Emmett’s Secretaries: B.A. Murphy

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When I started tracking down Emmett’s secretaries, I didn’t know what to expect. Mostly I started looking for Emmett’s secretaries because I hit a brick wall with Emmett himself (there’s very little primary information from him). At present, I’ve found as much as I can about and from Emmett’s siblings and their descendants, and I’ve tracked down as many of Emmett’s close friends and their descendants as I can to-date.

Still, I feel like there may be more to find about Emmett’s personal story — so what better source than Emmett’s support staff? The tricky part would be finding them. But if Emmett’s secretarial staff were good, they’d have kept attorney’s day books and office journals. It’s a long shot, but worth it to track these folks down. Where to start? Public records.

Who Was B.A. Murphy?

If you recall from an earlier post, Emmett moved to Pensacola in September 1906, after his disappointing tenure as Nick Van Sant’s law partner in Sterling, Illinois. At this point, Emmett was starting his career over, for the third time in as many years. But because Emmett was well connected, he didn’t have to wait long to find a good job.

Emmett didn’t even apply for the position, yet he got it. Surprise? Source: The Montgomery Advertiser, September 14, 1907, from GenealogyBank.com

This good job came with administrative help. Because Emmett was basically given the job, he’d have been advised about whom to bring along as his top administrative assistant. According to the Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States for 1909, Emmett’s administrative assistant was B.A. Murphy.

Source: Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States, 1909. Published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. Source: Google Books

But to be perfectly candid, when I first saw the secretary’s name, I immediately thought: Youngish fellow, probably didn’t go to college, wearing a dark suit. Despite my best intentions, I dug into the research with dreaded preconceived notions.

And boy, was I ever WRONG!

Meet B.A. Murphy

Youngish fellow? Oh hell no — although — granted, I was initially thrown off with my first information from the obituary/cemetery search:

How many women in 1908 used a male-sounding name? Bertha went by “Bert”. Bert Murphy. Photo by Earth Angel of Find-a-grave.com

 

Rather, this is a portrait of an interesting, ambitious young woman who overcame major social and economic barriers that I take for granted in the 21st century to become a successful, independent woman.

Meet Bertha A. “Bert” Murphy, 1876-1967.

Bertha was lived and was educated in Roberts, Escambia County, Florida public schools. She graduated from high school (probably in Roberts, although I have not officially confirmed that to date), and went right into one of the few available/acceptable job markets for single young women in 1900: Education.

The U.S. Census for 1900 lists Bertha, age 23, as a teacher in Roberts, Escambia County, Florida, and living in her parent’s home along with her siblings Gerald (a log-scaler), Pearl (in school at present, but who would later become a nurse-anesthesiologist), Clifford (a stenographer) and Ruby. Bertha’s father, W.H. Murphy, was a saw mill owner.

Roberts, Florida is in the blue oval; a bit of a schlep to Pensacola back in the day of dirt roads and horse-drawn wagons. Source: University of South Florida

Bertha was probably thankful she lived at home with her family, as public school teachers in Florida earned (on average) $5-10 a month in 1900, but Bertha had bigger plans for herself. She was smart and ambitious; there were bigger fish to fry in Pensacola, and that’s where we find her next, in 1906.

Bertha is a notary public and a stenographer, working in the law offices of Maxwell and Reeves. Source: The Pensacola Journal, October 27, 1906, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Yep — that’s Maxwell and Reeves, as in, Emmett’s uncle, Judge Evelyn C. Maxwell. The same uncle who offered Emmett a job (or, at least a desk) in late September, 1906, when he moved back to Florida after the Illinois experiment. Emmett and Bertha, then, knew each other and worked together. She must have been a pretty damn good stenographer, then, for Maxwell to have (most likely) recommended Emmett offer Bertha a second job as his clerk when Emmett was made assistant district attorney in 1907. Bertha held down that second position as a clerk in the district attorney’s office until 1909.

Additionally, per the Pensacola City Directories, Bertha continued to work as a stenographer for Judge Maxwell until 1910, biding her time, building her experience, making important connections.

B.A. Murphy, in partnership with Minnie Kehoe, running a school!  Source: The Pensacola Journal, June 16, 1912, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

And Bertha was never, ever, what one would call a slacker:

Bertha consistently maintains her notary public bond most of her life She’s definitely self-sufficient. Source: The Pensacola Journal, March 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

and, she dabbled in real estate.

