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.

A tragic find

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As I continue to organize my collection of articles and files, I came across a tragic story from the September 1, 1912 edition of the Pensacola Evening News.

Source: Pensacola Evening News, September 1, 1912, p.1 (microfilm).

I saved this article because I’m certain Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, would have been on hand to assist Dr. Coleman (there were only three physicians in Chipley in 1912).

I’ve shared this article with a Washington County (Florida) genealogy group; hopefully there are Coleman family descendants who would want this information for their family records.

Reading this article made me seek out and embrace my children. My heart aches for Johnnie’s parents, even 115 years later.

Florida Gazetteer & Business Directory

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Here is a fantastic, new-to-me, resource that I stumbled upon this morning!

Florida Gazetteer & Business Directory. Source: Archive.org

What’s nice is that this directory fills in some information spaces between censuses and city directory publications. It lists a lot important folks Emmett ran with (i.e., people who would pay to have their names listed, plus advertising), and provides addresses.

The information I was able to glean from this source was subtle, but important:

A) Emmett did not have a law partner; he was a solo-practitioner between 1911 and 1912. But,

B) It confirmed he was sharing office space with J. Walter Kehoe, his other close friend and roommate (Emmett lived with the Kehoe family for years).

As it happens, I found the Florida Gazetteer when I was looking for something else totally unrelated — isn’t it great when that happens?

There are a few other Florida Gazetteers on Archive.org. Hopefully, more will be posted in the future!

John Smithwick: A Kind-of Renaissance Guy

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John Harris Smithwick. Source: Find-a-grave.com

As promised, I’m following up on the earlier post about the folks at the Smithwick luncheon.

I’ll start with information about the host, John H. Smithwick: Farmer, attorney, U.S. congressman, accused check kiter, and survivor of the Knickerbocker theater disaster.

When the 1907 article was published, Smithwick was Walter Kehoe’s law partner. We know from Smithwick’s official biography he was born in Georgia in 1872; was graduated from Reinhardt Normal College in 1895, then attended law school at Cumberland University. He was graduated in 1897; admitted to the Georgia bar in 1898, then moved to Pensacola the same year as Emmett, in 1906.

Kehoe & Smithwick, located at 306 Brent Building, Pensacola. Source: 1907 Pensacola City Directory, from Ancestry.com

Smithwick and Kehoe remained partners through 1907; the next year, however, Smithwick and Kehoe separated amicably:

Smithwick is partners with T.F. West. Source: 1908 Pensacola City Director, Ancestry.com

and,

Kehoe in single practice. Source: 1908 Pensacola City Directory, Ancestry.com

By 1910, Smithwick has changed vocation:

Source: 1910 Pensacola City Directory, Ancestry.com

Although Smithwick appears to have stepped away from his legal profession, he maintained his important connections with The Pensacola Journal’s editor, Frank Mayes. Mayes was considered a political kingmaker in West Florida politics. On April 27, 1913, The Pensacola Journal’s editor, Frank Mayes, wrote a feature about traveling through Santa Rosa County with Smithwick, and visiting his farm:

Source: The Pensacola Journal, April 27, 1913, http://www.chroniclingamerica.gov

Mayes ran another feature on Smithwick’s farm, in the  May 17, 1914 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Although Smithwick expanded into farming, he was listed in the Pensacola City Directory with a business in naval stores; his residence as 206 W. Lloyd (a house still standing).

When Emmett gave notice that he was retiring from congress in April 1915, his two friends, Smithwick and Walter Kehoe (along with two other) ran for the Third District Congressional Seat in the June primary.

Sample 1916 primary ballot, as it appeared in The Pensacola Journal. Source: Chroniclingamerica.gov

Kehoe won the primary, then the general election. He served a rather undistinguished one term, then lost his bid for reelection in the 1918 primary runoff against Smithwick. There were no hard feelings though:

Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

One thing of note — Walter voted against suffrage at the same time his talented sisters, Fannie and Minnie Kehoe, were two of the prominent women leading the suffrage movement in Florida. (I can imagine how uncomfortable it was when Walter came home from Washington, to face his sisters at Sunday dinners and social events.)

Smithwick’s tenure in office was also undistinguished — until he left office.

