Dual Classification

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One of the more curious (to me) stories about Emmett Wilson’s education centers around his attendance at West Florida Seminary in Tallahassee, Florida.

Sometime around 1899 (when he was about 17 years old), Emmett applied for admission to West Florida Seminary, minus a high school diploma. It wasn’t unheard of for a student to do this, if he or she was well prepared, but it was significantly more difficult minus that last year of secondary education. Emmett didn’t skip his senior year at Chipley High School because he was a prodigy (sorry, Emmett), but because there weren’t enough teachers at the school for that senior class.

On average, the public high schools in Washington County, Florida were in session for four months. The county wasn’t wealthy, and had neither the mandate nor the tax base to support public schools at that time. (This wasn’t always the situation in Washington County, Florida schools, but it happened during what was supposed to be Emmett’s last year in high school.)

Paul Carter, about 1900, from the WFS yearbook, The Argo. Source: FSU Archive

Emmett could have waited to graduate high school the following year, but he was impatient and ready to get on with his life, preferably in an urban area, to do something ‘big’ and important with himself. Emmett’s best friend, Paul Carter, would head off to Alabama Polytechnic (later Auburn University) in 1899. Paul was a year younger than Emmett, and there seems to have always been a bit of good-natured competitiveness between them — maybe also a bit of jealousy on Emmett’s part towards his best friend.

Without a high school diploma in hand, Emmett would have had to have passed an entrance exam, in addition to his application for admission to West Florida Seminary. Tuition was free to Florida residents, but students had to pay other fees, and the entrance (and final) exams were notoriously tough. Emmett may not have been ‘brilliant’ (as he was occasionally lauded in contemporary press), but he was smart, and made it past the testing gauntlet.

Although tuition was free, students still had to pay for expenses, $10 a month room, board, including sanitary plumbing! Source: Florida State University, Argo, 1902

Once in, Emmett had to doubly prove himself, as he was classified both as a high school senior and a Freshman:

From the 1899-1900 catalog of The Seminary West of the Suwannee (better known as West Florida Seminary). Source: FSU Digital Repository

Emmett’s dual classification continued into his second year at WFS:

“F.C.” stood for “Freshman Class — Classical Studies” and “S.C.” stood for “Sophomore Class — Classical Studies.” The end result after four years with this curriculum at WFS was the Bachelor of Arts degree. Source: FSU Digital Repository

Emmett’s name never appeared on the honor roll while at WFS; nor did he earn any awards for perfect attendance, or academic proficiency. He was most likely an average student, and he probably struggled mightily with some of the required courses (Latin AND Greek, for example). Emmett did not return to WFS after only half completing his Sophomore year.

What I think is interesting about this example of dual classification in Emmett’s early college career is that, on reflection, Emmett’s life always seemed to be pulled in two or more directions. For instance, in the research, I’ve noticed a sort-of tug-of-war between the Lawyer Emmett and the Politician Emmett. He loved the law, but hated the political part of it. He would have been content, I think, to hole up in a judge’s chambers and do research all day long, or write, even. Emmett was a loner most of his life, and it seems uncomfortable dealing with people outside of his immediate, tight, trusted circle of friends and family. Kind of odd for a man who chose to embrace a vocation that involved dealing with the public, and/or being a public servant for a large part of his career.

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100 Years Ago Today

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The front page of The Pensacola Journal, 100 years ago today. If you click on the link here, you’ll see the entire front page as it was on May 29, 1918.

Here’s a better look at Emmett’s death notice:

The Pensacola Journal, May 29, 1918, page one.

Emmett’s death notice was obviously unexpected and thrown together with few complete details as The Pensacola Journal‘s first (and only edition) of morning newspaper was going to press.

  • “Following a very short illness….” Those who were closest to him knew that what actually killed Emmett had been killing him for years, and Emmett’s “poor health” had been reported in  West Florida papers for several years. In fact, this was one of the reasons reported in earlier versions of The Pensacola Journal and other Florida papers why “he decided” not to run for a third term.
  • “…died at 12:25 o’clock this morning…” Emmett’s death took place right as the paper was going to press. The position of the death notice in the paper is interesting and important: Right above the fold, but not a top headline. The story was important, as Emmett was a recent U.S. Congressman, and his sudden (and mostly unexpected) death definitely newsworthy. There had definitely been last minute reworking of the front page by the composition editors.
  • …aged 36 years.” Emmett was actually 35. The late night copy editor didn’t know Emmett personally.
  • “Of course no funeral arrangements had been perfected….” Because this was unexpected. Although Emmett’s health had been deteriorating for years, it seems likely that he’d experienced several similar scenarios (for lack of a better description) and family or friends had not thought this was anything new. Or life threatening. I believe that only Emmett, and perhaps one or two others, really knew that Emmett was dying of alcoholism in 1918.
  • “It is probable remains will be held pending….” The late night copy editor was scrambling a bit to fill available text box space. What else would Pensacola Hospital do with a former congressman?
  • “Deceased from (sic) born….” The typo is another clue the copy editor was scrambling. But the bigger clues that this caught everyone off guard is that the second paragraph was taken from Emmett’s official U.S. Congressional Directory biography in 1913, and not more recent sources, because the death notice doesn’t include any information about his second term.
  • Emmett’s photo is from his 1912 congressional primary campaign. There had been several high-quality photos of Emmett taken while in Congress and certainly provided to the media free of charge. It’s curious why a more recent photograph was not used — unless it was just overlooked in the haste to put the May 29, 1918 edition to bed.

