Chapter 61: The goal

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January 4, 1903
East Hall Men’s Dormitory
Stetson University
DeLand, Florida

I love where I am at this moment.

Emmett was classified as a junior his first year at Stetson; administrators credited his two years’ work at WFS. Source: Stetson University College Catalog, 1901-02, http://digital.archives.stetson.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/Unidocs/id/2865/rec/4

This is different than the Seminary, and the Business College; this is about joining in active discussions with my professors about something I am entirely interested in, and this all makes perfect sense — the work I did for Cephas, the drudge work I did for Judge Jones. Ceph had been right: The work I did last summer for him turned out to be some of the most valuable practical experience in preparation for law school. In fact, the required Elementary Law class has been nothing but repetitive information I learned in Cephas’ law office this summer.

Law school feels natural to me. I work hard; but I take nothing for granted. I feel like I had a real chance to shine  because it all feel right, being here at Stetson. 

The first week here, Paul and I immediately joined the debate club, and helped inaugurate the Kent Club, a law school organization. We are regular attendees of both groups.

For the first time, I feel like I belong completely, without reservation. I love it. I feel at home. More so than in my actual home in Chipley, for what it is worth. This has been my first time living away from family members and with my two closest friends at East House — Paul Carter and Billy Crawford — and we have a great time! 

We play pranks on each other (one of which actually caused a small fire last week), we roughhouse, we smoke, we relax by playing checkers or chess on the front porch. Some of us even get up a game of baseball with the underclassmen on occasion.

There are 13 of us fellows living in the dorm, and two or three of us share a room. In the fall, we had 14, but one fellow got fed up with us and our pranks, and moved out. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the evening he came home from studying in the Law Library, and discovered his room was completely devoid of furniture. (We’d simply stashed it in the attic.)

We are a fun, cohesive group. We often pool our food together for giant feasts (some of which was taken surreptitiously from the women’s dorms); Crawford has a chafing dish, and we add whatever we have on hand: Hot dogs, apples, random vegetables to make up a stew of sorts. Most of the time, we eat at the stag table at Chaudoin Hall, the large women’s dormitory, which features the biggest dining room on campus. The dining is segregated by gender; there is also a ‘training table’ where the football and baseball players eat separated from the rest of us.

Most of the fellows, like myself, go on outings with a few of the girls on campus now and then; these are chaperoned affairs, but now and then, you can get alone with a girl, which is pleasant, especially if you are out with one of the girls who is ‘accommodating’ . You have to be careful; all of us do. One slip, and you’d be married, then out of school, and off to a drudge job, drudge life. I feel comfortable saying that none of us in our group expect or want anything serious with a girl at this point.

Paul Carter was popular among the girls at Stetson. Because one-on-one meetings were mostly chaperoned between men and women, the men would climb through the womens’ dorm windows to visit. The Stetson Collegiate. http://digital.archives.stetson.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/Newspapers/ p. 7, December, 1902.

I haven’t met anyone at Stetson who interests me, though I am friendly with a lot of the girls on campus. I attend parties and functions at the dorms, as most of the fellows,  but none of it is serious to me. I don’t want it to be serious.

Honestly, I feel like most of the girls here are in it to find a husband, the way they skip classes, and carry on in their dorms with fellows who sneak in through windows at night. Some of the fellows don’t come home until almost sunrise sometimes.

It’s not as if I am not tempted. I am. I know what girls do and do not at Hamilton Hall — the girl’s dorm — for instance, but I also know I absolutely cannot screw up my chances here at Stetson, so my personal needs are met off campus when necessary.

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Emmett’s dorm, East Hall, is in the upper right hand corner. Hamilton is right below it. Source: Stetson University Archives

Last evening, while sitting on the front porch, smoking with a few of the fellows, Crawford, who is always nosing into my nonexistent love life, asked:

“Met anyone lately who looks interesting, Wilson?” 

“No. Not really.”