Source: Wicked Capitol Hill: An Unruly History of Behaving Badly by Robert S. Pohl. Source: Amazon.com

And:

Source: Richmond Times, May 15, 1947. Genealogybank.com

Smithwick claimed he was innocent until the day he died.

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The most interesting story I found about Smithwick was that he was a survivor of the Knickerbocker Theatre disaster in Washington, D.C., January 28, 1922.

In an interview he gave to Associated Press reporters, Smithwick recalled in great detail the how the ceiling of the theatre caved in under the heavy snow that had accumulated on the roof, and that he’d climbed out of the rubble, and walked home, without his hat or coat. He had several cuts and bruises, and likely a concussion. Smithwick said he didn’t realize how badly he was injured, until he arrived at home and family members called in a doctor immediately upon observing his condition.

Interesting fellow, John Smithwick.

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There are a few excellent articles on Knickerbocker Theatre disaster:

  • Kevin Ambrose’s excellent article 95 years after the disaster, including stories of those who helped rescue theatre patrons, and those who tragically lost their lives.
  • A historical essay about the Knickerbocker disaster on the blog, The Dead Bell.
  • The Knickerbocker tragedy, via the excellent Ghosts of DC blog, and
  • John Smithwick’s interview, with great details, published by the Associated Press (below), via the New York Times.

Source: New York Times, January 1922.

Not So Unexceptional Sources

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Last time I checked, I realized that I’ve collected over 500 individual newspaper articles about Emmett Wilson. That’s pretty good, considering that when I started this project, I didn’t expect to find more than a few dozen, given his obscurity in Florida politics.

Granted, most of these newspaper articles aren’t anything more than a one- or two-sentence gossip column blurb about Emmett’s comings and goings. In the grand scheme of things, these would be considered unexceptional information sources.

But that’s not always the case. After four years of ‘hanging out’ with Emmett, I’ve learned that these seemingly unexceptional articles hold more information than I realized when I first discovered them. One has to look beyond the words in these little clips to understand the event, even something as simple as a report on Emmett’s comings and goings.

For example: Here’s an article I initially considered unexceptional in the first few months of Emmett’s research.

An item on the society page about a private party for select members of the Pensacola Bar. Notice that Emmett’s name is misspelled. Source: The Pensacola Journal, February 20, 1907.

Three years after finding this seemingly unimportant clip, I’ve noticed several important things about this news item.

Let’s pick this article apart for research tidbits, shall we?

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I didn’t notice it when I first found the article (because I was only a few months into Emmett’s research), but everyone attending this dinner party had a close personal connection to the other.

First, an overview of the dinner party attendees:

Emmett and the Crawford brothers (John Thomas Gavin Crawford — or ‘John’, and William Bloxham Crawford — or ‘Billy’) attended West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University) together; Emmett and Billy Crawford were roommates and classmates at Stetson University Law School. According to the 1907 Pensacola City Directory, Billy and John Crawford were law partners.

The Crawford brothers practicing law. The partnership didn’t last but a few years. John Crawford had only been admitted to the bar in 1906. Their office was located at 300 Thiesen Building. Source: 1907 Pensacola City Directory, Ancestry.com

The Crawford’s father was none other than Henry Clay Crawford, Florida’s secretary of state, from 1902 to 1929 — an important political muckety-muck who would have absolutely known J. Walter Kehoe, who was the state attorney for Florida at this moment.

And, it stands to reason that the Crawfords would have been known well to the host of the luncheon, John Harris Smithwick, who was J. Walter Kehoe’s law partner.

Kehoe & Smithwick, located at 306 Brent Building, Pensacola. Source: 1907 Pensacola City Directory, from Ancestry.com. Notice that they are getting ready to move their office location eight days from the publication of the news article. Emmett would stay with K&S until he joined his uncle’s law partnership on January 1, 1908.

Kehoe, as you may recall from an earlier post, was Emmett’s brother Cephas L. Wilson’s law partner in Marianna. Walter and Cephas were still close friends; their wives Jennie Kehoe and Lula Wilson were best friends. Walter Kehoe also considered Emmett another son; Emmett considered Walter his mentor.

A 1905 rendering of the Brent Building. Kehoe & Smithwick were on the third floor. Source: Pensapedia.com

My photo of the Brent Building — in great shape for 112! — from my last trip to Pensacola.

