Chapter 58: An Interview with Cephas

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Outside the Law Office of Cephas L. Wilson
Courthouse Square
Marianna, Florida
August 3, 1902

Cephas Love Wilson, Jr.; about 1899. Source: State Archives of Florida.

You want to know about my kid brother? Well…let me think…

Before Emmett moved in with us this summer, I didn’t see him that often except for the occasional visit; Chipley is about 20 miles down the road, and I travel about the state on the legal circuit.  And I’m 14 years older than Emmett, so we weren’t that close growing up. But Emmett has good friends here. Lula is fond of him; she sees him as a younger, more trustworthy and moral version of me. She wishes I had more of Emmett’s qualities.

But then, if I were more like Emmett, I tell her, I’d probably still be single.

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The Wilsons lived in Toledo Settlement, Punta Gorda, British Honduras (now Belize). They emigrated from the Port of New Orleans to Belize City; then traveled by ox cart down to Punta Gorda. There were few roads; this was not an easy move for this family. Source: http://www.scf.usc.edu

My earliest memory of Emmett? It was when he and Julian were born, in Belize. It was hot and uncomfortable then; a miserable, intemperate environment. The insects were huge. Father was always off busy, treating someone, either a Caribe or a member of our community. Mother had a particularly hard time; she’d been through a lot, before the move to Central America, and while she had family members and friends with her, it was no grand plantation or grand house, as she had been used to as a girl. Mother was a strong woman; had strong character and definite opinions. But cheerful, positive.

Emmett and Julian were born one day before Mother’s birthday. She called the twins her birthday present. She and Emmett were particularly close; he looked like her, but more to the point, he is also a lot like Grandfather Maxwell. People have said Emmett is definitely cut from the same cloth as Grandfather. They are very much alike in terms of mannerisms, behavior, looks, even. Grandfather is more social, though; more comfortable around people, especially women. Emmett, well, he’s still young. He’s more of a loner; keeps to the same small set of friends. Emmett just needs to be introduced to more prominent, more popular people. The right people.

While Emmett and I have not been close growing up, I have gotten to know him better in recent years, especially since he has been clerking for me the past summer.

Source: The Chipley Banner, May 1902.

I know Emmett enjoys listening to political discussions and he is interested in becoming a judge one day; he’s thoughtful, analytical. I see a lot of potential in him.

He’s told me that he is interested in studying law, that he wants to be a judge like Grandfather. Emmett would probably be a good judge one day: He respects, even likes and appreciates the law, and finds it comfortable where others would find it frustrating and confusing now and again. Not so, Emmett. The more challenging the precedent or the legal problem, the more energized he becomes.

I also know that Emmett wants to be something else, something bigger than he is at this moment, and somewhere else other than Chipley. I can understand that. I was like that too, when I was 17 and clerking for Judge W.O. Butler in Chipley.

For years, I’ve watched Emmett sit on the periphery of discussion circles on Father’s front porch, or in the parlor, or even here, in Marianna, when Lula and I would host family gatherings. Emmett likes to sit off to the side, almost by himself, just listening. He never says much, but then, he was never asked to jump into the conversation — not that I think his point of view wouldn’t have been seriously considered. Emmett never just randomly jumps into anything, even into conversation.

With Emmett, you have to understand, it isn’t about the text with him, it’s the subtext. When he does speak, it is well thought-out, not a ventilation of emotion or charged speech, or unprepared.

I think one day he might become a very good lawyer; especially, if he could master public speaking. But, he’s awkward and uncomfortable speaking before a group; even a very small one made up of those who know him well. He’d rather not draw attention to himself. I’ve told him that if he, indeed, wishes to become a judge like Grandfather, he’d have to overcome the fear of public speaking, and find a way to be effective, even if he feels terrified on the inside. A poor public speaker will never make it to the bench, even if he is excellent with the law. He’d have to master that fear at the get-go; an audience cannot see that you are afraid.

But, with Emmett, it is a little more than fear; Emmett just isn’t interested in things superficial, or social just to be social. If he wants to have a successful political career — which he will need if he wishes to become a judge — he has to get out among society, circulate, do the small talk, perhaps flirt with women single and married (as married women can influence their menfolk), promote himself. Emmett finds all of that false and insincere, which it is, truth be told. But, that is the way it is done, I tell him.

Perhaps with time, and practice, Emmett will become more comfortable speaking in public, in social settings. We can certainly help him that way.

I see a lot of myself in my younger brother: Ambition. Intelligence. Good looks. Good connections.

But Emmett has something I didn’t have at his age: An opportunity to go to college. I’ve always wanted to go to University; it sends a message of prestige and position, and it is the best way to make lifelong professional connections, if you do it correctly. In my view, if Emmett could make friends with the son of Florida’s secretary of state, that would be more than ample return on the family’s investment in his education. But Emmett doesn’t consider that suitable.

Emmett has something else I don’t have: Integrity. He’s the most honest person I know, and while that’s laudable, it can be a liability in a political career, especially if you take it to heart, as Emmett does. He’ll have to learn how to manage that sometime, else I think it could destroy him from the inside out.

