Telecommunication

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What’s the first thing most folks would do in an emergency, if you had to let family members know that you were injured in an accident, or seriously ill?

You’d call them. And, more likely than not, you’d probably connect with them almost immediately.

Thanks to the miracle of modern telecommunication — we’re always accessible to other human beings at any time of the day or night. And it’s economical. I don’t give a second thought about the economics of calling my sister (who lives on the other side of the country) during the day: I just pick up the phone. But back in the 70s and 80s, I can remember having to wait until 5 or 6 pm to make a call to a friend who lived in the next county, because the rates would be lower.

(Aside: Here’s an interesting and informative article on the cultural shifts that telephones have brought over the past 100 years. The focus of the article is how the telephones have been depicted in film, but the historical background is well written.)

In Emmett’s day, and especially during his congressional service days (1913-1917) a telephone call (and in particular, a long distance call, as mentioned in the link above) was a big deal:

  • Telephones were still the accessories of the wealthy and upper-middle class by 1913.
  • Many communities, especially rural, were not completely (or consistently) wired for telephones.

Rural folks cutting telegraph and telephone lines for clothes lines. Priorities! Source: The Chipley Banner, February 18, 1899, p. 3 in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

  • Long distance calls were expensive, and you didn’t telephone someone long distance without a reason. [Some businesses charged $5 for three minutes (in 1913 dollars), which is the equivalent of $60 in 2017.]

I started thinking about this yesterday when I came across my notes about this event:

Source: The Pensacola Journal, December 21, 1914, page 1, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Here’s the background:

  • Emmett was admitted to Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. at least a week earlier.
  • He was unconscious and his kidneys had shut down; he also went into delirium tremens, which was (and is today) sometimes fatal.
  • The condition was so serious, both Cephas Love Wilson and Frank C. Wilson Jr. were summoned to his bedside in Washington, D.C. This was neither an inexpensive nor easy trip for either of Emmett’s brothers.

My question is, were they contacted by telephone or telegram?

I am leaning toward telegram, because although Cephas had a telephone in both his home and office, and would have been accessible, the officials at Providence Hospital would probably not have known that — and, likely they would have used the tried-and-true telegram.

The cost associated with making the phone call from Washington to Marianna would also have been time consuming, and quite expensive. It was simply more efficient and economical to get the telegram to Cephas ASAP. 

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Finally, take a look at the story that ran right below the article on Emmett’s brothers being summoned to Washington, D.C.:

Was the article on drinking an unfortunate placement or was the publisher sending a message? Source: The Pensacola Journal, December 21, 1914, page 1, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

At this point, Frank Mayes’ widow Lois Mayes was the publisher of The Pensacola Journal, and she was not a fan of Emmett’s. (The love-hate relationship between Frank Mayes and Emmett Wilson is an interesting story for another day.)

Lois, and the political movers-and-shakers of Pensacola, knew Emmett had a problem with alcohol. Most of Emmett’s colleagues and friends were now stepping away from him, tired of his behavior and wary of the professional fallout from associating with a known drunk.

Was the placement of this article on drinking an unfortunate coincidence or was it done on purpose?

 

Congressional Baseball Game

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The annual Congressional Baseball Game was played last night at the Washington Nationals stadium.

I know Emmett Wilson loved the game — he played baseball for his college team (West Florida Seminary, now Florida State University), and for his town baseball team (the Red, White and Blues of Chipley).

But did he play during his two terms as a U.S. Congressman between 1913 and 1917?

Congressional baseball games from 1913-1917. Source: Wikipedia and U.S. House of Representatives Archives

It took a little fancy digging to tease out the rosters for three of the games; unfortunately, I haven’t yet located a 1915 roster — but here is what I found:

July 15,1913 article on the Congressional baseball game. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

August 1, 1914 article on the Congressional baseball game. Source: The Washington Times, ChroniclingAmerica.gov

July 28,1916 article on the Congressional baseball team. Source: The Washington Times and ChromiclingAmerica.gov

Emmett’s name did not appear on any of the Democratic team rosters for 1913, 1914, and 1916. Given Emmett’s precarious health in 1915 (he had full-blown cirrhosis, and had nearly died from alcohol poisoning earlier that year), it is questionable that he’d have played, though he might have attended the games at Boundary Field (also known as American League Park II, then National Park); today, the site of Howard University Hospital.

According to Pensacola newspapers and other reports, Emmett was in Florida from late April until September,1915; therefore, he’d not have attended the game that year.

Emmett left office March 4, 1917, and immediately moved back to Pensacola.There is no evidence he ever returned to Washington after his second term as U.S. Congressman was up, even to attend a baseball game.

Double the LL.B.

