The Runaway Incident

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Friends, I’m happy to report that I’ve hit a treasure-trove of new information on Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., oldest son of Cephas Love Wilson Sr., Emmett’s closest sibling, law partner, and executor of his estate. I’m thrilled with the amount of information I’ve turned up; not only does it shed light on Emmett’s nephew, but interestingly, it informs the personality of Emmett’s brother. That’s important, because Cephas Sr. was a surrogate father to Emmett, at least until Emmett graduated from law school in 1904.

This is a big find because it confirms my understanding of Cephas Sr.’s behavior, in terms of expectations he had for those he wanted to help him build the Wilson family dynasty. And, it confirms my understanding of the power struggles among the Wilson brothers. More on that later.

First, I’d like to share a very interesting article that I unearthed unexpected the other day — when I was looking for something else, naturally!

Check it out:

Lula was likely scared out of her wits. Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., the baby, was less than a month old. Source: The Chipley Banner, August 25, 1894.

Can you imagine what that must have been like?

Here’s Lula, with a one-month old baby, probably just out for her first drive since she had Cephas Jr. A brand-new mother out with her brand-new baby, probably making calls on friends in Chipley that Saturday afternoon. In fact, Lula, the baby, and Cephas Sr. were on their way to St. Andrews for a week’s vacation. They decided to stop in Chipley for a few days to visit with family, to show off their son.

This was Dr. Wilson’s buggy. Here, Dr. Wilson is posed in front of the Butler house in Chipley, likely on a house call. This is also probably the same buggy that Lula drove when the horse was spooked. Background on this photo: It was a copy given to me by a direct descendant of the Butler family in Chipley; I am not certain who has the original, but there are contemporary prints (large, matted) in existence. I obtained one from a contact in Pensacola, Lucy Gray; I gave that matted print to Emmett’s 99-year-old niece. 

Lula probably put Baby Cephas in a basket, right there in the front, on the floorboard of the buggy. And suddenly — the horse takes off!

The streets of Chipley were not paved in 1894, but they were dirt roads, probably uneven, possibly rutted, especially if she was on or about Main Street, where large wagons and cattle passed through. The short article doesn’t give much attention to the fact that this was a truly dangerous situation, especially with a horse racing through a busy town, over an uneven, hard road. It says, ‘no one hurt,’ but Lula and the baby could have easily been killed.

And I can imagine what this might have been like for Lula: She was probably panicking, her heart racing, calling for help as the horse literally tore down the road. I can also imagine Lula anxiously pulling back on the reins, desperate to slow the horse, while frantically trying to keep the basket steady with her feet. “Dear God,” she must have prayed out loud, “please keep us safe!

We don’t know if Lula was able to stop the buggy herself, or if some of the townsmen chased and eventually overtook the buggy, escorting them back to the Wilson’s house on 6th Street. It seems most likely that a Good Samaritan helped her, though; she would have been frightened out of her wits, maybe unsteady, and appreciative for assistance in case the horse was spooked again on the way home. It also seems likely that the Good Samaritan told the tale among the neighbors once all was back to normal, and word got back around to the editor of The Chipley Banner.

And, in later days and weeks, as she held Cephas Jr. close to her, perhaps rocking him to sleep at the end of the day, Lula would probably reflect back to this moment.

Before I found this article, I have long believed that Lula and Cephas Jr. always had a close relationship; i.e., Cephas Jr. wasn’t a ‘Mama’s boy,’ but he and his mother they shared many interests, and had a good rapport. (Interestingly, I don’t this was the case between Lula and Kathleen Wilson, Cephas Jr.’s younger sister.) Now that I’ve seen this, I wonder if this near-miss helped foster the protective, close relationship Lula always seemed have with Cephas Jr.

I’d love to hear from any of Cephas Jr.’s descendants about this.

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I’ll continue my report on the new information about Cephas Love Wilson Jr. over the next few days.

 

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Spring Cleaning

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On Tuesday, I posted final grades for the spring semester of my classes. Typically, I take the week in between spring and summer semesters to clean out files, finish last minute prep work, and and prepare for the next set of classes.

In addition, I decided to do some Emmett Wilson spring cleaning. I’m going through ALL of the articles, resources, references, images, and notes collected over the past four years. It’s great re-acquainting myself with what I’ve collected.

My organization strategy has been twofold: First, because most of the information about Emmett comes from specific sources, I organized each item by year and title of publication or name of source. Second, I created a timeline for Emmett’s life, and broke it down into four different time periods. In each timeline entry, I note the date, the event, and the location in my files of my source. There’s over 6,000 entries to-date. Booyah!

Reviewing the files also gives me a great sense of relief and control, especially since this has turned out to be a much larger — and incredibly more rewarding! — project than originally anticipated in 2013. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the scope of it.

Another great benefit of going through the files is finding interesting oddball things I saved when I first started Emmett’s project —

This, for example:

D-I_V-O-R-C-E, 1916-style. Source: University of West Florida Archives

Source: University of West Florida Archives

This letter wasn’t written by Emmett or Cephas Wilson; I’m not sure who wrote it; I found it as a loose document in the Blount family archive records at the University of West Florida.