 

Frank L. Mayes of The Pensacola Journal. Champion grudge holder.

Once upon a time, back in 1912, Emmett was a good friend of Frank Mayes, political kingmaker, and editor and publisher of The Pensacola Journal. Emmett had been Mayes’ prodigy; he was intended to serve as Mayes’ entree into the Woodrow Wilson’s inner circle.

But there had been a major falling out around October, 1914, and Mayes basically washed his hand of his prodigy. After that, Mayes stopped running regular articles in his paper about Emmett — and when news necessitated mentioning Emmett, Mayes never mentioned his name, referring to Emmett instead as the Third District’s Congressman. Mayes knew that indifference was more damaging politically and professionally to Emmett than anything.

I also believe Mayes knew his indifference hurt Emmett personally, too. Frank Mayes was a smart fellow, he was an excellent ‘read’ of people because he got to know them well. Mayes was also the guy who never forgot a slight, and he knew the best way to get folks to do his bidding. Manipulative? Probably. That’s not meant to be a put-down; that character description often comes with the political kingmaker job title.

I mention the angst between Frank Mayes and Emmett Wilson because in 1918, Mayes’ widow Lois was running The Pensacola Journal, and she had no illusions about the relationship between her late husband and Emmett: Emmett wasn’t useful to Frank, and so The Pensacola Journal had no use for Emmett, either.

Source: The Pensacola Journal, May 29, 1918, page 1, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

When Frank died in February 1915, he had been on a mission to separate himself from the mistake of supporting a candidate unprepared to hold national office. That meant breaking away from Emmett’s supporters, like Walter Kehoe, as well. If you look at the front page layout for May 29, 1918, notice the article about a debate between Walter and John Smithwick right under Emmett’s death notice. Kehoe is running for reelection for Emmett’s old congressional seat against Smithwick — and Smithwick declared the winner of the debate — no surprise, since The Pensacola Journal endorsed Smithwick over Kehoe for the primary election.

 

The Pensacola (Fla.) Memorial Association

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In the continuing saga of rechecking all sources that have some connection to Emmett Wilson, I found this interesting article about the dedication of the Florida window in Blandford Church, Petersburg, Virginia. (I blogged about this road trip, here.)

Source: The Confederate Veteran, Volume 20, page 406, via Google Books.com

The article contains interesting history about the association, as well as details about the dedication. Julia Anderson Maxwell and Emmett Wilson were cousins, as both Julia and Emmett’s grandfather was Augustus Emmett Maxwell.

The window is beautiful, as is the Old Blandford Church.

Emmett’s window; also known as the Florida window. Old Blandford Church, Petersburg, Virginia

Jerry Williams Carter, Serving Punch

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Jerry Williams Carter, also known as the “Old Campaigner,” was Emmett Wilson’s campaign manager in 1912.

Source: St. Petersburg Times, March 12, 1966, via Google Newspapers

Emmett and Carter had something in common: The 1912 Third District Congressional race was the first political campaign for both men. I’m curious how Emmett and Carter met, but I’m not surprised. Emmett was considered a rising star in early 20th century West Florida politics. Carter, a Singer sewing machine salesman who connected well with the general public, wanted to switch careers. Both young men were well known, motivated, ambitious. I can see why the Florida Democratic party leadership probably put Emmett and Carter together.

No one expected Emmett to do as well as he did against the incumbent Dannite Mays in the first primary (there were supposed to be two primary elections in 1912, with the two Democratic party winners facing off in June), but Mays withdrew from second primary only 48 hours after Emmett’s strong showing. Both Emmett and Carter’s hard work and ambition paid off.

Mays Withdraws. Source: The Pensacola Journal via Chronicling America.gov

Ambition and hard work did wonders for Carter, as he eventually ran for U.S. Senate and Governor, but successfully became a Public Service Commissioner, serving several terms.

Carter for Senator, 1926. Source: Florida Memory.com

Carter for Governor, 1932. Source: Florida Memory.com

Although Carter had a long and successful career as a public service commissioner, Carter’s family was his true pride and joy.

Jerry and Mary Frances Hope Holifield, on their wedding day, 1907. Source: Florida Memory.com

Jerry and Mary Frances Carter, 1925. Source: Florida Memory.com

The Carter family at home; Jerry and Mary Frances had seven boys! Source: Florida Memory.com

The Carter’s 50th wedding anniversary. Source: Florida Memory.com

Jerry enjoyed an active role in Florida politics throughout his busy, successful life.

Jerry, far right, in 1964. Source: Florida Memory.com

The best find about Jerry: He was a feisty, outspoken guy — someone you’d definitely want on your side, or running your campaign.

