September 28, 2015
Nancy and I made plans to hit the Santa Rosa County archive in Milton the next day; because we were archived out after eight hours with the Escambia County folks, we decided to visit historic St. Michael’s Cemetery. Several of Emmett’s good friends were buried there; we also wanted to pay a visit to one in particular, Minnie Kehoe.
The skies cleared up, and when we arrived at the cemetery, we had the place to ourselves. I didn’t know much about the cemetery itself, so I did a quick read on my cell phone. Alas, we didn’t have a map, so we didn’t know exactly where Minnie was buried, but Nancy didn’t care. “It’s an adventure!” she said, as we climbed out of her truck, and walked towards the gates.
It was great seeing the individuals I’ve been reading about on a daily basis for almost 30 months straight:
As noted, some of the residents are more famous than others; the stones tell interesting stories — I love the headstones that literally tell stories or include details about their ‘owner’ — but I always wonder if the engraved story is always truth? (Even so, I confirm whatever is written in stone.)
You can’t see it in this photo but directly to the left of me was a huge rosemary bush. In fact, someone planted rosemary within the Mallory enclosure. I’d like to do that for Emmett’s grave, but you cannot (it will get cut down). The significance of rosemary planted or placed on a grave is for remembrance. The McCormick spice folks have a very interesting backstory on the use of rosemary in cemeteries. (Research is so interesting; the places and sources that provide details!)
Although it was great seeing all the interesting monuments to Emmett’s friends, our main purpose for the visit to St. Michael’s was to track down Minnie Kehoe,
As noted in earlier posts, Minnie was the sister of J. Walter Kehoe, friend and business partner of Emmett’s. Minnie was one of the first female attorneys in West Florida, a successful businesswoman who owned and ran her own stenography school, and another close friend of Emmett’s.
Nancy and I both think that if the stars had been properly aligned, Emmett and Minnie would probably have made an excellent pair. But the differences in age (she was 17 years older than Emmett), plus the fact that Emmett was viewed as a family member/younger brother of Walter Kehoe, and the obvious handicap of Emmett’s addiction, made it unlikely. Neither Nancy nor I believed Minnie could or would have been able to overlook Emmett’s alcoholism, no matter how dear he was to her.
After much hiking about the cemetery, and consulting the photo of Nancy’s headstone on Find-A-Grave for context, Nancy found her.
We stood together, quietly talking about our admiration for Minnie. “She was a woman ahead of her time; I wonder what it was like for her, because you know she encountered all kinds of sexism while making her way in her career,” Nancy said.
“Tough as hell,” I said. “But she was tough too. And patient. Much more so than I ever would have been.”
Neither Minnie or her sister, Fannie (also a suffragist and an entrepreneur) never married; she had no children, but it may be possible to obtain a copy of her will to see if she sent her papers or correspondence to an archive. For years, I’ve sought high and low for any primary source information, or of her personal papers, journals, correspondence, and the like. Nothing, yet.
After we spent some time with Minnie, Nancy and I continued to explore. The oak trees are ancient, massive, and mostly healthy in this graveyard. There were thousands of brown and green acorns on the ground beneath my feet as I walked along.
As I was looking at all the acorns on the ground, a small white stone, almost completely covered up, caught my eye. I brushed back the acorns and leaves, and uncovered this:
I had to find out whose grave this was, almost completely hidden in the cemetery. What I found was this. And then, when I dug around a little deeper, I found this. Apparently, the wife and mother who had such tragic losses within such a short time later remarried. She’s not buried near this child’s marker. The father may be close by, but the grave is probably unmarked.
Speaking of unmarked, there was this unusual grave marker within a fence enclosure:
Most unusual. I wonder about the story behind the shell-marked grave? This is obviously a child’s grave. I’m curious about the symbolism, and why the grave was covered in shells this way.
All of this visiting cemeteries makes me realize and appreciate how all of us — everyone — has a story to tell. All of the resident’s stories are important — even the ones almost hidden under acorns and oak leaves.
The University of Maryland Global Campus