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Paul Carter, from the 1899 Argo, the yearbook of the West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University). The original valedictorian of the 1904 Stetson University Law Class. He didn’t finish at Stetson; rather, he took classes at Georgetown University while he was private secretary to William Bailey Lamar.

Emmett’s best friend, Paul Carter, was the original valedictorian of the Stetson University Law School Class of 1904.

But fate — a job opportunity as private secretary to U.S. Congressman William Bailey Lamar — intervened. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for a smart, ambitious 23-year-old not even out of college. According to an article in the Stetson Weekly Collegiate, Paul was supposedly to return to Stetson to graduate with his class later that year — perhaps he had an arrangement with the school to finish his last semester via correspondence? Perhaps the school would have granted him credit for his work alongside Lamar in Washington, D.C. for some of the coursework?

The Class of 1904 waited until late April to elect their replacement valedictorian, Emmett Wilson. Interestingly, Emmett was not the original choice for any of the graduation class honors when the choices were made in December,1903; valedictorian and salutatorian were decided by popular vote of the graduating law school class.


Although Paul was busy in Washington, he didn’t let his law degree ambitions fall to the side. With plenty of professional experience, law school credits, and other credentials to his name, he enrolled in Georgetown University’s Law School in 1905 as a third-year student. Even though he possessed most of the credits to graduate (i.e., he needed one more semester of coursework), he was required to finish the entire year. The curriculum was challenging for Paul, and expensive: $100 a year for tuition (books not included) on top of his living expenses in D.C. (Law school tuition at Stetson for a year was $72.60 in 1906.)

The Washington Evening Star, June 8, 1906. Source: Chronicling America.gov

On June 8, 1906, Paul received his bachelor of law degree from Georgetown University.

And —

The Deland Weekly News, June 8, 1906. Source: Chronicling America.gov

Both the Georgetown article and the Stetson article mentioning appeared on the same day. What’s up with that?

Well —

1907 Stetson University Catalog. Source: Stetson University Archives

According to the 1907 Stetson University Catalog, Paul was in Florida in time to receive his degree from Stetson University.

Immediately after the ceremony, Paul and his fellow graduates went to Jacksonville to be sworn in to the Florida Bar. Then, Paul took the train from Jacksonville back to Washington, in plenty of time to attend his second graduation at Georgetown.

So, Paul Carter earned two bachelor of law degrees within two weeks. From what I’ve learned about Paul Carter over the past three years, he was an excellent lawyer and certainly deserving of his credentials. I’m curious about the arrangement he had with Stetson that allowed for him to receive his degree given his absence for over a year (even though he continued his education at another institution).

Hal Lawson Scott

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I’ve been reviewing the documents for Emmett’s will for several days, going over all of the names mentioned in the file. Almost all of them are familiar. After four years of doing this project, I thought I had a complete list of the folks Emmett was closest to in his life, and that I knew who they were.

And then, I found this letter.

A portion of a document from Emmett’s will. Henry Bellinger was a professional colleague of Emmett’s (but not close). Hal Scott, though: A new mystery!

I dug around for several hours trying to find out more about this Hal Scott. I didn’t find much — he died soon after Emmett, in 1923 (causes unknown at this time), but I did find this:

Hal slugged Chipley Jones in defense of Emmett in the refined San Carlos Hotel bar! A real barroom brawl all for Emmett! Source: GenealogyBank.com

Here’s the scoop on Hal Lawson Scott:

He was born February 1884 in Montgomery, Alabama to Thomas Jefferson Scott and Mary Adelaide Taylor Williston, a solid, upper middle-class family. Hal’s family was very well connected with Theodore Roosevelt’s Republican party at the turn of the last century.

Hal was married in December 1908 to Alma McLeod in Florala, Alabama.

In 1910, he was an agent with the IRS in Montgomery; several articles in the Montgomery Advertiser indicate he was adept at busting stills. Hal remained with the IRS most of his career, serving as either an agent, collector, or receiver, in both Montgomery and Pensacola.

In 1911, he set up the Scott Investment Company in Montgomery with two siblings (Mary and John Taylor Scott).

Sometime between 1911 and 1912, Hal met Emmett. Emmett’s twin brother, Julian Wilson, lived in Montgomery at this time, and was an accountant with the L&N Railroad; it is quite likely that Hal knew Julian, and Julian may have introduced Emmett to Hal on one of Emmett’s frequent visits to Montgomery. Hal was still living in Montgomery at this time, but he had plans to move to Pensacola, because he wanted to go into business for himself. Regardless, this was also about the time Hal switched party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, and  he and Emmett built a solid friendship.

