In my dreams

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“Jeopardy” is taping here in DC in a few weeks. I’ve always wanted to be on that program, but I know, realistically, the odds are low.

Still, for fun, I took the online test to go on the show and did so mediocrely that I sincerely doubt I’ll be selected.

There were no ‘categories’, and the topics were so all over the place (math, biology, geology, literature, paranoia, etc.) that my mind was constantly switching gears during the entire process. I could literally ‘feel’ the brain cells switching on and off. I was able to answer two thirds of the questions, then the test ended, and I felt like I had been wrung out to dry.

Funny thing was the night before I had a dream I was on the show, and when the board of categories was revealed, I was ecstatic! I was going to WIN!

The topics were: Alcoholics, Alcoholics in Literature, Assholes, Assholes in Literature, Whining, Catholics, and Poor Punchlines.

 

Source: Giphy

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Groundhog prescient

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That’s my neighbor’s forsythia bush this morning, the first full day of Spring.

That groundhog knew what he or she was doing on February 2. The snow is predicted to fall all day today in Emmett Wilson land.

It is a good day to write about another snowy day, about 118 years ago, when Emmett was a college Freshman, who looked out his dorm window at West Florida Seminary in Tallahassee and saw a rare snowfall!

Snowball fight on the steps of the Florida capital building, February 13, 1899. Source: Florida Memory

No one is identified in this photograph, but we can imagine Emmett and his best friend, Paul Carter, engaging in this snowball fight!

Signature moments

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Just as I think I’ve found as much as I can find directly related to Emmett, something new surfaces!

This!

Paul Carter and Mary (Mamie) Horne’s marriage license, dated September 4, 1912. Emmett was Paul’s best man. Source: Florida State Archives

Although I’m still missing Emmett’s scrapbook, and I have only a few primary documents that belonged to Emmett, I’ve managed to assemble an extensive collection of Emmett’s signature, beginning with my first sample (from his college days at West Florida Seminary in 1901), to the last known sample (six weeks before his death in 1918).

Here’s a few examples of what I’ve collected:

Emmett’s signature at West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University), 1901. Emmett was 18.

Emmett’s handwriting in 1911. He was States Attorney prosecuting a case in Santa Rosa county in this example.

Emmett’s handwriting in 1918. This was his signature indicating he’d paid his poll taxes. This was almost one month before Emmett died.

In the last example, Emmett didn’t follow the directions when filling out the form, which is important to note, since by this point, Emmett was poor health and likely in a continuous state of inebriety, as his signature is almost illegible scrawl.

These are only a few of the examples in my possession. Overall, it is interesting to see how his handwriting evolved over the years. Context (the documents themselves, the events, the situation in which the signature took place) is important, and I’ve taken all of that into account as I’ve examined his signature over the years.

New-to-me background on U.S. vs. Penton

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When I last visited Florida in 2015, I spent most of the time going through courthouse archives in search of testimony and notes for the cases Emmett was prosecuting.

Although I didn’t find much in the way of notes, I did uncover a load of paperwork with Emmett’s signature, which (at least) confirmed some of the details of the cases he prosecuted while serving as District Attorney from 1907-1909, then as States’ Attorney from 1911-1913.

But one of the major cases Emmett prosecuted was U.S. vs. Frank Penton, and today, I lucked upon the blog Judging Shadows, which has excellent background about the principals in the case.

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, December 9, 1910, page 13.

The Pensacola Journal, January 8, 1911, page 1. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

In the third paragraph of his essay on Frank Penton, the blog’s author wasn’t sure about Frank Penton’s sentence in the murder of George Warwick Allen: Although Frank Penton was not charged, his father Abner Penton was sentenced to four years in prison.

Abner Penton would later appealed his sentence to the Florida Supreme Court, but the December 13, 1912 issue of The Pensacola Journal reported Florida Supreme Court upheld Penton’s original sentence.