Augustus Maxwell Wilson, oldest son of Dr. F.C. and Elizabeth Wilson. Source: Florida Memory.com

I make it no secret that I wish to be the Governor of Florida. My friends know it. My family, too. I know I can’t get there by myself; a family dynasty, like that of my Grandfather’s family, the Maxwells, is the key. I once thought Max would be an asset in building up the Wilson dynasty, linked as we are to the Maxwells…but Max is unstable. He’s become a bit of a laughingstock, and while he is a state representative this term, I’ve had to be careful, almost to distance myself from him. But I can’t do that; he’s my brother, and to do so sends the message of divisiveness in our own house.

But with Emmett…if he is given the proper opportunity, the proper guidance and grooming…yes. I see great potential with Emmett. That’s why I’m willing to invest in him — time and funds. I see in Emmett a chance to build a partner, a team. A dynasty.

Emmett’s ambitious. I see it in him. That, I believe, will be the key to helping him get over his fear of public speaking.

He once told me that he wants to be like Grandfather — a former U.S. Congressman, State Supreme Court Justice. I think Emmett has the capacity for both, in time.

There are other things to work on, but if I encourage his ambition, show him what heights he could rise to if he let me help him — we’d help each other. He’ll achieve his goal; I’ll achieve mine. The Wilsons will be a political dynasty, a continuation of the Maxwell political dynasty. It is all possible.

And we can make it happen.

Chapter 52: Walter Steps In

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October 23, 2018
The University of Maryland, McKeldin Library
College Park, MD

[Reposted from here.]

We all have that one friend who we know we can turn to, no matter what, no matter the time of day. The friend who knows us better than our spouses (sometimes). The friend who loves us for who we are, who accepts us, unconditionally.

There aren’t many people in our lives who fit that bill. If we are lucky, we’ve had this kind of friendship at least once.

This was Emmett’s closest friend. J. Walter Kehoe.  Although Emmett’s childhood friend, Paul Carter, remained close to Emmett, they drifted apart after Emmett moved to Pensacola in 1906, and his law/political career took off.

J. Walter Kehoe in 1917. Kehoe, Emmett’s law partner, also succeeded him in Congress. Source: Wikipedia.com

Paul and Emmett were always friends, whereas Walter started out as a mentor to Emmett, and remained close to Emmett until Emmett’s death (although the relationship with Walter became estranged at the end).

But this was more than a mentoring relationship. Emmett lived with the Kehoe family between 1906-1918, except for a two-year period, when Emmett was ‘baching it’ in a boarding house with friends (1909-1910). It was more like Emmett was a member of the Kehoe family. Indeed, Kehoe’s great-grandson Mike once told me in a telephone interview that his grandparents, Walter and Jennie Jenkins Kehoe, “thought the world of Emmett. That’s why they named their youngest son and my favorite uncle, for him.”

Walter and Emmett’s older brother, Cephas, were law partners in Marianna for several years before Walter was named States’ Attorney around 1902, and moved to Pensacola. (As luck would have it with Emmett, Cephas’ law practice now had an opening — and in two years, when Emmett graduated from Stetson University, he became Cephas’ junior law partner.) Walter, therefore, knew Emmett since boyhood; knew his character, his intelligence, his potential — Walter knew and saw the REAL Emmett Wilson — the Emmett Wilson pre-alcoholic disaster.

Emmett’s ‘home address’ is actually the Kehoe’s address. Also, that’s the Kehoe’s phone number. Emmett didn’t have his own, separate line. Source: Ancestry.com

As with any ‘family’ relationship, it was loving, frustrating,  agonizing, painful — but it was honest — and the relationship between Emmett and Walter was one of the few consistencies in Emmett’s life.

Even though I know Walter and Jennie Kehoe were good to Emmett — Emmett was always treated as if he was a member of the Kehoe family — Walter had political aspirations too, and knew that a partnership with the Wilsons (Cephas primarily, but if not with Cephas, then Emmett) would likely propel him into the United States Congress, which was Walter’s ultimate goal. Walter’s continued partnership with Cephas was preferred for obvious reasons: Emmett was a neophyte in 1906, when he moved to Pensacola, an alcoholic, and immature on several levels. But the idea then (as now, sometimes) was that with a consistent home, and maybe a good woman to make it happen, Emmett would straighten up, stop drinking (or at least curtail it), settle down, and everyone’s political/power dreams would be realized.

Walter and Jennie did their best to help Emmett settle down — they even went so far as to introduce Emmett to ‘suitable’ women, and at one point, pushed, er, encouraged him strongly, to ask one young woman from Columbus, Georgia they deemed suitable to marry him. This was no grand passion or true love story between Emmett and Miss Georgia. Perhaps if it was, Emmett may have capitulated. But Emmett was inconsistent. And Miss Georgia was canny enough to realize that Emmett was too much of a project, and not her type. Besides, her Anti-Saloon League President father would certainly not welcome Emmett into the family.

Walter’s role in Emmett’s life is interesting, starting with his conversation with Emmett during Jennings’ Inauguration. Stay tuned for more on their story.

 

 

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.

 

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