Judge Francis B. Carter, of Marianna, a former Florida supreme court judge, had just joined the law firm of Blount & Blount in 1907, which then became Blount, Blount & Carter. And, yes, their office was located in the Blount Building, which was right next door to the Brent Building.

Emmett (L) and Paul Carter. Roommates, long-time friends. Paul was (supposedly) related to Judge Francis B. Carter of Marianna. Source: FSU archive.

Everyone at the luncheon obviously knew Judge Carter; but what’s really interesting is that I believe he was related distantly to Emmett’s best friend, Paul Hayne Carter.

Emmett, who had just moved to Pensacola to re-start his law practice, was temporarily sharing office space in the Kehoe-Smithwick law practice.

Recall six months earlier, Emmett returned home from the failed law partnership with Nicholas Van Sant. And then, there was the rumor that Emmett enjoyed his liquor a bit too much, which might have had something to do with his sudden, but not openly discussed return to Florida without professional prospects. Emmett relocated to Pensacola because he’d be able to heal his wounded pride away from the reproving looks of family and friends in Marianna.

Emmett’s appointment as acting U.S. District Attorney in February becomes permanent in September. Source: PEN, September 7, 1907.

Emmett was the most obscure member of this luncheon party, but things were looking up for him. On February 1, 1907, Emmett was named acting assistant district attorney for the Northern District of Florida (it would become official in September, 1907). There were several local Pensacola attorneys up for the post because it was prominent and paid $1,500 a year — approximately $39,186 in 2017 dollars. Emmett didn’t get this appointment on his own; and in fact, had told the media he hadn’t even pursued it.

It is important to note that at least three of the men attending this luncheon helped persuade Department of Justice officials to select Emmett over the other, more experienced Pensacola lawyers. Given the right guidance and opportunities, Emmett would become a man of consequence in his own right.

Emmett himself may not have realized it, but it appears that he was being looked over, scrutinized for his usefulness in Florida politics by party leaders. It was too soon for anyone to get the idea that Emmett would be ideal material to shape into a future U.S. Congressional candidate, but this is when it started.

And isn’t it interesting how these guys were all so interconnected?

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Over the next several posts, I’ll do a closer look at the luncheon attendees, and their relationships to Emmett and each other in Florida politics.

 

Emmett and Petersburg

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I’m sorry for the radio silence. I’ve had so much information and writing ideas to sift through from the field trip to Richmond and Petersburg that it has been hard to figure out what to tell you about first!

Let me start by saying that I approached this field trip with an outcome in mind: That this was strictly a data-and-fact finding mission, to fill in the gaps about the one day Emmett was in Petersburg for an official event as Florida’s newly minted Congressman-Elect, a stop-over, as Emmett was on his way to Baltimore to attend the 1912 Democratic National Convention as an alternate.

For starters, I arrived in Richmond, Virginia last Wednesday afternoon in the exact same train station Emmett did on June 23, 1912. I was met at the station by my dear friend, colleague, and fellow writer/history mystery enthusiast, Ann.

Main Street Station, 1500 E. Main Street, Richmond, Virginia

The rear of the station is under renovation — a spacious, all-glass atrium structure. Travelers exit the platform and enter a gorgeous, well-preserved historic station built in 1901. Emmett would have taken the Seaboard Air Line, after making an initial connection from the Pensacola & Atlantic Line terminus at River Junction, Florida.

Emmett would have traveled east from River Junction to Jacksonville, where he took the SAL up the East Coast en route to Petersburg, terminating in Baltimore. I doubt Emmett would have had to pay for his ticket, as he had two brothers who were conductors, and family passes were common. At this time, congressmen were being criticized in the press for taking favors such as free or deeply discounted railroad passes while in office. Emmett wasn’t yet in office, but I can imagine he would have been sensitive to this issue, and would have gone out of his way to avoid any impropriety.

The ceiling of the Main Street Station. Lots of gorgeous details.

As noted, Emmett was supposed to be in Baltimore for the opening of the Democratic National Convention, Tuesday, June 25. He had been invited by the Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg several weeks earlier to dedicate the Florida window in the Old Blandford Church on Monday, June 24. I’m not certain if the LMA worked this date out to accommodate Emmett’s travel schedule, but it seems as if the timing of the event was planned with this in mind.