On March 4, 1914, Hal was listed in the San Carlos Hotel roster as visiting from Montgomery. This is when Emmett’s reelection campaign was in high-gear. Emmett knew Hal Scott was a go-getter and well connected, and planning a move to Pensacola. He asked Hal to work along with Chipley Jones, on his reelection campaign. Hal and Chipley were an effective team: Emmett received over 95 percent of the vote in the June primary, and was expected to run basically unopposed in the November general election. Several of Emmett’s campaign staffers expected to be rewarded for their diligence and loyalty, especially Chipley Jones, who had his eye on the big prize: The Pensacola postmastership, a sinecure with a hefty salary (about $75,000 in today’s dollars).

On July 5, 1914, two events rocked Emmett’s world — the death of his brother E. Meade Wilson, of rapid onset pulmonary tuberculosis, and the death of  A. Gibson Fell, the Postmaster of Pensacola.

Chipley Jones. Weak-chinned political sneak.

Chipley Jones was ecstatic as a man without a chin could be while trying not to act too excited that his dream job just became available because a colleague died. The man could barely contain himself — he badgered Emmett on the long train ride from Pensacola back to Washington, D.C. the ENTIRE trip. (I kid you not; that is documented.)

Emmett gave Chipley reassurances that he was the man for the job, but Emmett had lost respect for him, after Chipley had pulled an underhanded trick on John Stokes (Emmett’s opponent in the primary) right before the election. Emmett had already decided he wasn’t going to appoint Chipley; instead, he let Chipley wonder about it for three months.

By early October, Chipley was impatient and snarly to everyone who asked him what was going on about the postmastership. Things came to a head on Sunday, October 4, 1914, when, according to reports, Chipley said something derogatory to Hal about Emmett, and Hal defended his friend. I wonder if Hal aimed for Chipley’s weak chin.

There’s a few other items about Hal that I gleaned from the archives:

On Nov 29, 1914 — Hal Scott and one of Emmett’s closest friends, Kirke Monroe, form the Scott Feed & Grain Company in Pensacola.

In 1916, according to the Pensacola City Directory, Hal was working an auto dealership; i.e., Pensacola Overland Automobiles, as the company’s manager.

The Pensacola Journal, October 24, 1915

Overland Automobile. Source: myautoworld.com

Dec 28, 1916 — Hal named receiver for the F. A. & Gulf Railroad (a short railroad that extended from Crestview, Florida to primarily milling towns near the Alabama border, and specialized in moving lumber and naval stores.)

Hal Scott died on June 23, 1923 in Pensacola; his burial location is unknown.

Hal L. Scott’s will, dated 1910. Source: Ancestry.com

Hal’s wife, Alma McLeod Scott, never remarried; they never had children. Alma died in 1981. Unfortunately, there is no one directly related to Hal and Alma Scott who I could ask about the relationship between Emmett and Hal. I doubt any correspondence from Emmett or Hal exists today — but you never know.

Emmett’s Will

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One hundred years ago today, almost exactly a year to his death, Emmett wrote his will.

Emmett’s will, as it appears in the Florida probate documents. Filed June 1, 1918 by his brother, Cephas Love Wilson, executor. Source: Ancestry.com

I have a copy of Emmett’s original will; the document was typewritten by Emmett himself, on old Banking and Currency Committee stationery that he had saved from his tenure as a U.S. Congressman. Emmett edited and corrected the errors in the single-spaced document document himself, in pen.

Emmett’s original will wasn’t dictated to a secretary, nor was it signed by witnesses, nor was it notarized.

I believe he simply went into Walter’s office in downtown Pensacola (he wasn’t practicing anymore, but I’m sure Walter let him use the office, as they shared it once as partners), and borrowed a typewriter. I think it is particularly touching that he used his own paper — stationery from when he was at the top of his professional life — and wrote his will in solitude.

For a man who was, by now, dying of alcoholism, and likely in and out of clarity, Emmett appears to have thought out carefully how he wanted his few possessions dispersed. Emmett was solvent June 1, 1917 — the date he wrote the will — and he wanted to distribute his money and property (about $7,000) to Dr. F.C. Wilson, Jennie Kehoe, and Emmett Wilson Kehoe. According to the inflation calculator, $7,000 in Emmett’s time is about $133,400 today.

Unfortunately, by the day Emmett died, on May 29, 1918, he had run out of money and was borrowing against his life insurance policy to pay everyday bills — that’s according to a letter from Cephas, which was included in Emmett’s file in Pensacola. Somehow, Emmett went through all of his money (and then some) in a year.

It is amazing to me, during what must have been a terrible, emotional and psychological time for Emmett, that he got his affairs in order knowing for certain:

He wasn’t getting married.

He wasn’t going to have his own home.

There wasn’t going to be a new political career.

There wasn’t going to be a new law practice.

And, that the end was probably coming sooner rather than later.