Wedding Anniversary

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Happy Anniversary!

Frank Maxwell Wilson and Louise Mildred Brown, April 17, 1918. Source: Ancestry.com

I just happened to be checking back into different databases for updated information, and the date on this document jumped out at me!

Frank Maxwell Wilson was the son of Emmett’s older brother, Everard Meade Wilson, who died rather suddenly of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1914. This wedding took place in Fulton County, Georgia; it is unlikely Emmett attended this wedding because he was in poor health.

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The Sporting Emmett

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In celebration of Opening Day, we’ll take a look at Emmett Wilson through the lens of his pastimes: Sports.

Emmett appears to have been both athletic and a sports fan. He owned and rode a bicycle to and from classes while attending Stetson University Law School in 1903.

“He failed utterly.” So, Emmett was an average rider. Source: Stetson Weekly Collegiate, Dec. 5, 1903.

He attended a wide variety of sporting events with his friends, including the very first NASCAR race (before NASCAR existed) at Ormond Beach, Florida.

The foursome took the train to Ormond Beach, likely skipping out on their classes Friday. Source: Deland Weekly News

He loved to go fishing (enjoying not only the thrill of the catch, but also the solitude and quiet away from his hectic political life), and went on annual trips without fail, always during the first two weeks in August to St. Andrews Florida.

Emmett on the steamer Manteo, August 1908. Source: The Pensacola Journal

He played both football and baseball while at West Florida Seminary (photo below).

Kicker? Tight End? Wide Receiver? It’s impossible to know his position, but Emmett’s on the far left, first row. West Florida Seminary, now Florida State University. 1899-1900. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/152050

But he seemed to prefer baseball, as he played not only for West Florida Seminary, but also for the local Chipley baseball team, and on occasion in pick-up games at Stetson University (juniors versus seniors, for instance).

Emmett, back row, far left. Source: The Argo, 1900-1901, Florida State University Archives.

It is interesting to compare Emmett with his peers in the group photos. Notice that Emmett sits on the end in both photos. In the football photo, he’s a bit separated from the group. This is a relaxed group; Emmett seems at ease here, sitting cross legged on the bottom step, his hands resting on his knees, but he isn’t sprawled like most of the boys on the bottom step.

Notice also how Emmett poses in the baseball photograph. He stares intently at the camera whereas several of his teammates are bored looking away, at ease. The two fellows in suits were the managers.

Maybe the photo was take right after a game and the boys are tired, as they seem a big disheveled, worn out, but Emmett doesn’t look tired or disheveled. Emmett, and the boy sitting next to him were the team substitutes, not regular players.

Emmett seems to be scowling, maybe smirking, at the camera. Notice Emmett’s body language compared to the other boys: He’s tense, as he sits perched on the edge of the bench, shoulders hunched, hands gripping his knees. I wish there were more details about this picture, and when it was taken. (Unfortunately that information doesn’t exist.)

Although Emmett may not have been the most valuable player on the West Florida Seminary team, he was certainly not a bench warmer on the Chipley town team.

Emmett played on the Chipley team on and off before attending West Florida Seminary, as his work schedule would allow. (In 1899, when Emmett was 15, he was already an expert telegrapher, and managing small railroad depots on the P&A line of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.)

Emmett was likely one of the boys who couldn’t make the game. Source: The Chipley Banner, June 10, 1899.

After graduating from Stetson in 1904, there aren’t any more articles about Emmett playing for either the Chipley team or the Marianna team (he moved to Marianna after graduation to form a law partnership with his brother, Cephas). We know Emmett attended games and exhibitions; he probably also played a few games here and there, as did Cephas, who played the occasional exhibition baseball game in Marianna.

Cephas L. Wilson as baseball player for the Fats vs. Leans game, complaining about Lula. Go figure. Cephas was on the “Fats” team. Source: Marianna Times-Courier, July 18, 1912,

It is likely Emmett attended this game in Marianna. There were several important Florida politicians on both the the Fats team and the Leans team. Emmett had just returned home from the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, and was taking a break in preparation for the general election in November; it is reasonable to believe these heavy hitters in Florida politics, all in one place on a hot, summer day, would want to talk to Emmett after the game.

 

 

 

Signature moments

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Just as I think I’ve found as much as I can find directly related to Emmett, something new surfaces!

This!

Paul Carter and Mary (Mamie) Horne’s marriage license, dated September 4, 1912. Emmett was Paul’s best man. Source: Florida State Archives

Although I’m still missing Emmett’s scrapbook, and I have only a few primary documents that belonged to Emmett, I’ve managed to assemble an extensive collection of Emmett’s signature, beginning with my first sample (from his college days at West Florida Seminary in 1901), to the last known sample (six weeks before his death in 1918).

