Hildur Dahlstrom Beall

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Our next installment on Emmett’s secretaries features Hildur (or Hilda) Dahlstrom Beall (1892-1975). According to my research, Hildur was Emmett’s secretary in some capacity from about 1910 to 1914, but she was primarily Walter Kehoe’s secretary (as he was the one paying her salary, as you’ll see further on in our story).

Hildur was born in August 1892 in Nebraska, the daughter of Swedish immigrants Gustavus and Lida Dahlstrom.

According to the U.S. Census for 1900, the Dahlstroms were living in Saunders, Nebraska, where Gustavus (who was also known as Gus) was a traveling salesman for sewing machines. But it must not have been successful, because an advertisement in the June 28, 1910 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates that he had a successful fruit and lunch business in Pensacola for 10 years:

A want ad in the June, 28, 1910 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates Gus had a successful fruit and lunch business in Pensacola for 10 years when he decided to sell it and move to another state. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Hildur lived with her parents at 1013 E. Jackson, and upon graduation from Pensacola’s public schools, attended Minnie Kehoe’s stenography/business school. Her first job was at Pensacola Office Equipment Company:

Hildur’s first job out of steno school. Source: The Pensacola City Directory, 1909, via Ancestry.com

During this time, Gus had his house, 1013 N. Jackson Street, on the market — and it had been on the market since 1907:

The Dahlstrom house was put on the market in late 1906. Gus had a hard time trying to sell this house, as the listing ran on and off for years between 1906 and 1910.

The Dahlstrom’s house at 1013 E Jackson in Pensacola is still standing — it was built in 1900 — and is charming. I wonder why Gus had such a hard time selling it? Source: GoogleMaps

By 1911, the house still unsold, Gus was ready to move on:

From the December 26, 1911 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Gus’ house sat unsold for five years by this time. Maybe it was because of the price, which didn’t change in the five years it was on the market. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Hildur continued to live at home with her parents until they moved to Texas. She chose to remain in Pensacola working as a stenographer (and a notary) for the law firm of Kehoe and Wilson:

From the Pensacola City Directory, 1911. Source: Ancestry.com 

By 1913, Hildur is living in a boarding house owned by John Gautesen, and is the stenographer for Walter Kehoe, now in solo law practice. And Emmett is in Washington, D.C., as U.S. Congressman. Source: The Pensacola City Directory, 1913 via Ancestry.com

Kehoe’s law office is probably where she met her future husband, Phillip Dane Beall, who was a good friend of both Walter and Emmett, and a bricklayer-turned-prominent lawyer, and secretary to a U.S. District Judge:

Phillip Beall in 1913. Source: Florida State Archive.

Here is where our story gets interesting.

Interesting details to parse in this article! Source: The Pensacola Journal, June 12, 1914.

According to The Pensacola Journal, for June 12, 1914, Hildur (or Hilda) was a ‘stenographer for Congressman Emmett Wilson for several years,’ which is not correct. First, we can prove Hildur wasn’t a resident of Washington, D.C., where Emmett was for the majority of his first term in office: She’s not listed in any of the Washington, D.C. city directories, nor is she named in the Congressional administrative records for Emmett’s first term. Nope. Sure, she worked with Emmett while he was Kehoe’s junior partner in Pensacola, but to hint she was consistently his stenographer, as if this was an ongoing or regular job for her, is incorrect.

For the record, Emmett’s secretary in Washington, D.C. was Jefferson Davis Stephens, which is reflected in both the Congressional administrative records and the Washington, D.C. city directories. It’s possible that Emmett may have hired additional stenographers, but if he did, they would be listed in the Congressional administrative records.

And because Emmett was close friends with Phillip Beale and knew Hildur for a few years, it made sense that he’d attend their wedding.

But what was Hildur doing in Washington? Certainly not to bring him home to her wedding.

A second article in the June 14, 1914 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates that Emmett made the trip to Pensacola on the same train as Hildur.

Hildur she was likely dispatched to Washington a few months before her wedding to help Stephens manage Emmett on Capitol Hill.

