One-Shot at a Free Ride

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I’ve been thinking about the vocational/educational breakdown of Emmett’s immediate family:

  • Two physicians; one on-the-job training, one college-educated (Dr. Francis Wilson and his second eldest son, Percy Brockenbrough Wilson)
  • Two lawyers; one on-the-job training, one college-educated (Cephas Love Wilson and Emmett Wilson)
  • Four railroad professionals; high school diploma only, mostly on-the-job training (Frank Jr., Meade, Julian, Walker)
  • Two state-certified teachers; high school diploma only (Dora and Katie)
  • One musician/pharmacist/editor; high school diploma only (Max)

Emmett’s education was a bit unusual because he was the only Wilson child with two chances to go to college — he either failed out or dropped out of West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University) in 1900, and two years later, enrolled at Stetson University, graduating in 1904.

Frankly, this surprises me, given that

  • higher education was expensive, even for an upper middle class family like the Wilsons, and
  • there was little if any extra money available for things other than necessities. And:
  • the Wilson family genealogy sent to me from Walker Wilson’s descendants indicated resentment among Emmett’s siblings that the younger Wilsons had to contribute funds to brothers and sisters attending college — a opportunity either not extended nor available to the younger Wilsons once they became old enough.

It seems like the family helped Emmett pay for the first college (West Florida Seminary) tuition, but the second time, I believe Emmett was on his own financially. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the family would put up two college tuitions for one child, and not do the same for the other younger children. Emmett had one shot at a ‘free’ tuition ride — and when it didn’t work out for him at WFS, he knew he’d have to pay his own way if he ever wanted to go to college again.

Ad from The Chipley Banner, 1894. DJ Jones was a well-established attorney and judge for many years. Source: Chronicling America.com

After Emmett came home from WFS in January, 1901, he immediate started clerking for Judge Daniel J. Jones, one of the most important lawyers in West Florida, with the idea that he would do as his brother Cephas: Clerk for a prominent jurist for a few years, take the bar exam, and begin his practice.  But times were changing for the legal profession around 1900, as more states were requiring law school and official degrees as proper credentials over old-school apprenticeship training.

 

Emmett and Judge Jones must have discussed the future of the profession, and I am certain Judge Jones would have encouraged Emmett earn a law degree at a college or university, to ensure his best possible professional opportunities.

Advertisement from August 30, 1901 edition of The (Pensacola) Daily News. Emmett had been clerking for Judge D.J. Jones, during this time — but he could only do so much without knowledge of shorthand. It is likely Jones recommended Emmett obtain shorthand training. Emmett was visiting family during the summer of 1901, and this advertisement got his attention. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, August 30, 1901.

Emmett remained with Jones as a clerk for about six months, before he left to take a shorthand course at Meux’s Business School in Pensacola, returning in 1902 to clerk for Cephas in Marianna for several months, earning enough money to attend Stetson University in September, 1902.

 

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Congressional Directory, 63rd Congress, 2nd Session

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This arrived in yesterday’s mail, fresh from Ebay:

It’s the second in my collection of books Emmett would have owned. I wish it was the actual copy that Emmett owned, held in his hands, perused often.

Great details of staff members.

These old Congressional Directories are treasure troves of interesting details. For example, see the first entry — the Doorkeeper of the House of Representatives’ home address is listed! And bonus:

3527 13th St. NW, Joseph J. Sinnott’s house, is still standing!

Emmett is listed several times in the directory; his biography, his committee memberships, and his residential address while in Washington (Congress Hall Hotel, in case you were wondering). And in case you wanted to visit or call Emmett, here’s how you could find him in the Cannon House Office Building:

I’m still building my collection of books that Emmett likely (or, hopefully one day, actually) owned. Although I’m still looking for a copy of the directory for the 1st Session of the 63rd Congress, as well as editions for the 64th Congress, I’m off to a good start.

 

 

The Gift of Time

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I hate reporting this, but I’ve made little actual progress on Emmett’s manuscript since January.

My life has been mostly on hold because I’ve had to take several trips to my hometown in Mississippi to get my Dad’s affairs in order. He’s been in rehab after his fall in January, so he hasn’t been able to do beyond his hospital room.