“There’s dancing lessons to be offered at Chaudoin Hall on Fridays by a Mrs. Spaulding.”

“She has two rather good looking daughters, doesn’t she?” one of the fellows at the checkers game on the other side of the porch said.

“That’s the one,” said Crawford, lighting a cigarette. “Might be worth checking out over there, to see what’s what, Em. Her daughters are quite outgoing.”

“I already know how to dance,” I said.

“Maybe this Spaulding woman knows newer steps. I understand she promotes herself and her daughters as quite the life of the party where they are from, Massachusetts, I think. Or New York,” Crawford said, as he exhaled smoke, and eased back in his chair.

I really wasn’t interested in going to the dance; I had a debate coming up next week, and there was a case I was preparing in my Contracts class that needed attention.

For the past few weeks, I’d been getting later and later starts with my homework, often I wasn’t starting to read until around 10 o’clock each night. Sometimes I pull a few all-nighters, especially if I let myself get talked into a social over at Chaudoin Hall, which I honestly don’t enjoy that much. I go mostly so I don’t get a reputation of being anti-social.

The girls are nice enough, but they all seem as if they are trying too hard, if you know what I mean. The more standoffish I am, the harder some of them try, and I was not brought up to be rude to young ladies.

“No,” I told the fellows, as I stood up to go upstairs. “I really have to hit the books, fellas. It took me almost two years to get back to college; I worked too hard to return to school and if I don’t get to it, Professor Brierly will chew me out in Contracts.”

They left me alone after that.

But what I didn’t say to them: “This is my last and only chance to become someone more than who I am at present, and I’m not going to screw it up.”

I think maybe some of them know that about me already, though.

 

 

Chapter 60: Emmett Wilson, Law Student

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April 22, 2016
McKeldin Library
The University of Maryland
College Park, MD

Did you know Stetson was Florida’s first law school? It was founded in 1900, and Emmett was one of the very first graduates (he was Valedictorian for the class of 1904).

When Emmett attended from 1902-1904, Stetson’s law school was in DeLand, Florida, and most of the classes met in a building called Science Hall. The law school (when Emmett started) wasn’t big; in fact, Emmett’s graduating class had only 10 students.

The 1904 graduating class with 10 students. Emmett's best friend, Paul Carter, is in here as well. Source: Stetson University Archives

The 1904 graduating class with 10 students. Emmett’s best friend, Paul Carter, is in here as well. Source: Stetson University Archives

 

Here’s a description of Stetson’s law school — actually ‘law department’ back in the day:

A description of the law school facilities in 1903-04. They were 'second to none' at the time. Source: Stetson University Archives

A description of the law school facilities in 1903-04. They were ‘second to none’ at the time. Source: Stetson University Archives

 

Here’s an image from a Stetson brochure featuring the facility:

Students in the law library in the upper left corner. Notice the guy in the pale vest? Does he look familiar? He should! Source: Stetson University Archives

Students in the law library in the upper left corner. Notice the guy in the pale vest? Does he look familiar? He should!  He’s also somewhere in the practice courtroom photo, but even with the original, I can’t zoom in enough to pick him out. Source: Stetson University Archives

 

Back then, Emmett lived in a dorm called East Hall his first year of law school, costing about $206 year. It included “tuition, board, furnished room, lights, and washing.” Books cost about $35 a year, and were references he’d use during his early years as a lawyer. When Emmett was ready to graduate, his diploma fee was $5.

Today, the law department is a school unto itself, and is in Tampa Bay. It has definitely come a long way since Emmett’s day.

Updated from April 22, 2016, at this link.

Chapter 58: An Interview with Cephas

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Outside the Law Office of Cephas L. Wilson
Courthouse Square
Marianna, Florida
August 3, 1902

Cephas Love Wilson, Jr.; about 1899. Source: State Archives of Florida.