At this point in 1914, Stephens had his hands completely full. Not only was he the de facto congressman the Third Congressional District while Emmett was, um, indisposed most of the time, he was preparing to graduate Georgetown University Law School. Stephens has big plans which did not necessarily include Emmett (and which we’ll talk about in my next post on Emmett’s secretaries featuring Stephens).

I’m convinced Hildur knew Emmett’s and the Florida Democratic Party’s secret; i.e., that Emmett was a political train wreck about to happen, that the party needed to hold on to that seat by any means necessary, and that she could be trusted to keep her mouth shut, help prop Emmett until he either sobered up or a new candidate was selected.

In any rate, after the wedding, Hildur and Phillip Beall settled down in a house at 1505 E Gadsden in Pensacola, and Hildur apparently did not return to work. She raised two sons, Phillip Jr. and Kirke. Phillip Sr. died in 1964; Huldur in 1975.

I wish I knew if Huldur kept a journal or there exists any correspondence from her time working with Emmett Wilson during the early 1900s, and while Emmett was in Congress.

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On Faith

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Source: The Smart Set, April 1913, p. 119, via Google Books

I think Emmett probably read this magazine. The articles and writers were pretty much up his alley.

And if he did, I like to think he might have seen this poem. It’s lovely.

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Speaking of faith, I’ve been slogging away with what I call ‘adjunct Emmett’ writing; i.e., submitting articles about Emmett and my research to different journals over the last week. The whole submission process has been quite a grind — several times I’ve thrown my hands up in frustration and/or cursed the product — but the end result is worth it. I have faith that Emmett’s story is meant to be!

I have one article in development right now, and I’m trying to meet a deadline (Wednesday). Once I put that article to bed, I’ll be back this week with another installment on Emmett’s secretaries.

Whoa, Nellie!

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Nellie Browning Mills (1876-1964) was never Emmett’s official secretary, but she did work for Emmett as she was the main stenographer and typist at the San Carlos Hotel in Pensacola, Florida from 1910 to at least 1917.

Nellie’s ad that ran in The Pensacola Journal, April 19, 1917. The San Carlos Hotel promoted itself as a ‘home away from home,’ which included top-notch administrative services to its customers. Emmett used her secretarial services when he stayed there between 1914-1916. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Emmett used Nellie’s shorthand and typing services when he stayed at the San Carlos Hotel during the years 1914-1916, while he was was home from Washington, D.C. During this time, his ‘home address’ was actually the J. Walter Kehoe residence. But, Kehoe had decided to run for Emmett’s congressional seat when Emmett ‘decided’ in early 1915 not to run for a third term — so to avoid conflict of interest, Emmett stayed at the San Carlos.

I found three different business letters that Emmett sent to his private secretary in Washington, Jefferson Davis Stephens, with stenographer’s initials “NBM” on the lower left hand side of the page. It wasn’t difficult to track down the person with the initials “NBM”; I confirmed that Nellie was “NBM” by reading several copies of the Pensacola City Directory, and she was, indeed, the only professional stenographer in Pensacola with those initials.

You’ll find this next article really interesting:

Notice who officiated at the wedding — and the witnesses! Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

This became newsworthy — and garnered a story in Colliers!

Source: Colliers Magazine, July 25, 1916, via Google Books.

Isn’t this great?

So, who was Nellie Mills?

Here’s the article I found on Nellie when she moved from Meridian, Mississippi to Pensacola in 1910:

Nellie arrives in Pensacola, and it makes news! Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Nellie was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, and attended Massey Business College. She apparently was one of their star students, because she remained after graduation to teach typing and shorthand (eventually running the shorthand department) for about six years.

An historic postcard featuring the typing class at Massey Business College, 1920. Nellie is not in this photo, alas. Source: Digital Archives of Alabama.gov

Apparently, Nellie was not just a popular secretary at the San Carlos; she was liked and well respected enough to have been nominated for Mardi Gras Queen in 1915!

The Pensacola Journal, January 17, 1915. Source: GenealogyBank.com

It was a tight race, according to The Pensacola Journal:

Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Alas, Nellie didn’t win — Gladys Pierce did. But the fact Nellie was nominated and supported by so many locals speaks volumes of the esteem in which she was held.