The Pensacola Evening News for June 22, 1912 reported that Emmett left that evening for Baltimore, and he was traveling with Tom West, and B.S. Williams (also convention alternates). It took at least four hours to travel from Pensacola to Jacksonville, and then almost a full day from Jacksonville to Richmond. So, with that information (and a copy of the timetable from June, 1912) we estimate that Emmett’s train from Jacksonville arrived in Richmond late on Sunday, June 23. There was no indication that West and Williams attended the dedication ceremony with Emmett, and so they likely remained on the SAL until they reached Baltimore.

Timetable from the Petersburg Index-Appeal, June 23, 1912 via microfilm.

Emmett either caught the Richmond & Petersburg Electric Railway for the rest of the trip to Petersburg, or, perhaps his transportation was covered by the LMA.

Old Blandford Church, in the middle of the cemetery. The path to the church winds through fragile and weather-worn tombstones, which were there when Emmett visited in 1912.

Our first stop in Petersburg was the Old Blandford Church. We met Martha Mann Atkinson, the site manager for the Old Blandford Church. We told Martha about Emmett Wilson and his role in the Florida window dedication ceremony, and that I wanted to include that information in Emmett’s biography. Martha was leading another tour that morning, but she graciously included Ann and myself with the group, and said she wanted to hear more about Emmett’s story after the tour was over.

Before we went inside, the group gathered around the entrance of the church, where we were given the history of the parish. Ann and I walked around the perimeter of the Church, and took photos of some of the more striking headstones.

The marker of John Taliaferro, age 27.

Once we were inside the church, Ann and I went straight to the Florida window, and sat down next to it. All of the windows are truly beautiful in Old Blandford Church, but the Florida window — I call it Emmett’s window — is really beautiful. I cannot describe to you how peaceful it is, and soothing to look at.

We were told not to take photos, but I couldn’t help myself.

Sneaky!

Did you know that there are only a handful of churches in the United States with Tiffany windows? Petersburg has a national treasure. I’m surprised more people don’t know about it, or visit this site.

Martha and her staff are interested in the personal stories and details attached to each of the windows. I agreed to share everything I knew about the dedication of Emmett’s window.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a collection of artifacts or a copy of Emmett’s dedication speech in the archive at Old Blandford Church, but one of the ladies who was assisting with the tour told me that she has access to old scrapbooks (!) kept by the LMA, and would gladly check to see if a program, or a photo, or anything related to the June 24, 1912 dedication exists. It is likely there was an official program, because there is a reprint of the program from the dedication of the Georgia window on November 18, 1912. I would LOVE to get my hands on a program.

Before we left, I sheepishly admitted to Martha that I had snuck a photo of myself next to the Florida window, and apologized for it. She just laughed and said she was more than happy to let me take my own photo of Emmett’s window.

St. Matthew, the Florida window. Old Blandford Church, Petersburg, Virginia. Thank you, Martha!

Next, Ann and I visited the Petersburg Public Library, where we looked through the microfilm of the Petersburg Index-Appeal for June, 1912. There wasn’t much about the dedication ceremony; and, none of it was new to me:

The article about the dedication. Notice Emmett’s name is misspelled. So much for popularity! Petersburg Index-Appeal, June 25, 1912.

There’s not much published about this event, which is disappointing, considering that the dedication was made much of in The Pensacola Journal, and the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser in June, 1912. And, now that I know better, I believe that the ‘big deal’ about the dedication was just the Journal‘s Frank Mayes promoting Emmett above and beyond his true abilities. In June 1912, Emmett still had to win the general election in November; and, Emmett still was considered a political novice. Frank Mayes’ protege still had a lot to prove — and a lot of voters to win over — before November.

Ann and I spent the rest of the day touring Petersburg, enjoying the architecture and the history. There is a lot to see, great food and coffee to be had, and some of the nicest folks you’d ever meet in one place. We plan to do another history/writing road trip again in the future.

History detecting and hanging out with friends in graveyards = fun!

Something to think about

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This is the oldest of our neighborhood’s little grove of cherry trees.

It is the first tree to bloom of this little grove, every year, without fail.

Look closely at the base.

It is hollowed out, and has been this way for at least the past five years.

It is damaged beyond repair.

The side view of the tree.

I wonder if the tree knows that it is irreparably damaged?

I wonder if it cares?

Doesn’t seem to matter to the tree.