Jerry, age 74, serving punch. I wish I could have met him in person. Source: Find-a-grave.com

Carter’s descendants donated his papers to the Florida State University archive in Tallahassee. I’m dying to take a look at Carter’s letters and memorabilia. Perhaps there’s postcards from Emmett; maybe photos of the two men together after the Emmett was elected in November, 1912; perhaps there’s punchy dialog in the correspondence between Emmett and Jerry!

I can’t wait to look through the papers on my next visit to Florida!

 

 

Hathitrust Digital Library

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Another ‘new to me’ excellent source worth sharing:

Just testing it out, here’s what was returned when I typed “Emmett Wilson” into the search bar:

Congressional Directory for the 63rd Congress, 1st Session. Source: HathiTrust Digital Library

I’ve seen this resource before in Archive.org, but this document search/reading tool is outstanding. On the left hand menu screen (not shown in this image) you also are given options to find the book in a library, or to purchase it (from third-party sources), or download the whole book from the site.

Something else interesting from the search results:

Emmett’s committee met on January 10, 1917. But Emmett wasn’t present. Source: HathiTrust Digital Library

At the end of Emmett’s congressional tenure, he’d been appointed to the dreaded Committee on the District of Columbia, which was considered one of the least prestigious committees upon which to serve. [Although Emmett was still on the Banking and Currency Committee, he was mostly a no-show at this committee (and on the Hill) because of his health emergency in December 1914.]

Wise Wiselogels

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Here’s the obituary for Louis Wiselogel, father of Lula Wiselogel Wilson Grether, Emmett’s sister-in-law. I found it while I was looking for something else (naturally)!

Source: St. Andrews Bay News, December 12, 1935, page four, via Florida’s Hidden Treasures.

Lula married Emmett’s older brother, big shot politician and gubernatorial candidate Cephas Love Wilson in 1893.

Lula Wiselogel Wilson. Source: FloridaMemory.com

It was not an easy marriage for Lula; a modest, lovely and unassuming woman, she was in the spotlight as often as her husband Cephas, and suffered the humiliation of his infidelities joked about in the Florida state newspapers.

One Wilson family genealogy mentioned that the gossip about Lula and Cephas was ‘terrible’ during the early 1900s, as she filed for divorce at least once because of Cephas’ caddish ways.

I’m sure Louis Wiselogel took Lula’s side, but I wonder how he counseled her to stick with the marriage, knowing how painful and tough it was on his daughter.

I can also imagine Louis telling Lula, while she had reason to sue for divorce, and no one who knew Lula would have blamed her for leaving, divorce was unheard of for a woman of her social standing. Louis probably told her while this was an untenable situation, she had to make the best decision not just for herself, but also for her family.

Cephas Love Wilson Sr. died on June 25, 1923. About two years later, Lula was remarried to a widower, John D. Grether, of Jacksonville. From all reports, Lula and John Grether were happily married.

What I think is interesting about the obituary is one of the pall bearers — Ira Martin. Ira was Lula’s former son-in-law; her daughter Kathleen’s first husband whom she wed at 15, and divorced by 25.

By 1930, Ira and Kathleen had remarried other people, but Lula and her father apparently remained fond of Ira. Divorce was still considered a big deal in the 1930s, but by this point, it seems Lula and her father wouldn’t have advocated sticking with a no-win situation.

That they understood that some relationships simply don’t work out.

Cephas Love Wilson’s son-in-law, Ira Martin, with Cephas’ grandson, Ira Jr., in 1917. This was taken in front of Cephas’ house, on Jefferson Street. Source: Ancestry.com

And that family isn’t always defined by a marriage license or blood connection.

Henry Lee Bell Photograph Collection

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In the University of West Florida Archives, there’s a wonderful collection of more than 20,000 photographs of everyday Pensacolians between 1911 and 1949.

Henry Lee Bell opened photography studio in 1911 in Pensacola Florida. Used to be partnered with George Turton. Was Turton & Bell around 1900 to about 1911, when they separated into their own businesses. Bell’s studio operated until around 1949. Both considered excellent photographers, ability to capture the real person on film.

And, surprise, I found these photographs:

Francis C. Wilson Jr. Source: Bell Photograph Collection, University of West Florida Archives

Francis C. Wilson Jr. Source: Bell Photograph Collection, University of West Florida Archives

May McKinnon Wilson. Source: Bell Photograph Collection, University of West Florida Archives

Two separate poses of Emmett’s older brother, Frank Jr., and one of his wife, May McKinnon Wilson, of Pensacola. There’s a strong resemblance between Frank Jr. and Emmett, if you compare their photos.

I have a few photographs of Emmett’s father, as well as Emmett’s twin brother Julian in his later years. There’s strong resemblance among the Wilson menfolk, and so we get a hint of what Emmett might have looked like as an older man.

So, in five years of compiling research and artifacts to tell Emmett’s story, the only family member I don’t have a photograph of is Emmett’s older brother Percy Brockenbrough Wilson. Percy was a physician who lived in Sneads, Jackson County, Florida. I have reached out to a few of Percy’s descendants, but unfortunately, they do not have any photographs of him. Perhaps one may turn up as the search (and the writing) continues!