Price drop


The price on 211 W. Cervantes Street in Pensacola, where Emmett lived with the Kehoe family between 1911 and 1913, has dropped slightly.

211 West Cervantes St., Pensacola, Florida. Emmett and the Kehoes lived on the right side of this house, by the way. Source: Trulia


It can be yours for only $299,000!



Life Expectancy


As I write Emmett’s story, I always wonder how long he would have lived had he not drank himself to death. Several of the men in his family, particularly his twin brother Julian, were long lived. Emmett was 35 when he died of uremia on May 29, 1918.

The website, Our World in Data, has an interesting interactive chart mapping life expectancy rates starting from the year 1543 to 2015.

Emmett was born in 1882. According to Our World in Data, his life expectancy, had mortality rates remained the same throughout his life, would have been 39.41 years.

The chart shows data for the years 1881 and 1882. If you hover over the U.S., a box pops up with the life expectancy for that country. Source: Our World in Data

Emmett just about made it to his projected life expectancy. Emmett’s illness as reported on his death certificate, uremia, eventually came about via cirrhosis of the liver (according to my colleague Donna the Nephrologist).

Jule & Emmett’s brother, Julian A. Wilson, about 1940.

Emmett’s twin brother, Julian, died in 1963, age 80. His daughter, Jule and granddaughter, Carol, have told me that Julian rarely, if ever, took a drink, and was in good health most of his life. Julian died from complications resulting from an automobile accident.

Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, was born in 1841. Unfortunately, the chart doesn’t have information going back that far for the United States. The first year reporting life expectancy statistics from this source is 1870; 39.4 years seems to be the average age also for 1870.



Why Everything is Not Digitized


Of course, I’d love to have had everything available about Emmett Wilson to be accessible via the Internet. It would have certainly made my life easier as I dug around for primary sources in a variety of libraries and archives, both near and far, over the past five years!

Two tables worth of research materials, when I was at the University of West Florida. About half of the artifacts I handled were in good condition. None of these artifacts are digitized.

But even if Emmett’s primary sources were available or extant in a library archive, here is an excellent discussion about why everything in an archive is not always or necessarily digitized.

Emmett’s Secretaries: B.A. Murphy


When I started tracking down Emmett’s secretaries, I didn’t know what to expect. Mostly I started looking for Emmett’s secretaries because I hit a brick wall with Emmett himself (there’s very little primary information from him). At present, I’ve found as much as I can about and from Emmett’s siblings and their descendants, and I’ve tracked down as many of Emmett’s close friends and their descendants as I can to-date.

Still, I feel like there may be more to find about Emmett’s personal story — so what better source than Emmett’s support staff? The tricky part would be finding them. But if Emmett’s secretarial staff were good, they’d have kept attorney’s day books and office journals. It’s a long shot, but worth it to track these folks down. Where to start? Public records.

Who Was B.A. Murphy?

If you recall from an earlier post, Emmett moved to Pensacola in September 1906, after his disappointing tenure as Nick Van Sant’s law partner in Sterling, Illinois. At this point, Emmett was starting his career over, for the third time in as many years. But because Emmett was well connected, he didn’t have to wait long to find a good job.

Emmett didn’t even apply for the position, yet he got it. Surprise? Source: The Montgomery Advertiser, September 14, 1907, from

This good job came with administrative help. Because Emmett was basically given the job, he’d have been advised about whom to bring along as his top administrative assistant. According to the Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States for 1909, Emmett’s administrative assistant was B.A. Murphy.

Source: Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States, 1909. Published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. Source: Google Books

But to be perfectly candid, when I first saw the secretary’s name, I immediately thought: Youngish fellow, probably didn’t go to college, wearing a dark suit. Despite my best intentions, I dug into the research with dreaded preconceived notions.

And boy, was I ever WRONG!

Meet B.A. Murphy

Youngish fellow? Oh hell no — although — granted, I was initially thrown off with my first information from the obituary/cemetery search:

How many women in 1908 used a male-sounding name? Bertha went by “Bert”. Bert Murphy. Photo by Earth Angel of


Rather, this is a portrait of an interesting, ambitious young woman who overcame major social and economic barriers that I take for granted in the 21st century to become a successful, independent woman.

Meet Bertha A. “Bert” Murphy, 1876-1967.

Bertha was lived and was educated in Roberts, Escambia County, Florida public schools. She graduated from high school (probably in Roberts, although I have not officially confirmed that to date), and went right into one of the few available/acceptable job markets for single young women in 1900: Education.