I saved it because during this time Lula Wiselogel Wilson filed divorce papers against her husband, Cephas Wilson, according to a family genealogy. The genealogy did not say why the papers were filed against Cephas, but a quote in the genealogy from Berta Daniel Wilson (no relation to Emmett Wilson, but a neighbor of Dr. Francis C. Wilson family in Chipley) was interviewed about it and was quoted in the genealogy saying that Lula had filed the papers and, “…the gossip was terrible at the time.”

For what it is worth: Lula never went through with the divorce, but knowing that Lula was a force to be reckoned with, she probably could prove items #3 and #4!

 

Judge Francis Beauregard Carter

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Our next article based on the Smithwick Businessman’s Roundtable of 1907  is on Judge Francis Beauregard Carter.

Judge Francis Beauregard Carter, about 1901. Source: Florida Memory

Judge Carter’s an interesting subject;  I believe he’s worthy of his own biography — I’ll tell you why at the end of this essay.

The two best sources of information on Carter are 1) the archival files at the University of West Florida, specifically, the Beggs & Lane Collection, and 2) The Supreme Court of Florida and Its Predecessor Courts, 1821-1917, published by the University Press of Florida.

My personal copy; excellent resource.

Carter was born on August 12, 1861, and educated in Marianna’s public schools. According to Manley, et al., Carter began his professional life doing something other than law; he was a printer. It stands to reason that Carter likely worked at one of the two newspapers in Marianna during that time: The Marianna Patriot, or The Marianna Courier, (the paper later became the Marianna Times-Courier).

Carter got his start in law in the early 1880s when Benjamin Sullivan Liddon, an up-and-coming Marianna attorney, needed help getting his new law practice off the ground. Carter was known locally as a smart, diligent, hardworking young man, and Liddon recognized Carter as a diamond-in-the-rough. Liddon invited Carter to read law with him; as a result, the professional relationship flourished, and Carter was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1882. Soon after, Liddon and Carter formed a law partnership in Marianna.

Carter married Margaret Dickson in 1885; they had eight children.

Margaret and Francis B. Carter. Undated. Source: Florida Memory

Carter served as Mayor of Marianna, and was active in the Democratic party political scene; a presidential elector in 1896 (cast his ballot for “The Great Commoner,” William Jennings Bryan). Emmett’s brother, Cephas L. Wilson, who was Mayor of Marianna in 1897, encouraged Carter’s nomination to Governor William D. Bloxham to the Florida Supreme Court.

Carter served as a Florida Supreme Court Justice from 1897 to 1905.  He was widely respected, and had a reputation as the most studious man on the court. Manley writes that Carter considered running for governor but his wife was not fond of Tallahassee; instead, he accepted the judgeship of the First Circuit Court in Pensacola.

This is where our story picks up from the Smithwick luncheon: Carter has been in Pensacola for almost two years and has established his practice and reconnected with his old law partner, Benjamin Liddon, now also living in Pensacola.

A private party for certain members of The Pensacola Bar.
Source: The Pensacola Journal, February 20, 1907,

What’s interesting is that everyone at this luncheon has been living in Pensacola for less than two years. Emmett and the Crawford brothers are less than three years out of law school — they’re the kids at the adult table. Carter likely knew Emmett since he was a boy, living and working with big brother Cephas as his junior partner in Marianna.

I don’t have a transcript or notes about what was discussed at this luncheon, but three of the folks at the table eventually run for — and serve as — U.S. Congressman for the Third District of Florida. The decision to run for office, at least what I know of Emmett Wilson, was not something done on the fly.

Everyone at this table had political aspirations in 1907 — I just wonder what groundwork for the future campaigns was probably laid in between the salads and the main course at this ‘delightfully informal luncheon’?

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Judge Carter eventually stepped down to return to private practice. He became a partner in the firm Blount, Blount & Carter as a partner, he remained active in Democratic politics for the rest of his life. (Manley, et al., 337). Judge Carter died January 9, 1937, and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Marianna.

Source: Find-a-grave.com

When I mentioned at the start that I think he’s worthy of his own biography, it is because of something I found in one of the archival boxes when I was at the University of West Florida over a year ago; namely, an essay titled, “The Legend of the Blue Spring.”

Unfortunately, I did not think to read it or copy it  (as I was in search of Emmett Wilson-specific items when I was on campus). But when I find examples of creative writing in what is otherwise a stuffy-appearing box of legal records and letters, it makes me wonder what kind of guy Carter really was underneath the surface. It makes me want to know more about the person, and what else we can learn from his story.

Was Carter a closet poet? A novelist? Maybe he used a pen name?

Like I said — Carter is worthy of his own biography.

Manley, W.W., et al. and Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, The Supreme Court of Florida and Its Predecessor Courts, 1821-1917, University Press of Florida, 1997