But as of yesterday, Dad is out of the hospital and I completed the move from his home of 32 years into a retirement community. It’s done.

Finally.

Looking back, I’m surprised at how much time this whole project took. What really helped was good, old fashioned research skills.  In January, to keep myself from going crazy with all the details from 850 miles away, I created a set of “Dad spreadsheets” relating to the move. I categorized everything: Utilities, furniture distribution, contributions to charity, packing, social workers, you name it. As we drew closer to the actual move date, it was the most satisfying thing to check off items as they were completed. It made the whole process run like clockwork.

Also: The spreadsheets made the move understandable, more acceptable for my Dad. Whenever he’d get nervous or antsy, I’d just give Dad the move-related file folders and charts, and the logical, ordered information calmed him down. Helped him accept the change that was happening, whether he liked it or not.

These simple charts made our lives a lot easier. In the end, Dad didn’t argue with me about the move anymore. And the day before the move, Dad was (finally) more accepting. He told me: “I’m good with this. You’ve obviously got this in hand.”

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Constructing Emmett’s story has also taken a lot of time — five years, so far. The time involved in collecting the data is one thing; but it takes almost as long (if not longer) to organize seemingly disparate pieces into a logical, detailed timeline of events, and unfortunately, I underestimated that part of the research process. Here again, spreadsheets to the rescue. To keep myself from going insane with the (literally) thousands of pieces of Emmett information, I created something I call “Emmett’s Life Timeline” in spreadsheet.

I use a basic spreadsheet program with my own headings. Information is organized by year.

In addition to Emmett-specific information is context: I’ve added the comings/goings/activities of who I believe are the important people in his life within the same spreadsheets.

Another example from “Emmett’s Life Timeline” spreadsheets.

Now that things have settled down, I’m happy and grateful to return to Emmett’s story.

Both of these transitions (Dad from house to assisted living and Emmett from obscurity to research) have taken more time than I expected. But the extended time has been a benefit — a gift, really, in both instances. I feel pretty good about how Dad’s situation turned out (even though he’s still in adjustment mode). I also feel good about the status of Emmett’s story, even though it isn’t finished. Both projects are coming together — maybe not seamlessly — but they are falling into proper place.

Why Everything is Not Digitized

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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.

Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.)

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“People who want to believe something will do so despite any and all evidence to the contrary.”

Carolyn Hax, The Washington Post, February 3, 2018

 

“Everything happens on God’s schedule, not mine.”

A.A. meeting, Washington, D.C.

These are two quotes I’ve come to appreciate over the past two weeks. I’ve been away dealing with a crazy family drama that I’d not wish on my worst enemy.

I’ll start by saying as of today, February 4, everyone involved in this story is fine. We all may be a little grayer, a little more frayed at the edges for having the experience, but there’s always a blessing to be gained for weathering a tragedy: Our family has grown closer, and I don’t think my Dad will put off following Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.) again in the future.

On Saturday, January 20, 2:30 in the afternoon, I received a text from my first cousin Mike, who lives in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was unusual because Mike and I (although close) don’t really talk that much via text or telephone — only on birthdays and holidays, and during football season when Mississippi State is playing well.

Mike: “When’s the last time you spoke to your Dad?”

“Thursday night.”

At first, I wasn’t overly concerned; but when two hours passed and he still hadn’t called us back, I was uneasy. Mike couldn’t simply drive over to check on Dad; he takes care of his 90-year-old mother full-time.

I told Mike: “I can’t stand waiting anymore. I’ll ask my friend Helen to knock on his door.”

Thank God I did.

When Helen arrived at my Dad’s apartment, she had me on her cell phone as she banged loudly on his door. No answer.

“He’s in there,” she said to me. “Something’s not right.”

“Call 911,” I said.

It was the worst 30 minutes of my life, as I waited 850 miles away, my friend standing by, awaiting EMTs and the police. My heart felt like it was beating 1000 times a minute. I knew it wasn’t good — I thought my heart was going to break right then.

When the EMTs broke down my Dad’s door, they found him on the floor, dehydrated. The apartment was 85 degrees, he’d not been drinking water.