Also, alas, I have not found much more about Nellie beyond 1917 in the news. According to U.S. Census records, she moved to Miami-Dade County sometime after 1920, and the last official record I have on Nellie is her address at a boarding house in Dade County:

Apparently, she was retired and keeping house at the boarding house in 1945. Source: Florida Census for 1945

The last record I have for her is the Florida Death Index listing, which indicates she died in May, 1964.

I’d love to know more about this interesting person who used to work with Emmett.

A GPS Adventure in Boligee, Alabama

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Today, I visited Boligee, Alabama, population 328, in search of Mt. Hebron Cemetery, in a quest to locate Emmett’s grandparents, Cephas Love Wilson Sr. and Emily B. Wilson.

Using the information posted on Find-A-Grave, and typing the address into Waze, I set out with my husband on Interstate 20/59 West, to Alabama State Road 20.

Source: Google Maps

There’s cotton in huge bales wrapped, ready to be taken to a nearby gin.

There’s rutted roads with logging here and there.

There’s houses with dozens of junked cars in the yard; this is a poor part of Greene County. Little signage along the way; SR 20 winds a bit. According to the information on Find-A-Grade, the cemetery is only about 15 minutes north of I-20/59. My husband reassures me it isn’t too far off our scheduled trip to the in-laws — hell, we’ve been driving for hours anyway. It’s fine.

Fifteen minutes after taking the exit, the Waze voice chirps, “you’ve reached your destination.”

This is the church I was looking for near Boligee, Alabama. Source: Stephen McBride for Find-A-Grave

My husband pulls over to the side of the road. It’s a deeply rutted mud road. No signage anywhere, no primitive white church building on the property.

“I don’t think this is it,” I said.

“Let’s go on a bit further,” he said.

We crossed Highway 39 and continued another 10 minutes.

“What exactly is the address, again?” my husband asked.

“There isn’t one; only the location is given — Mt. Hebron Cemetery. According to Waze, this is where it is, but Find-a-Grave says it’s near the intersection of Highway 39 and State Road 128.”

“Aha,” he said. “Waze doesn’t have the right GPS coordinates for Mt. Hebron. So, let’s find 128.”

Alas, I could not. The dreaded “No Service” in my cell phone status bar.

“Wait. I have a map of Alabama from the last rest stop. Let’s check it.”

Unfortunately, State Road 128 wasn’t even listed. And unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the back roads of Greene County: The kids were starting to complain about wanting lunch. And, neither of us knew enough about Greene County to feel confident exploring without a map or a technology assist.

“Tell you what,” my husband said. “Let’s track it down when we get to the house. We can try to stop by on the way back out.”

We did find Mt Hebron Cemetery — and S.R. 128 — on a map when we got home. It is in the middle of nowhere — there may be a dirt road off of S.R. 128. I hope. Source: Google Maps

We have a better idea how to find it now. And, I’ll pay Emmett’s grandparents a visit when we do.


Meanwhile — I promised to post information about Emmett’s secretaries in the last post. I’ll do that this week. Good news: I found one of the clerk/secretaries who worked for Emmett’s brother, Cephas L. Wilson, in Marianna! Progress!

A Galaxy of Stars

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Who Was Who in Florida, by Henry S. Marks, 1973, published by The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama.

I found this book on Alibris, a book reseller website. I like to check back for obscure Florida texts and anything that has Emmett’s name listed. This one’s been out of print for awhile.

Poor unloved thing. Who trashes books?

It was purged from the Dickinson Memorial Library in Orange City, Florida. It was cheap. Oh well. Some one else’s trash, as the old saying goes….

Charlton W. Tebeau, author of A History of Florida who wrote the foreword for this book, asked:

“Who are Florida’s notables who have left their marks on the state’s history? What did they do to earn a place in such a galaxy of stars?” (Foreword)

Tebeau admitted that there were countless others who probably should have been included in the book, and Marks’ book was not intended to be a complete work. The biographies are brief, mostly no more than six or seven lines. (Some biographies are longer; for example, Henry Flagler’s covers an entire page). References such as Marks’ book are often, at best, snapshots of those deserving of recognition at that particular place and time.

But it is interested to see who is listed and who is not, through the lens of Emmett Wilson’s research.