You want to know about my kid brother? Well…let me think…

Before Emmett moved in with us this summer, I didn’t see him that often except for the occasional visit; Chipley is about 20 miles down the road, and I travel about the state on the legal circuit.  And I’m 14 years older than Emmett, so we weren’t that close growing up. But Emmett has good friends here. Lula is fond of him; she sees him as a younger, more trustworthy and moral version of me. She wishes I had more of Emmett’s qualities.

But then, if I were more like Emmett, I tell her, I’d probably still be single.

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The Wilsons lived in Toledo Settlement, Punta Gorda, British Honduras (now Belize). They emigrated from the Port of New Orleans to Belize City; then traveled by ox cart down to Punta Gorda. There were few roads; this was not an easy move for this family. Source: http://www.scf.usc.edu

My earliest memory of Emmett? It was when he and Julian were born, in Belize. It was hot and uncomfortable then; a miserable, intemperate environment. The insects were huge. Father was always off busy, treating someone, either a Caribe or a member of our community. Mother had a particularly hard time; she’d been through a lot, before the move to Central America, and while she had family members and friends with her, it was no grand plantation or grand house, as she had been used to as a girl. Mother was a strong woman; had strong character and definite opinions. But cheerful, positive.

Emmett and Julian were born one day before Mother’s birthday. She called the twins her birthday present. She and Emmett were particularly close; he looked like her, but more to the point, he is also a lot like Grandfather Maxwell. People have said Emmett is definitely cut from the same cloth as Grandfather. They are very much alike in terms of mannerisms, behavior, looks, even. Grandfather is more social, though; more comfortable around people, especially women. Emmett, well, he’s still young. He’s more of a loner; keeps to the same small set of friends. Emmett just needs to be introduced to more prominent, more popular people. The right people.

While Emmett and I have not been close growing up, I have gotten to know him better in recent years, especially since he has been clerking for me the past summer.

Source: The Chipley Banner, May 1902.

I know Emmett enjoys listening to political discussions and he is interested in becoming a judge one day; he’s thoughtful, analytical. I see a lot of potential in him.

He’s told me that he is interested in studying law, that he wants to be a judge like Grandfather. Emmett would probably be a good judge one day: He respects, even likes and appreciates the law, and finds it comfortable where others would find it frustrating and confusing now and again. Not so, Emmett. The more challenging the precedent or the legal problem, the more energized he becomes.

I also know that Emmett wants to be something else, something bigger than he is at this moment, and somewhere else other than Chipley. I can understand that. I was like that too, when I was 17 and clerking for Judge W.O. Butler in Chipley.

For years, I’ve watched Emmett sit on the periphery of discussion circles on Father’s front porch, or in the parlor, or even here, in Marianna, when Lula and I would host family gatherings. Emmett likes to sit off to the side, almost by himself, just listening. He never says much, but then, he was never asked to jump into the conversation — not that I think his point of view wouldn’t have been seriously considered. Emmett never just randomly jumps into anything, even into conversation.

With Emmett, you have to understand, it isn’t about the text with him, it’s the subtext. When he does speak, it is well thought-out, not a ventilation of emotion or charged speech, or unprepared.

I think one day he might become a very good lawyer; especially, if he could master public speaking. But, he’s awkward and uncomfortable speaking before a group; even a very small one made up of those who know him well. He’d rather not draw attention to himself. I’ve told him that if he, indeed, wishes to become a judge like Grandfather, he’d have to overcome the fear of public speaking, and find a way to be effective, even if he feels terrified on the inside. A poor public speaker will never make it to the bench, even if he is excellent with the law. He’d have to master that fear at the get-go; an audience cannot see that you are afraid.

But, with Emmett, it is a little more than fear; Emmett just isn’t interested in things superficial, or social just to be social. If he wants to have a successful political career — which he will need if he wishes to become a judge — he has to get out among society, circulate, do the small talk, perhaps flirt with women single and married (as married women can influence their menfolk), promote himself. Emmett finds all of that false and insincere, which it is, truth be told. But, that is the way it is done, I tell him.