The U.S. Census for 1900 lists Bertha, age 23, as a teacher in Roberts, Escambia County, Florida, and living in her parent’s home along with her siblings Gerald (a log-scaler), Pearl (in school at present, but who would later become a nurse-anesthesiologist), Clifford (a stenographer) and Ruby. Bertha’s father, W.H. Murphy, was a saw mill owner.

Roberts, Florida is in the blue oval; a bit of a schlep to Pensacola back in the day of dirt roads and horse-drawn wagons. Source: University of South Florida

Bertha was probably thankful she lived at home with her family, as public school teachers in Florida earned (on average) $5-10 a month in 1900, but Bertha had bigger plans for herself. She was smart and ambitious; there were bigger fish to fry in Pensacola, and that’s where we find her next, in 1906.

Bertha is a notary public and a stenographer, working in the law offices of Maxwell and Reeves. Source: The Pensacola Journal, October 27, 1906, via

Yep — that’s Maxwell and Reeves, as in, Emmett’s uncle, Judge Evelyn C. Maxwell. The same uncle who offered Emmett a job (or, at least a desk) in late September, 1906, when he moved back to Florida after the Illinois experiment. Emmett and Bertha, then, knew each other and worked together. She must have been a pretty damn good stenographer, then, for Maxwell to have (most likely) recommended Emmett offer Bertha a second job as his clerk when Emmett was made assistant district attorney in 1907. Bertha held down that second position as a clerk in the district attorney’s office until 1909.

Additionally, per the Pensacola City Directories, Bertha continued to work as a stenographer for Judge Maxwell until 1910, biding her time, building her experience, making important connections.

B.A. Murphy, in partnership with Minnie Kehoe, running a school!  Source: The Pensacola Journal, June 16, 1912, via

And Bertha was never, ever, what one would call a slacker:

Bertha consistently maintains her notary public bond most of her life She’s definitely self-sufficient. Source: The Pensacola Journal, March 1911, via

and, she dabbled in real estate.

Bertha owes back taxes on property in Pensacola. But I don’t believe she was in trouble. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1911, via

Here’s the reason why I don’t believe Bertha was in any kind of financial trouble:

Bertha made a personal $50 cash donation to this cause. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1911, via

If Bertha made a $50 donation towards an important charitable cause (which is something she did for most of her life, by the way), she was able to pay the delinquent taxes on her property  ($50 in 1911 is equivalent to $1,221 today). She was doing quite well for herself, thankyouverymuch.

[Meanwhile, our Emmett was working in Walter Kehoe’s office (he and Walter weren’t law partners yet; rather, Emmett was ‘renting’ or borrowing space in Walter’s office, and had been appointed States’ Attorney in 1911. Emmett appeared to be working hard (and I believe he was), but when I think about how Bertha was literally building her professional foundation brick-by-brick, solid, it feels like Emmett’s foundation was flimsy and ‘temporary,’ based on the fact that pretty much all of his opportunities were given to him. Nothing was ‘given’ to Bertha, really, or to Minnie Kehoe, which is why I admire these two women so much. But I digress.]

Fast forward eight years to May 18, 1919.

Emmett has been dead almost a year.

And Bertha?

Bertha is in the Big Apple. Source: The Pensacola Journal, May 18, 1919, via

Bertha eventually moved back to Pensacola between 1924 and 1927, a full-fledged realtor. It’s unclear if she had much success in the lumber business, but she appears to have done well with real-estate. Bertha shows up in the U.S. Censi for 1930, 1935, and 1940 as a realtor, and residing with her mother and siblings at 1906 E. Strong Street.

Here’s the last available census information on Bertha, the 1945 Florida State Census:

Bertha and her siblings in 1945. She’s still a realtor. Brother Gerald is a salesperson and divorced; Pearl is an anesthesiologist, Stella (a sister-in-law; widow of Clifford) keeps house, and Askin (a nephew; son of Clifford) is a clerk. Source:

That’s all I was able to find about Bertha. She died in 1967, and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Pensacola, along with her siblings.

I would love to find a photo of Bertha, or read one of her letters or journals — and I would love to find out if she had ever written anything in a journal or letter about her experiences working with Emmett.


Cephas Jr. and the Great War


Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. was stationed in France in 1917, during which time he wrote home to his mother and father whenever he could, letting them know he was safe, and likely, telling them a sanitized — and probably censored — version of what was going on with him and his comrades.

