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Chapter 99: New Film, New Questions

April 28, 2015
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Why would someone up and leave his home, family, business and professional contacts, and budding political network to relocate 1,500 miles away, where he’d be virtually starting over, all alone?

And, why go from Florida to rural Illinois in January, for goodness sake?

I’d been kicking this question around for weeks. It didn’t make sense, really, especially since this wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision.

Really. Emmett wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment guy when it came to building his career: He was boringly methodical. He didn’t let emotions or feelings decide the business-as-usual issues.

And if Emmett wasn’t sure what to do, he asked the people he trusted for opinions — again — with focus on facts, not feelings.

The thing is, I’m fairly sure that his friends tried to dissuade the move because it was so much of a start-over for Emmett: And why do that when his career with Wilson & Wilson was (frankly) just getting started?

Some of the answers lie within these rolls of film:

Sterling, Illinois newspapers from 1905-06, via InterLibrary Loan. Photo by the author.

It took me about a week of constant reading and discussing what I found with my research colleague Nancy, to come to the conclusion that Emmett’s decision to make the big move — on the surface fact-based — was, in fact, an emotional choice.

Here’s something else: In Marianna, Emmett had (basically) everything given to him: A home, his meals, a job as a law partner with his older brother. He didn’t have to go out and ‘look’ for anything either before or after graduation from Stetson University in 1904. He had a good thing going on.

And in a nutshell, Emmett had essentially the same thing in Sterling, Illinois (except he would have to pay for rent and meals at a boarding house).

So what was so bad about staying in Marianna, working for his brother, that Emmett would leave, only to return to Florida with his trunks packed once again, six months later?

Hold on to those questions as our story unfolds.

===

On October 25, 1905, the following article ran in the Marianna Times-Courier:

A roundup of news published from the Marianna (FL) Times-Courier in the October 27, 1905 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

A general news blurb about Emmett (his name misspelled) announcing his trip to Illinois. Erroneously, it says he will stop in Chicago, but his actual stop on the way back was in Washington, D.C., to visit his best friend, Paul Carter (who worked as a private secretary to U.S. Congressman William Bailey Lamar in 1905).

But the Sterling, Illinois Semi-Weekly Daily Gazette is more profusive — and hopeful!:

The Sterling IL Semi-Weekly Daily Gazette, October 27, 1905, p.1. Van Sand laid on the praise for Emmett rather thickly. Image taken by the author.

Both of these clips are dated October 27 — Emmett certainly left for Illinois before the 27th (at least, according to the first article). Did he tell the paper of his plans, or did Van Sant give the newspaper the advance warning of Emmett’s arrival?

It seems unusual to run an article like this if we assume that Emmett hadn’t made up his mind yet, but to be honest, I believe he was almost certain about working for Van Sant, because a) Emmett wasn’t wealthy and b) traveling 1,020 miles by train (a three-day trip one way) just to check something out is/was frivolous. Plus, c) I think Van Sant really wanted Emmett to join him in the venture, because he had a lot of irons in the fire — literally. I’m talking lumber interests, shipping interests, political interests, not to mention the bank he was starting/opening as of January, 1906.

From The Sterling Evening Gazette. February 22, 1906,
Advertisement for February, 1906 from the Sterling (IL) Semi-Weekly Gazette. The bank opened in January 1906.

Would Emmett have gone into the newspaper editor’s office and said, “Well, here I am! You don’t know me, but I’m thinking about moving here.”

Nah. I doubt it; Emmett was a quiet sort and not one to go around bragging or self-promoting in such an obnoxious way. I believe Van Sant was the one who planted the article — in addition to encouraging Emmett to move to Sterling, it was good advertising for his up-and-coming law practice.

How did the interview go?

Stay tuned for the next chapter!

Categories: Book Congressman Family

jsmith532

Professor
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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