Perhaps with time, and practice, Emmett will become more comfortable speaking in public, in social settings. We can certainly help him that way.

I see a lot of myself in my younger brother: Ambition. Intelligence. Good looks. Good connections.

But Emmett has something I didn’t have at his age: An opportunity to go to college. I’ve always wanted to go to University; it sends a message of prestige and position, and it is the best way to make lifelong professional connections, if you do it correctly. In my view, if Emmett could make friends with the son of Florida’s secretary of state, that would be more than ample return on the family’s investment in his education. But Emmett doesn’t consider that suitable.

Emmett has something else I don’t have: Integrity. He’s the most honest person I know, and while that’s laudable, it can be a liability in a political career, especially if you take it to heart, as Emmett does. He’ll have to learn how to manage that sometime, else I think it could destroy him from the inside out.

Augustus Maxwell Wilson, oldest son of Dr. F.C. and Elizabeth Wilson. Source: Florida Memory.com

I make it no secret that I wish to be the Governor of Florida. My friends know it. My family, too. I know I can’t get there by myself; a family dynasty, like that of my Grandfather’s family, the Maxwells, is the key. I once thought Max would be an asset in building up the Wilson dynasty, linked as we are to the Maxwells…but Max is unstable. He’s become a bit of a laughingstock, and while he is a state representative this term, I’ve had to be careful, almost to distance myself from him. But I can’t do that; he’s my brother, and to do so sends the message of divisiveness in our own house.

But with Emmett…if he is given the proper opportunity, the proper guidance and grooming…yes. I see great potential with Emmett. That’s why I’m willing to invest in him — time and funds. I see in Emmett a chance to build a partner, a team. A dynasty.

Emmett’s ambitious. I see it in him. That, I believe, will be the key to helping him get over his fear of public speaking.

He once told me that he wants to be like Grandfather — a former U.S. Congressman, State Supreme Court Justice. I think Emmett has the capacity for both, in time.

There are other things to work on, but if I encourage his ambition, show him what heights he could rise to if he let me help him — we’d help each other. He’ll achieve his goal; I’ll achieve mine. The Wilsons will be a political dynasty, a continuation of the Maxwell political dynasty. It is all possible.

And we can make it happen.

Chapter 55: Enter Nancy

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September 19, 2013
University of Maryland
College Park

It is about four months into the research, and I am doggedly chipping at the cracked slab that lies over Emmett Wilson’s buried-away life history, starting with the people who knew him best.

In the December 2, 1918 edition of The Pensacola Journal, I found the following:

Emmett is eulogized seven months after his death in an Elk’s ceremony. Source: The Pensacola Journal, December 2, 1918 via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Page 2, The Pensacola Journal, December 2, 1918, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

I reach out to the state office of the Elk’s Club in Florida, to see if there was an archive where Anderson’s entire speech might have been preserved. It would make sense, I ask, because one of the members eulogized was a former Member of Congress. Later, an email from my source reveals he wasn’t able to find a record of Emmett’s membership — and alas,  the Pensacola chapter didn’t exist anymore — it disbanded after reaching its 100th anniversary.

Elk’s (left) and Osceola Clubs, Pensacola. Neither building survives today, although the Elk statue is elsewhere in the city, according to Jacki Wilson, archivist for the Pensacola Historical Society. Source: State Archive of Florida.

 

Next, I track down Robert H. Anderson. There’s an interesting biographical sketch in a Florida genealogy database — the sketch is a basic rtf file, in Courier typeface.

A snippet of the file uploaded by Nancy Rayburn. Source: USGWArchives

The document belongs to Ms. Nancy Rayburn — luckily, there’s an email address attached to the file.

===

I didn’t expect an answer quickly, but only a few hours later, Nancy responds:

She always like to correspond using Comic Sans. One of the many things I liked about her right away!

I sense a good source in the making.

I’ll write back right the next day — let’s see where this goes.

