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Chapter 102: Emmett’s Decision

April 30, 2015
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Apparently Emmett’s visit and interview with Nicholas Van Sant, which took place sometime during the last week of October, 1905, was successful:

The announcement that Emmett will join Nick Van Sant as a law partner appeared inThe Sterling Semi-Weekly Gazette, on November 2, 1905, days after the interview, and before Emmett was back home in Marianna. I wonder when Emmett saw or read this article? While in Sterling or after he left? Film photo by the author.

In the spirit of transparency, I have no idea what kind of conversation went on between Emmett and Nicholas Van Sant during their time together in Sterling the last week of October, 1905. But I am certain that Van Sant told Emmett about his many different, ongoing business interests, and that while they were establishing a partnership, that Emmett would be mostly the one in charge of the law firm — and mostly on his own — once he was settled.

Here’s why:

First half of the article from the Sterling Daily Standard, January, 1906. Image taken from microfilm by the author.

The thing I noticed about both the October, 1905 article and the January 1906 article is that Nicholas Van Sant has spent a lot of money to impress future clients and shareholders — the new law office and the new bank are ‘elegantly furnished’ and have been extensively redecorated.

The red arrow is the approximate location of the Van Sant & Wilson law firm. Postcard source:

Van Sant is generous, but he’s not a spendthrift. He’s making investments for the long haul in both the law firm and the bank — solid community businesses. Van Sant has expectations of permanence.

Something else that jumps out in the second article is information about Frank Heflebower, who worked for Van Sant at the State Bank of Sterling for approximately 10 years (Heflebower later became manager of the local Board of Trade, then a farmer). My point about Heflebower is that Van Sant cultivated employees with good local reputations who tended to work for him long-term. And likewise, it makes sense that Van Sant probably had the same expectations for Emmett — you know — an investment for the long-term.

Look back at the first article from November, 1905: Emmett isn’t even a resident of Sterling yet, Van Sant’s law firm isn’t quite established yet, but there’s fine Corinthian leather furniture, floor-to-ceiling solid oak bookcases, and brass spittoons in every corner.

The setting is ready for the jewel!

I don’t mean to imply that Van Sant looked upon Emmett as a commodity or a thing in which he was ‘invested’ per se, because I also believe Van Sant cared about and believed in Emmett. Nick Van Sant never had children; I think he looked upon Emmett as a surrogate son, someone he was taking under his wing, someone to shape in his image, perhaps, who needed only a little encouragement, a little faith that he wasn’t receiving from his own family?

A jewel in the rough?


Second half of the article from the Sterling Daily Standard, January, 1906. Image taken from microfilm by the author.

Note the last sentence of the article:

“President N.G. Van Sant of the institution will be at the bank most of the time during business hours.”

This tells us Van Sant expected Emmett to run the law firm.


I wonder, though, if Emmett, seeing all the finery of the prestigious new office with everything in readiness, perhaps drove him to make a quick decision to join Van Sant?

I don’t believe Emmett would have made a huge decision such as this based on the superficiality of beautiful new office; but, being around Van Sant’s wealth and prominence, and the potential to become a member of his circle must have had something to do with it. Emmett perhaps understood how this looked to others: He was an out-of-towner being offered the patronage of a local business and social icon that could (and some Sterlingers may have though ‘should’) have been offered to a local new lawyer; and that Emmett would be foolish not to take the opportunity.

Although the first article above, from early November, 1905, indicates a quick decision by Emmett, perhaps it really wasn’t the case: We know Emmett had been unhappy for awhile in Marianna working for Cephas and wanted something different, a big change, likely to prove to himself and the world that he was a man ready to stand on his own. Basically, it seems that Emmett had his mind made to go, anyway; even if the fancy new office wasn’t really part of the package!


Emmett remained in Sterling until October 30 or 31, 1905, and then he left, passing through Chicago, to see his best friend, Paul Carter in Washington, D.C.

Emmett passes through Chicago on his way to see Paul Carter in Washington, D.C. Source:

An article from The Washington Post, dated November 2, 1905 lists Emmett Wilson of Florida registered at the National Hotel in Washington, D.C.. It would have been easy for Emmett to walk up Pennsylvania Avenue to visit with Paul Carter, perhaps to have lunch or tour the congressional offices with his friend during their visit. I’m sure the fellows had a lot to talk about when they finally got together that first week of November, 1905.

Screenshot of a vintage postcard of the National Hotel, looking towards the U.S. Capitol. The hotel has an interesting history. It was razed in 1942 for the DC Employment Security Building; the ESB building was razed in 2000 for the Newseum, which, unfortunately, has closed. Source:

Categories: Book Interesting & Odd

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
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