Bertha owes back taxes on property in Pensacola. But I don’t believe she was in trouble. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

Here’s the reason why I don’t believe Bertha was in any kind of financial trouble:

Bertha made a personal $50 cash donation to this cause. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

If Bertha made a $50 donation towards an important charitable cause (which is something she did for most of her life, by the way), she was able to pay the delinquent taxes on her property  ($50 in 1911 is equivalent to $1,221 today). She was doing quite well for herself, thankyouverymuch.

[Meanwhile, our Emmett was working in Walter Kehoe’s office (he and Walter weren’t law partners yet; rather, Emmett was ‘renting’ or borrowing space in Walter’s office, and had been appointed States’ Attorney in 1911. Emmett appeared to be working hard (and I believe he was), but when I think about how Bertha was literally building her professional foundation brick-by-brick, solid, it feels like Emmett’s foundation was flimsy and ‘temporary,’ based on the fact that pretty much all of his opportunities were given to him. Nothing was ‘given’ to Bertha, really, or to Minnie Kehoe, which is why I admire these two women so much. But I digress.]

Fast forward eight years to May 18, 1919.

Emmett has been dead almost a year.

And Bertha?

Bertha is in the Big Apple. Source: The Pensacola Journal, May 18, 1919, via chroniclingamerica.gov

Bertha eventually moved back to Pensacola between 1924 and 1927, a full-fledged realtor. It’s unclear if she had much success in the lumber business, but she appears to have done well with real-estate. Bertha shows up in the U.S. Censi for 1930, 1935, and 1940 as a realtor, and residing with her mother and siblings at 1906 E. Strong Street.

Here’s the last available census information on Bertha, the 1945 Florida State Census:

Bertha and her siblings in 1945. She’s still a realtor. Brother Gerald is a salesperson and divorced; Pearl is an anesthesiologist, Stella (a sister-in-law; widow of Clifford) keeps house, and Askin (a nephew; son of Clifford) is a clerk. Source: Ancestry.com

That’s all I was able to find about Bertha. She died in 1967, and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Pensacola, along with her siblings.

I would love to find a photo of Bertha, or read one of her letters or journals — and I would love to find out if she had ever written anything in a journal or letter about her experiences working with Emmett.

 

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Secretarial Musings

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I often wonder what kind of employee or boss Emmett was?

Was he considerate and competent? Quiet and hardworking?

A lunch-stealing backstabbing jerk, perhaps?

An excellent source of information on Emmett-as-colleague would be the office records — a desk calendar, case files, or even an office journal. I don’t doubt that Emmett kept records such as these himself. Unfortunately, Emmett’s office records do not exist anymore.

But what if one of his secretaries kept those records?

And what if they exist?

Tracking down office secretaries were with not much to go on was a real challenge — but guess what? I’ve identified five secretaries who either worked with Emmett directly, or as part of Emmett’s law practice!

Here’s the list of secretaries who worked with Emmett while he was a lawyer, district attorney, state’s attorney, and U.S. Congressman:

Bertha A (Bert) Murphy — 1905-08 — Maxwell & Wilson, Clerk for Asst. U.S. Attorney

Minnie Kehoe — 1906-1908 — Kehoe & Smithwick

Nellie Mills — 1914-1915 — Stenographer at the San Carlos Hotel (Emmett lived there on and off between 1914-1915 when Congress was out of session, et cetera)

Jefferson Davis Stephens — 1913-1917 — U.S. Congress

Hilda Dahlstrom Beall — 1910-1914 — Kehoe & Wilson; U.S. Congress (temporary)

Alas, this is not yet a complete list: I haven’t yet identified the secretary for Judge Daniel J. Jones (Emmett was Jones’ clerk in 1902), the secretary for Cephas’ office (Emmett was a junior partner at Wilson & Wilson between 1904 and 1905), or the secretary for Van Sant and Wilson (1905-1906).

It is possible that Emmett might have been the secretary for Jones’ or Cephas’ law offices while he was just starting out, but I don’t think so.

Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

I know Emmett did clerical work for Judge Jones, but it wasn’t consistent, and Emmett didn’t know shorthand.  He had little experience as a law clerk, and Judge Jones has a busy and thriving practice in Washington County, Florida. In fact, it was after a six-month stint at Jones’ office that Emmett was sent to Pensacola to take stenography courses at Meux’s Business College.

And while Cephas loved and supported his brother, he was not fool enough to trust his established law firm records to a younger sibling with an inconsistent work and academic record, who was just starting out.

I’ll introduce the secretaries over the next several posts.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to dig around for information on who may have been the secretaries for Judge Jones and Cephas Wilson between 1900 and 1905. I have a few leads on the Van Sant & Wilson secretary that I want to explore. (Spoiler Alert: One of the secretaries DID keep a journal! And yeah — I have a copy of it!)