Chapter 54: In Bits and Pieces

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February 26, 2020
Chevy Chase, Maryland

I’m honestly surprised at how much I have been able to uncover about Emmett to date, though there are serious gaps. The most important information, Emmett’s own words, are majorly absent. He wrote letters often to friends and family; but only a few exist 102 years after his death.

Of course, there is the great Mystery of Emmett’s Missing Scrapbooks. I would love to see them; I hold out hope that they still exist in some dusty attic or archive.

Emmett’s will, page two. Emmett Wilson Kehoe was the son of his best friend, J. Walter Kehoe. Emmett lived with the Kehoes starting in the summer of 1910 until his death.

The realist in me understands that it isn’t likely 102 years after Emmett’s death, but the one thing I’ve learned about finding Emmett and his story is that odd and unique pieces of his puzzle have come to me in seemingly mysterious and miraculous ways over the past six years.

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Here’s the thing about research: You can’t control when or what or how it comes to you, or how you find it.

When I started to study Emmett, I began with first thing I found: his obituary. From there, I went from a general series of searches into his life, and from there, eventually narrowed it into topics such as former schools, former jobs, former clubs, former places of residence and the like.

The information quickly became overwhelming and confusing; i.e., I’d find an article about his funeral, the next day I’d find an article about a law suit he prosecuted in Marianna, and later that day, an article about a dance he attended in Pensacola. That’s pretty much how Emmett’s info was coming in all the time.

Nothing was chronological, so I had to find a way to organize it, so I could understand his life before I could write about it.

Early on, I set up an Excel spreadsheet, with very simple columns: Year, date, event, source of information, comment. As I organized the information, I realized that I would have to also include his immediate family in that spreadsheet, because many of the family events directly affected him, even after he had moved out of the home and was on his own.

I use a basic spreadsheet program with my own headings. Information is organized by year.

Another example from the Emmett spreadsheets.

The spreadsheets grew tremendously — at present, six years into the research, I have over 5,000 individual entries with any information on Emmett that tells me the date, what he was doing and with whom, and the source of the information (and often a copy of the clip or a link of the image of the information). Essentially, I wanted to create a ‘journal’ of his life, and it has given me an interesting overall picture of the man ….

But, of course, the problem is that very little of it is in Emmett’s own words. Without the missing scrapbook or a journal, or even letters written to other people, I don’t know what he thought or felt.

And even with a scrapbook or a journal, I still may not know what Emmett thought or felt. I don’t know if he could be truly honest with himself on paper. Some of the information I’ve found about him tells me he was a master at stuffing his feelings down and looking for any means of escaping discomfort, unease, and so forth.

One thing I did notice, after looking over the spreadsheet, was that I’d need to reach out to Emmett’s friends, as well as family members; i.e., the descendants of Emmett’s friends and family, to find additional information.

I decided to begin with Robert H. Anderson, the man who gave Emmett’s eulogy at the annual memorial service for deceased members of the Pensacola Elk Club (I’ve learned that Emmett’s funeral eulogy doesn’t exit/a copy was  not kept with Christ Church, the site of his funeral).

Little would I know, but the contact I made starting with Anderson would be one of the most precious gifts of this project.

 

 

Chapter 52: Walter Steps In

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October 23, 2018
The University of Maryland, McKeldin Library
College Park, MD

[Reposted from here.]

We all have that one friend who we know we can turn to, no matter what, no matter the time of day. The friend who knows us better than our spouses (sometimes). The friend who loves us for who we are, who accepts us, unconditionally.

There aren’t many people in our lives who fit that bill. If we are lucky, we’ve had this kind of friendship at least once.

This was Emmett’s closest friend. J. Walter Kehoe.  Although Emmett’s childhood friend, Paul Carter, remained close to Emmett, they drifted apart after Emmett moved to Pensacola in 1906, and his law/political career took off.