“He’s alive!” Helen said to me, “but he’s insisting on not going to the hospital. He says it’s inconvenient for him! Can you believe it?”

Helen put me on the phone with the EMTs. I told them that I had  Power of Attorney, and to take him to the hospital. My friend stayed with my Dad until he was admitted and stabilized; I got on the next plane out.

When I finally got to Dad’s hospital, the doctors told me he was in renal failure, and would have probably died if the EMTs had gotten to him any later.

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Right now, Dad is in a nursing/rehab facility. And he’s damn lucky: His doctor told him his kidneys will heal, but he’ll need dialysis for several weeks. And he’ll move into assisted living. I insisted.

And yes, he agreed.

I hate that it took something like this to get my Dad to agree to necessary changes for the sake of his health and well being. For so long, he wanted to believe he was fine on his own, even when the signs were there that he needed help.

But the reality is that Dad wasn’t ready to hear the message until it took something dramatic to get his attention.

He’s doing fine — he’s actually making slow, steady progress with physical therapy. He’s cooperating with folks who want to help him.

And, he’s complaining, which my sister and I know is a good sign.

Great Source: Sanborn Fire Maps for Pensacola, 1907

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Here’s something that finally answered one of my big Emmett Wilson puzzles over the past five years of research:

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Pensacola Florida, 1907. Source: University of Florida

Check this out: The line drawing (above) is a screen shot of the duplex 211 West Cervantes, as it appeared in 1907. Note that this one structure had TWO numbers (211 on our left, 209 on our right).

This tells us that Emmett and the Kehoe family lived on the left side of the duplex!

The number two in the bay window tells us that it was a two-story structure. The number two immediately to the left tells us that there were porches on both levels. The “x” indicates a door.

If you look at the current photos from the Zillow site in yesterday’s post, it looks like the bay windows are long gone. The porches are still there; the entrances appear to be the same.

It’s nice to be able to compare the original footprint of the house to the current building.

 

 

 

 

Deja Vu?

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Remember this post?

Someone on Zillow used my research to write up this house sales pitch.

In April 2017, a gentleman from a real estate office in Pensacola contacted me about this property, telling me it was going on the market in about a year, thought the information I’d gathered on the property useful, and kindly offered to give me a tour of the property. Although I was interested in seeing the house where Emmett lived, I had no plans to travel to Pensacola, and so had to decline.

The gentleman mentioned he had found the information I’d written about 211 West Cervantes Street on my blog and thought it useful. The initial report was not correct (Minnie Kehoe did not live there), and I shared that with the realtor. (UPDATE 1/9: The gentleman has since corrected the information on the page.)

J. Walter Kehoe (like Emmett, a U.S. Congressman), lived at the house along with his wife Jennie and their children). Walter had a daughter, Minnie Evelyn Kehoe, but she was about six or seven at the time — the female lawyer mentioned in the real estate listing is Minnie Eloise Kehoe, who was in her late 30s-early 40s. Big difference. But it is easy to get the names mixed up. Minnie Eloise often went by “Minnie E.”

I sent a comment via their contact page. It will be interesting to see if their office responds.

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UPDATE: 

Wow. That was fast.

Only five minutes after I posted this and sent the contact info to the realtor’s office, someone sent me a polite reply. The gist of the message was that the person who was responding was not responsible for the listing, but asked if I wanted information re the original listing’s contact agent. The reply was really nice. Professional. I appreciated the quick response.

Oh — and I mentioned the Minnie Kehoe error.  I mentioned that Walter — another U.S. Congressman — was the resident, not Minnie, and that Minnie actually lived down the street from Walter in another house also on West Cervantes, owned by the Kehoe family.

Frankly, I only wanted to see a proper credit for the information, and that the information is correct. That’s all.

UPDATE #2:

Wow. Photos of the inside of Emmett’s former home are at this link, courtesy of the Zillow page. The inside doesn’t have much of the original house to it — it looks like the staircases are the same — but you can see the lovely bones of the place.

I can imagine Emmett looking out of the windows onto West Cervantes Street from the second story porch.