Filling in Blanks About Cephas Love Wilson Jr.

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In my last post, we found Cephas Jr. back home in Marianna post recovery from a throat injury he received while he was stationed in France in 1919.

According to the U.S. Census for 1920, Cephas Jr. had moved back in with his parents and had a job as a ‘presser’ in a shop, possibly a laundry business, upon his return to Marianna.

Last year, I wrote about Cephas Jr. and his first marriage to Mamie (or Mary) Gertrude Baker, and the fact that Cephas and Mamie had one daughter, Shirley. Although I haven’t heard from any family members or descendants about Cephas Jr. to date, I have been able to fill in some of the blanks.

After the 1920 Census, my next source of information is an article in The Washington Times, dated February 8, 1922, announcing a marriage license between Cephas Jr. and Mamie Baker.

From The Washington Times, February 8, 1922. Source: GenealogyBank.com

So — Cephas, as of sometime in 1921,  was back in Washington, D.C. How do I guess that?

The 1922 D.C. City Directory, in which data was collected in 1921 for this to be published in early 1922. Ceph Jr. is working at a pharmacy, and lives on K Street. Source: Ancesrty.com

I wonder how Cephas and Mamie met? Is it possible she was a nurse at Walter Reed, and the two of them met there, fell in love? (Yep, I’m trying to track that down — but it is a distinct possibility, because I’ve found information indicating she was a nurse. Still trying to confirm it, though!) Cephas was in the hospital for a long time. Mamie was from Silver Spring, Maryland (a suburb of D.C.). Walter Reed is not far from the D.C./Maryland state line… I don’t like to speculate. But, it looks like this may have been how they met.

Less than a year later:

Birth of daughter Shirley, January 23, 1923, in The Washington Evening Star. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The next item found about Cephas Jr. was in the 1925 D.C. City Directory:

Cephas Jr. is now a salesman, living in an apartment at 1725 17th St. NW. Source: Ancestry.com

I believe Mamie died sometime between 1925 and 1930 — and 1930 was a big year of change for Cephas Jr., because we find him in two different places. First, he’s listed in the 1930 D.C. City Directory, but he doesn’t live in D.C. anymore:

He’s a mechanic — makes sense, since he was with the 1st Engineers during World War I. But, it isn’t his true vocation. Source: ancestry.com

Notice that he’s in Alexandria? That’s because he — and baby Shirley — had likely moved in with Emmett and Cephas Sr.’s sister, Katie Wilson Meade, who lived in Alexandria.

This was only temporary, though, because Cephas and his daughter, Shirley, are also listed in the 1930 U.S. Census as living with his grandparents, the Wiselogels, in Marianna (Cephas Jr.’s mother had remarried, to John Grether, and was now living in Jacksonville).

Ceph Jr. and daughter, Shirley, living in Marianna as of the date of this census, April 2, 1930. Source: Ancestry.com

The rest of the story after 1930 is found here.

For now, this is everything I have about Cephas Love Wilson Jr. I’d love to have a more comprehensive story, especially about whatever happened to Shirley, and if Cephas Jr. had any of his photographs or artwork published anywhere else. If any family members stumble across this information, I’m happy to share what data I’ve gathered.

In Search of Himself

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Continuing our story about Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. from here:

We next find Cephas Jr. and his father, Cephas Love Wilson Sr., visiting Emmett in Pensacola:

The roster of the San Carlos for May 11, 1911. From The Pensacola Journal, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Another clue of what’s going on, as reported on page 3 of the May 11, 1911 issue of The Pensacola Journal, from ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Cephas Jr., age 17, should still be enrolled at Marianna High School, but he appears to be clerking in his father’s law firm. It’s a logical leap — at this point, Cephas Sr. still has dreams of living in the Governor’s mansion, and of building a Wilson-family political dynasty. Cephas Sr. and the Florida Democratic party are in the process of moving potential candidates for U.S. Congress around on their chess board. Emmett is being groomed for a Congressional run; and so, why wouldn’t Cephas Sr. decide to groom his namesake for further Wilson family prominence?

But what were Cephas Jr.’s dreams?

Without any of his actual letters or anecdotes from family members, it is hard to tell, but if we observe his actions as they were written about in contemporary media, we see that he loved music, he loved photography, and he was a gifted artist (much like his mother, Lula). We get the picture (no pun intended).

Here’s why I believe Cephas Jr. was clerking for his father (keep in mind by this point, 1912, Cephas Jr. is 18 years old):

Catalog of the University of Florida, 1912-1913. From Archive.org

Cephas Jr. is a junior in the College of Law at the University of Florida in Gainesville — an upperclassman. So, when did he finish high school?