J. Walter Kehoe in 1917. Kehoe, Emmett’s law partner, also succeeded him in Congress. Source: Wikipedia.com

Paul and Emmett were always friends, whereas Walter started out as a mentor to Emmett, and remained close to Emmett until Emmett’s death (although the relationship with Walter became estranged at the end).

But this was more than a mentoring relationship. Emmett lived with the Kehoe family between 1906-1918, except for a two-year period, when Emmett was ‘baching it’ in a boarding house with friends (1909-1910). It was more like Emmett was a member of the Kehoe family. Indeed, Kehoe’s great-grandson Mike once told me in a telephone interview that his grandparents, Walter and Jennie Jenkins Kehoe, “thought the world of Emmett. That’s why they named their youngest son and my favorite uncle, for him.”

Walter and Emmett’s older brother, Cephas, were law partners in Marianna for several years before Walter was named States’ Attorney around 1902, and moved to Pensacola. (As luck would have it with Emmett, Cephas’ law practice now had an opening — and in two years, when Emmett graduated from Stetson University, he became Cephas’ junior law partner.) Walter, therefore, knew Emmett since boyhood; knew his character, his intelligence, his potential — Walter knew and saw the REAL Emmett Wilson — the Emmett Wilson pre-alcoholic disaster.

Emmett’s ‘home address’ is actually the Kehoe’s address. Also, that’s the Kehoe’s phone number. Emmett didn’t have his own, separate line. Source: Ancestry.com

As with any ‘family’ relationship, it was loving, frustrating,  agonizing, painful — but it was honest — and the relationship between Emmett and Walter was one of the few consistencies in Emmett’s life.

Even though I know Walter and Jennie Kehoe were good to Emmett — Emmett was always treated as if he was a member of the Kehoe family — Walter had political aspirations too, and knew that a partnership with the Wilsons (Cephas primarily, but if not with Cephas, then Emmett) would likely propel him into the United States Congress, which was Walter’s ultimate goal. Walter’s continued partnership with Cephas was preferred for obvious reasons: Emmett was a neophyte in 1906, when he moved to Pensacola, an alcoholic, and immature on several levels. But the idea then (as now, sometimes) was that with a consistent home, and maybe a good woman to make it happen, Emmett would straighten up, stop drinking (or at least curtail it), settle down, and everyone’s political/power dreams would be realized.

Walter and Jennie did their best to help Emmett settle down — they even went so far as to introduce Emmett to ‘suitable’ women, and at one point, pushed, er, encouraged him strongly, to ask one young woman from Columbus, Georgia they deemed suitable to marry him. This was no grand passion or true love story between Emmett and Miss Georgia. Perhaps if it was, Emmett may have capitulated. But Emmett was inconsistent. And Miss Georgia was canny enough to realize that Emmett was too much of a project, and not her type. Besides, her Anti-Saloon League President father would certainly not welcome Emmett into the family.

Walter’s role in Emmett’s life is interesting, starting with his conversation with Emmett during Jennings’ Inauguration. Stay tuned for more on their story.

 

 

Chapter 50: A curious notation in The Argo

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September 10, 2016
University of Maryland Research Carrel
College Park, Maryland

Before I move on with Emmett’s story post-WFS, one thing that popped out at me when I was looking through Emmett’s old college yearbook was this:

An essay on Inauguration Day for Governor William Sherman Jennings; Emmett and some of his friends from WFS attended. Emmett attended with his brother, Cephas Love Wilson, who was a Florida State Senator. Source: FSU Archives

Emmett is mentioned on this page as having attended — and his friends ate his supper for him. Curious. Source: FSU Archives

The Jennings inauguration ceremonies ran from January 6-9, 1901 — and by this account, Emmett was there, and, likely in attendance with his brother Cephas, and Walter Kehoe.

So, I’m wondering if that’s when Emmett told his friends he was leaving school — and what he told them?

I wonder if Emmett was embarrassed about it, or maybe he felt at peace, because he was finally figuring out what he wanted to do with himself?