Here’s a few examples of what I’ve collected:

Emmett’s signature at West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University), 1901. Emmett was 18.

Emmett’s handwriting in 1911. He was States Attorney prosecuting a case in Santa Rosa county in this example.

Emmett’s handwriting in 1918. This was his signature indicating he’d paid his poll taxes. This was almost one month before Emmett died.

In the last example, Emmett didn’t follow the directions when filling out the form, which is important to note, since by this point, Emmett was poor health and likely in a continuous state of inebriety, as his signature is almost illegible scrawl.

These are only a few of the examples in my possession. Overall, it is interesting to see how his handwriting evolved over the years. Context (the documents themselves, the events, the situation in which the signature took place) is important, and I’ve taken all of that into account as I’ve examined his signature over the years.

New-to-me background on U.S. vs. Penton

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When I last visited Florida in 2015, I spent most of the time going through courthouse archives in search of testimony and notes for the cases Emmett was prosecuting.

Although I didn’t find much in the way of notes, I did uncover a load of paperwork with Emmett’s signature, which (at least) confirmed some of the details of the cases he prosecuted while serving as District Attorney from 1907-1909, then as States’ Attorney from 1911-1913.

But one of the major cases Emmett prosecuted was U.S. vs. Frank Penton, and today, I lucked upon the blog Judging Shadows, which has excellent background about the principals in the case.

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, December 9, 1910, page 13.

The Pensacola Journal, January 8, 1911, page 1. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

In the third paragraph of his essay on Frank Penton, the blog’s author wasn’t sure about Frank Penton’s sentence in the murder of George Warwick Allen: Although Frank Penton was not charged, his father Abner Penton was sentenced to four years in prison.

Abner Penton would later appealed his sentence to the Florida Supreme Court, but the December 13, 1912 issue of The Pensacola Journal reported Florida Supreme Court upheld Penton’s original sentence.

I’m hoping that perhaps the descendants of the Corbins or Pentons would have something about their ancestor’s interactions with Emmett from this and other cases (it turns out that Emmett prosecuted Frank more than once). If the information exists, I’d love to see it.

Emmett’s Regular Getaway

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Although the life and behavior of an alcoholic can be unpredictable, Emmett Wilson appears to have been a man of regular habits, especially when it came to his annual vacation.

The Gulf View Inn, 1910. Source: The Panama City Pilot, July 28, 1910, p.1

Every year, on or about the first week of August, Emmett would go to St. Andrews or Panama City for two weeks. When there was room available, he would stay with either the J. Walter Kehoe family, who would rent a cottage in Panama City for several weeks, or he would stay at the Gulf View Inn.

Advertisement of the Gulf View Inn’s room rates, from the March 17, 1910 issue of the Panama City Pilot, page 4.

Two weeks was pretty much the upper limit of Emmett’s vacation time, as he was a busy lawyer. Emmett would take a steamer, primarily The Manteo, from Pensacola to Panama City.

Emmett on the steamer Manteo, August 1908. Source: The Pensacola Journal

What’s interesting about Emmett is that while he was considered a well-connected lawyer and politician who’s job it was to see and be seen, to be out and about in circulation, I get the feeling that he really wasn’t comfortable in all that circulation, that he had to force himself to be social, to interact, to make public speeches.

It wasn’t that Emmett was unable; but it seems that he was uncomfortable being in the public eye so much. He had to have known that the legal profession would necessitate social/public circulation, and he had to have known that would certainly be the case if he got into politics — but Emmett was an accidental politician — a last-minute substitution by the Florida Democratic Party when Judge Charles Parkhill suddenly withdrew from the race for the third congressional district on January 6, 1912.

The Pensacola Journal, January 6, 1912

Emmett on vacation, again during the first week of August, in 1912. Source: The Pensacola Journal

So of course, by the time August rolled around, Emmett would relish his time by himself, with just his fishing gear, a camp stool (and maybe a bottle of Scotch), deep in appreciation for the quite moments away from the crazy reality of his life.

 

Namesake Coincidence?

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I often check back on several databases, to keep up with new additions from archives or new-to-me sources that may have been added. This past week, I came across two interesting names in the year 1913:

Emmett Wilson Harrison (born January 31, 1913, in Okaloosa County Florida) and Emmett Wilson Strickland (born August 23, 1913 in Florida).

Is it possible that Emmett impressed these parents enough for them to name their children after him? Although these are the only two, there may be more out there.