Who’s In:

  • Robert Anderson (he delivered Emmett’s Elk Club eulogy) p. 20
  • William Henry Brockenbrough, p. 46 (Emmett’s great-grandfather)
  • N.P. Broward, p. 47
  • N.P. Bryan, p. 50 (Bryan’s secretary helped Emmett in D.C. after his first medical crisis)
  • Frank Clark, p. 66 (Advised Emmett when he was in D.C., and after his first medical crisis)
  • Duncan Fletcher, p. 102 (A friend of Emmett’s father)
  • Albert Gilchrist, p.111 (Emmett and Cephas were on friendly terms with him)
  • Walter Kehoe, p. 147
  • William Bailey Lamar, p. 152 (Emmett’s best friend, Paul Carter, was his private secretary)
  • B.S. Liddon, p. 163 (Cephas’ law partner)
  • Scott Loftin, p. 164 (A law colleague of Emmett’s)
  • Augustus E. Maxwell and Evelyn Croom Maxwell, p. 175 (Emmett’s grandfather and uncle)
  • Dannite Mays, p. 176 (Emmett defeated Mays in 1912 for the Third Congressional seat)
  • John and W.H. Milton, p. 186
  • John H. Smithwick, p. 230
  • John Stokes, p. 235 (unsuccessfully challenged Emmett for his second congressional term in 1914)

And, of course, Emmett, on page 264:

One error stands out: “….failed of reelection.” No. The state Democratic party told Emmett he was no longer useful, and forced his resignation. His name was not on the ballot for a third term.

What’s interesting are the names of men and women I’ve discovered via Emmett’s research, who were important in state politics and journalism during the early 1900s, who were not included in the book:

I think it is ironic given the animus that Frank Mayes, Chipley Jones, and certainly Cephas had for Emmett, especially towards the end of his life, that their names were not selected for inclusion in this reference.

I don’t doubt for a minute this would eat at Frank Mayes and Chipley Jones, if they had any way of knowing Emmett got in, and they didn’t.

Heh, heh.

“The Hardest Ride a Man Can Take”

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Maximilian Foster was a famous author and playwright when Emmett met him at an intimate dinner party given by his friend, Billy Crawford, in March 1908.

Maximilian Foster. Passport photo from 1918, via Ancestry.com

In 1908, Foster’s oeuvre was mostly what I’d call low density literature — it doesn’t require a lot of deep concentration, and is something you could finish while lolling on the beach or on your Metro commute. Foster was an entertainment writer, an escape writer.

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But today, I found this:

Whoa. An example of cold-turkey sobriety in the days before AA. Source: McClure’s Magazine, August 1915, page 25 via books.google.com

I am floored. And amazed.

An escape article by Foster about alcohol — Emmett’s (and my) escape drug of choice.

Foster’s article is an amazing and gripping piece — not because it discusses folks trying to sober up 100 years ago on their own  (that’s been going on forever) — but because he captures a modern-sounding struggle with booze, from Emmett’s day, when folks didn’t talk about this struggle openly at all.

If they did, they faced possible social ostracism, even institutionalization — and perhaps that is the reason the speaker is anonymous, even though he is (as of this article) five years sober.

The speaker is a man like Emmett, who would have run with Emmett in his social circles.

It is compelling. I could not put it down.

Could Emmett have been the speaker? He did go through an intervention around New Year’s Day, 1915 — but no, the speaker has five years as of this writing (August 1915).

Did Emmett keep up with Foster? They might not have corresponded, but Foster was a hugely popular writer — surely he read Foster’s articles in the contemporary magazines.

In January 1915, Emmett’s family conducted an intervention of sorts with him — is it possible that Emmett might have picked up this magazine in August, read his colleagues’ article? He would have certainly read McClure’s Magazine. And Emmett knew Foster. If he read McClure’s Magazine, he’d have seen this article. (Foster was published frequently in the Saturday Evening Post, for example. McClure’s Magazine was just as popular as the Post.)

Would Emmett have seen himself in the narrator?

I wonder.

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Interestingly, is this follow-up letter to the editor of McClure’s about this essay. It gives wonderful insight to the thinking about alcoholism during the early 1900s.