Emmett, Texter

Standard

Did you know that Emmett got his professional start texting (of sorts) for a living?

True. And if you think about it, telegraph operators were early ‘texters.’ (Here’s a great history of telegraphing — see the first half of the article for details about the importance of the telegraph in our society.

Emmett Wilson’s first “official” job was as a general, all-around assistant at the Chipley, Florida Pensacola & Atlantic train depot, sometime around 1894. Working for the railroad was not just a family tradition among the Wilson men; it was today’s equivalent of a kid interested in space working for NASA.

And Emmett was a kid, starting out at the bottom of the railroad depot job hierarchy, at about the same age as his older brothers Frank Jr. and Meade. Working for the railroad was important; and, if Emmett was willing, he’d rise up the ranks to a professional position, as did Frank Jr. and Meade, who were now conductors. (Emmett once told a reporter that he once dreamed about working for the railroad so that he could run along the tops of the cars while they were in motion, en route to faraway, more interesting places than Chipley. Early on, Emmett probably saw working for the railroad as a means to an end.)

Emmett was more than willing. He was super ambitious from the get-go — his eye was on the telegrapher’s job — a coveted and critical communication position that served not only the messaging for the community, but the telegrapher often conveyed critical transportation data up and down the rails.

After a year or two proving himself capable around the depot, Emmett eventually became expert with Morse code, and was tapped to train as a telegrapher, and by age 17, was managing small depots along the P&A line.

Emmett was 17 when he was dispatched to run small-town train stations on his own, which included the telegraph. Source: The Chipley Banner, December 2, 1899, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Emmett’s full-time career with the railroad was over within a year, as he would enroll at West Florida Seminary in 1900, to pursue a college degree. He’d fill in at both the Chipley and Marianna train depots now and again, when home from WFS on vacations or weekend visits to supplement his school funds.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Telecommunication

Standard

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. 

===

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?

 

Circle of Friends: Alba Houghton Warren

Standard

The distinguished Alba H. Warren. Source:Find-a-grave.com

One of Emmett’s friends when he lived in Pensacola during the height of his suave-and-sophisticated club-man existence was Alba Houghton Warren (1874-1950).

Warren was from an upper middle-class family in Worcester, Massachusetts, was, according to The Pensacola Journal, one of the city’s “leading young (men) of affairs;” affairs meaning ‘business interests’ back in the day.

Emmett and Warren were friends; they socialized together, they both liked baseball, they enjoyed boating parties on the Gulf of Mexico.

And, although both Emmett and Warren were considered ‘leading young men of affairs’ in Pensacola, Emmett’s ‘affairs’ were less business-like, and more social; i.e., frequent attendance at the Osceola Club, frequent attendance at soirees given by the upper crust of Pensacola’s society, whereas Warren (who was also a member of the Osceola Club, and attended society events), was deemed more serious, more moderate.

Certainly more sober than Emmett. But I digress.

 

Warren was an alumni of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (1895), where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and the Baseball Association.

In the 1900 U.S. Census, Warren (age 25) is listed as a bookkeeper at the loom works in Worcester.

By the 1910 U.S. Census, Warren (now 35) had a major career change:

Warren is now the manager of the electric company in Pensacola. 1910 U.S. Census. Source: Ancestry.com

Pensacola City Directory for 1910. Source: Ancestry.com

According to the U.S. Census, lived at 1101 Barcelona Street, and was listed as the head of the house — a boarding house — perhaps he owned the house at the time as well, because his primary job was manager of the Pensacola Electric Company. Notice in the census image that several of his boarders worked with him and/or were affiliated with the Pensacola Electric Company (specifically Superintendent Reynolds Harding), and W. Dennon Smith, the Assistant Superintendent.  Interestingly, Harding and Smith were also natives of Massachusetts.  Out of the six men who boarded at Warren’s house, four were from Massachusetts.

Warren moves to Galveston, Texas. Source: The Pensacola Journal, October 17, 1913, in http://www.chroniclingamerica.gov

Warren’s obituary from The Pensacola Journal (March 28, 1950) stated that he was superintendent of the utility, and served in a similar capacity for electric companies in Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia. Perhaps it was because of better job opportunities (hence the change from the loom works to the electric company between the years 1900 and 1910). The city directories between the years 1900 and 1910 (that I was able to find that mention Warren) don’t have much to say about his career development, except that he ‘removed’ several times:

1901 Worcester, Massachusetts City Directory. Source: Ancestry.com

1909 Boston City Directory. Source: Ancestry.com

At least we know where Warren was in 1909! Pensacola City Directory for 1909. Source: Ancestry.com


In the next post, I’ll feature more about Alba Warren and his wife, Cora Emily Brent. Emmett was a guest at their wedding — and don’t worry — Emmett didn’t do anything like upset the cake or embarrass himself in front of the guests.

July 4th, 1898

Standard

Here’s a summary of the July 4th celebration in Emmett’s hometown, as reported in the July 8, 1898 issue of The Chipley Banner. Dissecting this article provides an interesting snapshot of some of the people, places, and things in Emmett’s life.

