time, but none of us are perfect. And the truth is, none of use — Emmett or Cephas, too — couldn’t always help it if they f*cked things up once in awhile. People make mistakes. We stumble, we fall, we get back up. And that’s also why there are places of worship: To help us pick ourselves back up. Some of us need that help more than others. Perhaps that’s also why Cephas has a plaque in St. Luke’s: He did the best he could, and he took the help as best he could.
There’s more to come with the visit to Marianna! Stay tuned for the next installment!
Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
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