I think this was the case. You see, 1913 was Emmett Wilson’s big year — the high point of his meteoric career. Consider:

  • In 1913, Emmett was the youngest U.S. Congressman in history at the time. He won his very first-ever political campaign by an overwhelming margin, beating two older, more politically experienced (and certainly wealthier) candidates.
  • And just a few years earlier, Emmett was the youngest District Attorney in the United States.

Although considered inexperienced by many older political leaders in Florida, Emmett was achieving tremendous goals for his youth.

Emmett Wilson Kehoe, son of Jennie and Walter Kehoe. 1930, University of Florida. Source: Ancestry.com

West Florida papers were depicting Emmett as the personification of a middle-class good boy, who was a go-getter, who worked hard, and succeeded against all odds. And indeed, this was one of the reasons why Emmett’s closest friends, Jennie and Walter Kehoe, named their youngest son Emmett Wilson Kehoe.

“It was easy to see why at the time. They (Jennie and Walter) thought the WORLD of Emmett,” Mike Weenick told me, when I asked why his grandparents named his uncle, born in 1909 after Emmett.

Why wouldn’t West Florida parents consider naming their sons after Emmett Wilson, in his honor?

I’ll reach out to the descendants this week to see if they know the story behind their ancestor’s names. I’ll let you know what I discover, if anything.

 

Papist or Protestant?

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The big question I’m exploring with one of J. Walter Kehoe’s descendants is this:

Was he once Catholic or wasn’t he?

A few days ago, I found Walter’s obituary, which mentions a Presbyterian funeral. I reached out to his grandson and asked about it. Walter’s grandson replied that he wasn’t aware of any Catholics in the family, which was a surprise — I’ve always thought Walter was Catholic, because Walter’s father John Kehoe was Catholic.

Chipley Jones. Emmett’s campaign manager, and somewhat jackass.

This is an important detail in telling Emmett’s story — and in case you’re wondering why I’m focused on this, it’s because of something Emmett — or, rather, Emmett’s jackass campaign manager — did during the 1914 reelection.

Briefly:

  • Emmett’s lack of experience and alcoholism were huge indicators that he was in over his head as a U.S. Congressman, and,
  • Woodrow Wilson’s popularity was slipping, as was the Democratic party’s popularity. Every Democratic seat in the Senate and Congress was precious.

In 1914, Emmett was being primaried by John P. Stokes, lawyer, statesman and Roman Catholic. This was a political handicap in Florida — 22nd governor, Sidney Catts, who ran on the Prohibition ticket and won in 1922, largely campaigned as an anti-Catholic.

Days before the primary election in Florida, on May 31, 1914, the word got out:

Stokes claims Emmett’s campaign using religious prejudice. Source: The Pensacola Journal, May 31, 1914, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Here’s the problem:

Stokes and his wife were married by a Catholic priest. That was the problem. Source: The Pensacola Journal, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

This was Emmett’s campaign; ergo, the behavior of Emmett’s campaign staff reflects on him.

Here’s Emmett’s response to Stoke’s charges in the next day’s paper:

Emmett doesn’t say so directly, but his ad states *he* didn’t do anything wrong. This was written by Chipley Jones, by the way. Source: The Pensacola Journal, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Emmett was probably telling the truth — he, himself, didn’t actually do anything — but you can bet someone in his campaign (*cough* Jones *cough*) did. The damning thing about the whole situation is that Stokes wasn’t favored to win. Stokes wasn’t even close! Emmett was hugely popular at this point, and his ineptness in office, and alcoholism, were not visible to the general public.

Emmett may not have actually been the one to ‘ok’ this campaign tactic, but the fact it happened indicates Emmett was hands-off with the management of his campaign. That’s not good; essentially, Emmett gave tacit agreement to do whatever it took to win, even when the nearest competitor wasn’t close; saying his campaign was run on a ‘high and dignified plane’ rings hollow.

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Meanwhile, I think the issue of Walter Kehoe’s Catholicism is important, because the Kehoes considered Emmett family. Emmett lived with the Kehoes for several years; he was much loved, and trusted.  The idea that Emmett’s campaign went after Stokes because he was Catholic might not have sat well with the Kehoes. I wonder what Walter said to Emmett about all of this when it finally played out, if he said anything at all.

Maybe, by this point, Walter had joined the Presbyterian Church.

In the end, Stokes conceded gracefully.

Stokes concedes gracefully. Source: The Pensacola Journal, June 7, 1914, p4, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Stokes would go on to have a long, successful career in law and Florida politics. He was well respected; well remembered.

John Stokes died April, 1939. Source: The Miami Herald, via GenealogyBank.com

 

And we know what happened to Emmett.