July 4th, 1898, from the July 8, 1898 issue of The Chipley Banner. Source: chroniclingamerica.gov

The local celebration centered around organized sports events, a patriotic flag-raising, and speeches (probably political), as it was a mid-term election year. Stephen Sparkman was running for reelection, and would handily defeat Republican candidate E.R. Gunby in the general election.

In 1898, the new flag that flew on the 80-foot pole had 45 stars; the President of the United States was William McKinley; the Spanish-American War was in its third month; and 15-year-old Emmett was a telegrapher at the Chipley train station.

The Spanish-American war lasted only four months (it was fought between May and August 1898). Emmett could have volunteered, perhaps even lied about his age to join the military, but perhaps he was disinclined after hearing the stories of hardships and realities of war (i.e., it wasn’t so glamorous or exciting) from his father and grandfather’s experiences during the Civil War.

Lamp Harman was Miles Lampkin Harmon (1871-1934), first policeman of Panama City, Florida. I wonder if Emmett or any of his brothers participated in the race too.

The fleet Charlie Chandlee (1874-1973) eventually became a well known real estate and insurance salesman in Panama City. His obituary (Panama City News-Herald, January 15, 1973) stated that his family moved to Chipley for the health of his mother, finished high school there, then attended school in DeFuniak, settling in Panama City in 1905.

Poley Slay is also known as Napoleon Bonaparte “Poley” Slay (1871-1956), and was a longtime resident of Chipley.

Unfortunately, I haven’t uncovered much about Godfrey Clemons is a mystery still, although I found that Clemons received payments from Washington County in 1898, and is listed as a pauper.

 

Judge Francis Beauregard Carter

Standard

Our next article based on the Smithwick Businessman’s Roundtable of 1907  is on Judge Francis Beauregard Carter.

Judge Francis Beauregard Carter, about 1901. Source: Florida Memory

Judge Carter’s an interesting subject;  I believe he’s worthy of his own biography — I’ll tell you why at the end of this essay.

The two best sources of information on Carter are 1) the archival files at the University of West Florida, specifically, the Beggs & Lane Collection, and 2) The Supreme Court of Florida and Its Predecessor Courts, 1821-1917, published by the University Press of Florida.

My personal copy; excellent resource.

Carter was born on August 12, 1861, and educated in Marianna’s public schools. According to Manley, et al., Carter began his professional life doing something other than law; he was a printer. It stands to reason that Carter likely worked at one of the two newspapers in Marianna during that time: The Marianna Patriot, or The Marianna Courier, (the paper later became the Marianna Times-Courier).

Carter got his start in law in the early 1880s when Benjamin Sullivan Liddon, an up-and-coming Marianna attorney, needed help getting his new law practice off the ground. Carter was known locally as a smart, diligent, hardworking young man, and Liddon recognized Carter as a diamond-in-the-rough. Liddon invited Carter to read law with him; as a result, the professional relationship flourished, and Carter was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1882. Soon after, Liddon and Carter formed a law partnership in Marianna.

Carter married Margaret Dickson in 1885; they had eight children.

Margaret and Francis B. Carter. Undated. Source: Florida Memory

Carter served as Mayor of Marianna, and was active in the Democratic party political scene; a presidential elector in 1896 (cast his ballot for “The Great Commoner,” William Jennings Bryan). Emmett’s brother, Cephas L. Wilson, who was Mayor of Marianna in 1897, encouraged Carter’s nomination to Governor William D. Bloxham to the Florida Supreme Court.

Carter served as a Florida Supreme Court Justice from 1897 to 1905.  He was widely respected, and had a reputation as the most studious man on the court. Manley writes that Carter considered running for governor but his wife was not fond of Tallahassee; instead, he accepted the judgeship of the First Circuit Court in Pensacola.

This is where our story picks up from the Smithwick luncheon: Carter has been in Pensacola for almost two years and has established his practice and reconnected with his old law partner, Benjamin Liddon, now also living in Pensacola.

A private party for certain members of The Pensacola Bar.
Source: The Pensacola Journal, February 20, 1907,

What’s interesting is that everyone at this luncheon has been living in Pensacola for less than two years. Emmett and the Crawford brothers are less than three years out of law school — they’re the kids at the adult table. Carter likely knew Emmett since he was a boy, living and working with big brother Cephas as his junior partner in Marianna.

I don’t have a transcript or notes about what was discussed at this luncheon, but three of the folks at the table eventually run for — and serve as — U.S. Congressman for the Third District of Florida. The decision to run for office, at least what I know of Emmett Wilson, was not something done on the fly.

Everyone at this table had political aspirations in 1907 — I just wonder what groundwork for the future campaigns was probably laid in between the salads and the main course at this ‘delightfully informal luncheon’?

