The Brent-Warren Wedding

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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, http://www.chroniclingamerical.gov

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, http://www.chroniclingamerica.gov

Source: The Pensacola Journal; http://www.chroniclingamerica.gov

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.

 

Medical History

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Yesterday’s essay about Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, spurred me to pay a visit to one of the best-kept museum secrets here in metro Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of Health and Medicine.

National Museum of Health and Medicine. Photo source: http://www.go4travelblog.com

Just so you know — this is not a museum for the faint of heart or the weak-stomached. But this is a great place to visit if you are interested in how medicine was practiced during The Civil War, and how one learned to practice medicine via an apprenticeship (as was the case with Dr. Wilson).

This post is quite picture heavy; I think the photos best tell the story of what you can learn from this museum.

 

 

Photographs that accompanied case studies.

 

 

 

The box of slides containing tissue of the tumor that was in Ulysses S. Grant’s throat. Grant was a heavy smoker and was diagnosed with throat cancer in February, 1885; despite the removal of the tumor, the cancer had advanced and he died in July, 1885.

 

A type of microscope that Dr. Wilson might have used in his medical practice.

There are several displays of battlefield injuries from The Civil War, complete with the original bullet intact. This part of the museum is disquieting when you realize the artifacts were, once, human beings.

 

 

Several of the displays identify the actual battle where the injuries were received. For the record, Dr. Wilson was at Spotsylvania, as well as the Battle of the Crater.

Also on display is the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln.

 

Pocket surgical kit belonging to Dr. Mary Walker.

Yikes.

Portable dental and autopsy kits.

No wonder most of the casualties of The Civil War were due to infection.

An X-ray tube. Dr. Wilson might have used something like this in his practice.

There are several other displays in the museum dedicated to Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (or MASH units), military nursing (truly excellent), and a presentation on how recent flu epidemics are actual variations (‘descendants’) of the original 1918 pandemic.

Aside from coming away from the museum with a greater appreciation for modern medicine (and good health!), the visit made me curious about how Dr. Wilson got interested in medicine in the first place. Dr. Wilson was a private with the infantry during The Civil War; neither connected to a medical unit nor assigned to a hospital.

What I know from the family records is that a) Dr. Wilson did not talk about his experiences as a soldier and b) when he did, it was only about when he was with Robert E. Lee at the surrender at Appomattox.

I wish I could ask him about his experiences.

“Mega-talented, but self-destructive”

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My friend, the wonderful Sue Tindel, of the Jackson County (Florida) Circuit Clerk’s Office, used the title of today’s post to describe someone she knew once, who ironically, was also an alcoholic (but in recovery).

The person she was describing was also, ironically, the same age as Emmett when he died of said disease.

I like this description, as I think it really sums up Emmett’s character. Emmett was an extremely talented, blessed, fortunate individual. Some newspapers (specifically, The Pensacola Journal), called him “brilliant.” Emmett had everything going for him.

And yet, his tragic character flaw was that he was self-destructive.

He had opportunities literally given to him; opportunities attached to money, prestige, fame, fortune, all of the things he wanted desperately while he was slogging away at the telegraph key as a teenager, and in law school, working his way through.

It is frustrating, sometimes, as I look back over the notes and the outline of the book. You can see the train wreck before it happens with Emmett!  Of course, it is easy to recognize problems 100 years after they’ve happened, but I have to believe that his close friends and advisors saw (at least) some of the warning signs with Emmett before they became full-blown crises. Emmett had some good advisors; he had some crummy ones, as well; maybe that was part of his self-destructive nature, in that he chose badly.

See, here’s the thing I’ve come to understand about Emmett:

He was an entirely logical thinker when it came to his work and his career. He wouldn’t let anything or anyone distract him from his main goal in life: The Florida Supreme Court bench. If it (a personal connection, a law case, a social event) would further his career, he would go for it.

Once he set a goal for himself, he threw himself into that goal, mastered the project or case, and then — and this is the odd part about Emmett — got bored with it. Next, he’d detach himself from it — mentally if not physically.

True, he understood that everything he was doing along he way was simply a set of milestones on the way to the Florida Supreme Court bench. But it seems like he couldn’t tap into the psychological stamina and patience to bear it (even when the going got boring), to find a way to enjoy it, make it his own without an external stimulant.

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Was Emmett Wilson ‘brilliant’?

No. (Sorry, Emmett.)

If Emmett were truly brilliant, he’d have had more emotional/psychological maturity. Some of this wasn’t exactly Emmett’s fault: He was, according to several sources, being pushed up the political ladder faster and at a younger age than anyone before (for example, he was the youngest District Attorney in the United States in 1907), and, it was also reported, before he was ready. Emmett wasn’t quite ready, but he was listening to the crummy advisors, and doing their bidding.

If Emmett were truly brilliant, he’d have seen this, too. He’d have seen that he was being pushed beyond his experience and education.

I think Emmett did see this, now and then; that he had moments of clarity with regard to the heights he’d climbed politically, socially, professionally, with not much of a safety net beneath him, other than whoever it was manipulating the puppet strings of his life. Those moments of clarity scared the hell out him.

If he screwed up, there would be definitely be hell to pay, and his dream of occupying the same bench as his revered grandfather, would be dashed.

Emmett had the talent, definitely; he could do the work he was given. But he was mostly acting the part he was assigned.

Emmett was also, most definitely, mega-talented. He could play the role he was given; he was a good lawyer.

He wasn’t brilliant.

But he was definitely self-destructive.

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!

Emmett, Catholicism, Faith, Amends

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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.

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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.

Thesis on Old Blandford Church Tiffany Windows

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Here’s a student’s thesis titled Tiffany Windows in Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.

The section on Old Blandford Church starts on page 146 of the document.

Emmett’s window is not featured as one of the illustrations, but the information is great background information on the church and the dedications of the different state windows.

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

Heirlooms United

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Here is an absolutely wonderful treasure trove of vintage autograph albums, photo albums, calling cards, journals — everything I would love to have about Emmett Wilson or any other of Emmett’s friends.

I stumbled across it in search of information on one of Emmett’s roommates for his second book — and it has many wonderful personal artifacts.

The search for Emmett’s elusive scrapbooks continues…