I’m hoping that perhaps the descendants of the Corbins or Pentons would have something about their ancestor’s interactions with Emmett from this and other cases (it turns out that Emmett prosecuted Frank more than once). If the information exists, I’d love to see it.

Percy’s Funeral

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On March 10, 1918, Emmett’s older brother Percy Brockenbrough Wilson died of tuberculosis.

Percy’s death, as reported in The Chipley Banner, March 1918.

 

Percy’s death, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1918, Vol 70, No. 14, page 1025. Source: Google Books

Percy was only 46 years old, a well-respected and admired community physician.

 

The quote on the headstone says: “We knew no sorrow, knew no grief, till that bright face was missed.” Source: Findagrave.com

Percy’s funeral was held one hundred years ago today, March 12, 1918, in Sneads, Florida. It was likely well attended by most of Percy’s family, although I wonder about Emmett’s attendance. If I could find a copy of the obituary from any of the Jackson County, Florida archives, it would tell us who was at the funeral. But according to the holdings records of the Library of Congress, and the holdings records for institutions that have archived Jackson County, Florida newspapers, a copy for this particular date doesn’t exist. (Percy’s descendants apparently don’t have a copy of the local obituary either — at least, not one known to them at this point. At least we have two obituary sources that provide some information — that’s better than nothing!)

Emmett was in end-stage alcoholism only weeks away from death, and mostly shunned by his siblings. Several articles from The Pensacola Journal mention Emmett’s presence at different local activities, so we know he was ambulatory and getting around, but may not have been in any condition to attend the funeral.

I tend to think family members may have simply asked Emmett to stay away.

And Emmett, who himself shunned family dramatics, who himself probably didn’t want to face his family members anymore, would have complied.

When Caring Turns Ugly

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As I read this wonderful and insightful post, I thought of Emmett and those close to him, who probably tried to save him from himself.

I thought of Jennie Kehoe, and Emmett’s sister, Katie Meade, who probably felt the weight of their compassion as impossibly heavy at times.

Bert Fulks

Are you exhausted from worrying about someone?  Weighed down from constantly carrying them in your heart?

Okay, friends.  Huddle up.

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Emmett’s Regular Getaway

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Although the life and behavior of an alcoholic can be unpredictable, Emmett Wilson appears to have been a man of regular habits, especially when it came to his annual vacation.

The Gulf View Inn, 1910. Source: The Panama City Pilot, July 28, 1910, p.1

Every year, on or about the first week of August, Emmett would go to St. Andrews or Panama City for two weeks. When there was room available, he would stay with either the J. Walter Kehoe family, who would rent a cottage in Panama City for several weeks, or he would stay at the Gulf View Inn.

Advertisement of the Gulf View Inn’s room rates, from the March 17, 1910 issue of the Panama City Pilot, page 4.

Two weeks was pretty much the upper limit of Emmett’s vacation time, as he was a busy lawyer. Emmett would take a steamer, primarily The Manteo, from Pensacola to Panama City.

Emmett on the steamer Manteo, August 1908. Source: The Pensacola Journal

What’s interesting about Emmett is that while he was considered a well-connected lawyer and politician who’s job it was to see and be seen, to be out and about in circulation, I get the feeling that he really wasn’t comfortable in all that circulation, that he had to force himself to be social, to interact, to make public speeches.

It wasn’t that Emmett was unable; but it seems that he was uncomfortable being in the public eye so much. He had to have known that the legal profession would necessitate social/public circulation, and he had to have known that would certainly be the case if he got into politics — but Emmett was an accidental politician — a last-minute substitution by the Florida Democratic Party when Judge Charles Parkhill suddenly withdrew from the race for the third congressional district on January 6, 1912.

The Pensacola Journal, January 6, 1912

Emmett on vacation, again during the first week of August, in 1912. Source: The Pensacola Journal

So of course, by the time August rolled around, Emmett would relish his time by himself, with just his fishing gear, a camp stool (and maybe a bottle of Scotch), deep in appreciation for the quite moments away from the crazy reality of his life.