===

Judge Carter eventually stepped down to return to private practice. He became a partner in the firm Blount, Blount & Carter as a partner, he remained active in Democratic politics for the rest of his life. (Manley, et al., 337). Judge Carter died January 9, 1937, and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Marianna.

Source: Find-a-grave.com

When I mentioned at the start that I think he’s worthy of his own biography, it is because of something I found in one of the archival boxes when I was at the University of West Florida over a year ago; namely, an essay titled, “The Legend of the Blue Spring.”

Unfortunately, I did not think to read it or copy it  (as I was in search of Emmett Wilson-specific items when I was on campus). But when I find examples of creative writing in what is otherwise a stuffy-appearing box of legal records and letters, it makes me wonder what kind of guy Carter really was underneath the surface. It makes me want to know more about the person, and what else we can learn from his story.

Was Carter a closet poet? A novelist? Maybe he used a pen name?

Like I said — Carter is worthy of his own biography.

Manley, W.W., et al. and Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, The Supreme Court of Florida and Its Predecessor Courts, 1821-1917, University Press of Florida, 1997

Emmett, Catholicism, Faith, Amends

Standard

It was a tough time to be Roman Catholic in Florida during the early 1900s. Heck, it was tough to be Catholic anywhere in the U.S. at that time.

When Emmett moved back to Pensacola in 1906, to rebuild his career after his embarrassing tenure in Illinois, image was important. Connections were important. So, Emmett spent a lot of time during the first year making connections, attending luncheons with important folks, avoiding any opportunity or situation that might reflect negatively on his character and/or business future.

J. Walter Kehoe in 1917. Kehoe, Emmett’s law partner, close friend, mentor, Roman Catholic.  Source: Wikipedia.com

And yet, Emmett was surrounded by Catholics. Several of his closest colleagues were Catholic. His closest friends (whom he considered family, and vice versa), the J. Walter Kehoes, were Catholics. I wonder if, during this time, Emmett felt torn being around them on occasion.  Catholics were persona non grata at this point in Florida political history. Florida’s governor Sidney Catts, who ran on the Prohibition ticket, campaigned mightily against Catholics, and anti-Catholic sentiment was growing during this period in the United States. Yet, the Wilsons and the Kehoes were longtime friends, and trusted business partners.

I believe Emmett didn’t really care about the Kehoe’s Catholicism, even when he lived with them, broke bread with them daily. Emmett had to have bowed his head — and prayed along on occasion — as Walter or Jennie and their children said grace with each meal.

Emmett’s mother, Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson, about 1865.

It wouldn’t have been a stretch: Emmett was Episcopalian, raised in Chipley, Florida by a mother who was devout and would spend Sundays singing hymns with her children at home when they were unable to travel to church for services (the closest Episcopal church was in Marianna). The Episcopalian prayers are almost identical to the Catholic prayers. Emmett was comfortable in the Kehoe household, regardless of brand.

When Emmett moved to Pensacola in 1906, he joined Christ Church (the same that his mother, grandfather, and uncle attended). His attendance was inconsistent, although he did give occasional financial support, and it was noted in The Pensacola Journal that he signed a parish petition to retain a minister.

It is near impossible to know what Emmett thought about God and religion; knowing Emmett, if he did have a strong faith in a higher power, he would have kept it, like his personal life, quiet. He was not demonstrative about these things, certainly not in public.

I like to think Emmett had some kind of ongoing, internal dialog with his Higher Power, but perhaps, he spent more time talking than listening — something else Emmett and I have in common.

===

I’ve been putting edits into the first chapter of Emmett’s book this week, and it is going well, although it is a difficult process. The first chapter opens on Emmett as he lay dying of alcoholism in the San Carlos Hotel. It is a painful exercise recreating the end-stage alcoholic condition, its intensity, and its effect not only on Emmett, but on the Kehoe family, who obviously loved him as a son, and but could only helplessly stand by and wait for the end.

There was no Alcoholics Anonymous yet; treatment of the alcoholic was inconsistent and sporadic in most communities, and the general philosophy was to give the alcoholic drugs — which were often just as addictive. The general view was that drunks were mentally and spiritual decrepit — why else would they turn to outside substances to maintain their addictions?

So, it has been a tough 10 days — it is emotionally wrenching as I try to understand what it was like to struggle with alcoholism at a time when there weren’t many options? Emmett tried to stop at least twice — and he couldn’t do it, obviously. He needed help, and he was unable to get what he needed.

I know what it feels like to struggle with this disease; today, we have options, and programs, and (for the most part) more understanding about how to treat alcoholism. There are programs that work. One needn’t suffer alone — and that’s a foundation of AA — you are NEVER alone, and together, we can make it.

Ten years.

Yesterday, I picked up a 10 year chip. It may sound strange to say this: Sobriety hasn’t been easy, but it has been good, and the struggle is worth it.

Telling Emmett’s story is part of my program, you know. His story has helped me stay ‘on the beam’, and I often believe that doing this with Emmett is a way to help him close the circle, make amends. His message is still relevant, even 100 years after his death.