I would have loved to read Ceph Jr.’s letters to his family about his experiences during World War I. But until I establish a connection with a descendant (who, hopefully, still has the letters saved somewhere), I very gladly will make do with this:


A History of the 1st U.S. Engineers Division. Source: University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill archives.

Yes, people, this is the big deal I came across the other day. This is the honest-to-God story of this unit’s experiences, complete with anecdotes, personal reflections, poetry, letters, artwork, homage to fallen comrades who were left behind in the battlefields. There’s nothing pretty or glamorous about the stories of these men who fought in this unit during the Great War: There is honest, thoughtful, and heartbreaking writing in this book.

The birth and infancy of the regiment, page five. This is the story of the regiment, by the men, in their OWN words. This is wonderful!

And check. This. Out:

Ceph Jr.was an ART EDITOR for this book — and — yes, his drawings are in here! Booyah!

NOW can you see why I was so thrilled?

Cephas WAS on the U.S.S. Finland, en route to France from Hoboken, N.J., hadn’t even landed yet, and was fired upon! OMG. Did he write home to his parents about this?

As I said, the men who wrote about their experiences hold nothing back.

Several pages honoring the dead.

Not only do we have the story of Ceph’s time in World War I, but we have samples of his drawings!

It’s a wonderful find, full of excellent details, resources, photos, and — yes — artwork attributed to Cephas Jr. Modestly, he signed them “W.” You can see his cartoon experience reflected in his drawings!

There’s this one:

A humorous drawing by Cephas, Jr.

And this one:

Often too close for comfort, was it?

But this one by Cephas Jr. is most touching:

In my next post, I’ll fill you in on the rest of Cephas’ experiences in France — that is, unless you read this book for yourself (he is mentioned in here!).




Why This Is Taking So Long, Part IV


Want to know why writing Emmett’s book has been taking so long?

I submit:

This. The newspaper is filed under the wrong ‘state.’ If you do a state-specific search (as I have been doing), this source would not show up. Doh. Source:

I found this during my ‘go back and check databases for updates’ routine. Something I do every other month or so.

The Chronicling America database is huge, which is why one would want to limit the searches to states, or specific newspapers.

It isn’t that I haven’t done an entire sweep of the database this size before, but it can be overwhelming to see thousands of items returned in a large sweep.  I’m glad the database is there — and I’m thrilled to have found this extra source of information. Emmett’s uncles and cousins, and his sister, Katie Wilson Meade, lived in Alexandria and were community/church leaders — there’s wonderful new articles to read about Emmett’s family in this paper!

My concern, as always, is missing or overlooking information that’s out there, but information I’d never find because it is misfiled or mislabeled, or has typos. This is one of the reasons I do regular checks of databases. The effort is completely worth it, but I’d never considered the idea that the newspaper in this particular database would have been filed under the wrong state.

And, of course, this will mean going back into the databases to consider that variable.

Commencing rolling up the sleeves and digging in….





The Brent-Warren Wedding


Bonnie Burnham, society editor of The Pensacola Journal predicted that the wedding of Emily Brent and Alba Warren would be one of ‘the most elaborate of all the weddings’, and it was one of the first weddings held after Lent — on Easter Monday.

The Brent-Warren wedding was one of the society events of 1911. The gerund “queening” isn’t considered complimentary; I’m sure Bonnie Burnham didn’t mean it that way — or did she?  Source: The Pensacola Journal,

The article mentioning the Brent-Warren wedding indicated that a Catholic wedding ceremony had to delayed until after Easter — and so it was fitting that Cora’s wedding had an Easter theme!

Source: The Pensacola Journal,

Source: The Pensacola Journal;

What is really great is that I found photographs of the Brent home, all decorated for the wedding!

One of the Brent-Warren descendants, Anne Field, has a web page dedicated to the Brent home, complete with wonderful photographs of the house, the room where the wedding took place, the wedding gifts (!!), and even a photograph of the cake that is described in the article above! (Thanks to Anne for permission to link to her page!)

The second photograph on the web page shows the library where the wedding took place. Our Emmett was definitely in attendance, standing in support of his friend Alba Houghton Warren. We can imagine Emmett standing on the right side, somewhere next to the bookcases, casting an occasional glance at the tomes on the shelves, avoiding the glances of some of the unmarried women in the room, who fancied him a bridegroom for themselves.