I don’t doubt Cephas Jr. was intelligent. But it is dubious that he’d go right from high school into advanced academic standing that quickly. There were definitely several strings pulled for Cephas Jr., by his father. Cephas Sr. only wanted the very best for his son, and he knew what it took to get there in 1912 — a law degree. It’s natural he’d want his son and namesake to have similar aspirations, and at least similar professional success.

But law school? I sense that was Cephas Sr’s dream, not his son’s, because otherwise, why wouldn’t Cephas Sr. encourage a vocation in the fine arts?

Cephas Jr.’s definitely there, ready or not. Here’s another source listing Cephas Jr. in the junior law class of The Seminole for 1913. Source: University of Florida archive

Cephas Jr. threw himself into campus social activities, also likely at the encouragement of his father. Source: 1913 Seminole; University of Florida archive.

Source: 1913 Seminole, University of Florida archive

Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. Source: 1913 Seminole, University of Florida archive.

Compare this photo of Cephas Jr. to his father, below. Striking resemblance, isn’t it?

Cephas Love Wilson Sr., about 1910. Striking resemblance between father and son, down to the bow tie.

As I go through the clips, I get the feeling that Cephas Jr. wasn’t happy at The University of Florida. I don’t believe it had anything to do with his intelligence, or ability to do the work: He just didn’t want to be a lawyer. Cephas Jr. was being pushed to do something he wasn’t ready or willing to do — similar to what happened with Uncle Emmett.

Fast forward to April 1913:

Cephas Jr. is home. Is this when he told his father he wasn’t cut out for law school? April 13, 1913 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Cephas Jr. moved back home at the end of the Spring, 1913 semester, and apparently got a job with the local newspaper as a photographer. He never finished his degree at the University of Florida, and he spent the next few years in search of a way to market his talents:

Cartoonists Magazine, Volume 2, 1916. Source: Archive.org

And an article in the Marianna Times-Courier for 1917 mentioned that he had a job playing the piano in the local movie theatre. Cephas Jr. is clearly not sitting around twiddling his thumbs; but, he was working in a variety of different jobs to earn a living. It is unlikely he went back to work for his father.

Then — the U.S. entered World War I, and things changed for Cephas Jr.

I’ll continue with his story in a few days.

Telecommunication

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What’s the first thing most folks would do in an emergency, if you had to let family members know that you were injured in an accident, or seriously ill?

You’d call them. And, more likely than not, you’d probably connect with them almost immediately.

Thanks to the miracle of modern telecommunication — we’re always accessible to other human beings at any time of the day or night. And it’s economical. I don’t give a second thought about the economics of calling my sister (who lives on the other side of the country) during the day: I just pick up the phone. But back in the 70s and 80s, I can remember having to wait until 5 or 6 pm to make a call to a friend who lived in the next county, because the rates would be lower.

(Aside: Here’s an interesting and informative article on the cultural shifts that telephones have brought over the past 100 years. The focus of the article is how the telephones have been depicted in film, but the historical background is well written.)

In Emmett’s day, and especially during his congressional service days (1913-1917) a telephone call (and in particular, a long distance call, as mentioned in the link above) was a big deal:

  • Telephones were still the accessories of the wealthy and upper-middle class by 1913.
  • Many communities, especially rural, were not completely (or consistently) wired for telephones.

Rural folks cutting telegraph and telephone lines for clothes lines. Priorities! Source: The Chipley Banner, February 18, 1899, p. 3 in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

  • Long distance calls were expensive, and you didn’t telephone someone long distance without a reason. [Some businesses charged $5 for three minutes (in 1913 dollars), which is the equivalent of $60 in 2017.]

I started thinking about this yesterday when I came across my notes about this event:

Source: The Pensacola Journal, December 21, 1914, page 1, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Here’s the background:

  • Emmett was admitted to Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. at least a week earlier.
  • He was unconscious and his kidneys had shut down; he also went into delirium tremens, which was (and is today) sometimes fatal.
  • The condition was so serious, both Cephas Love Wilson and Frank C. Wilson Jr. were summoned to his bedside in Washington, D.C. This was neither an inexpensive nor easy trip for either of Emmett’s brothers.

My question is, were they contacted by telephone or telegram?

I am leaning toward telegram, because although Cephas had a telephone in both his home and office, and would have been accessible, the officials at Providence Hospital would probably not have known that — and, likely they would have used the tried-and-true telegram.

The cost associated with making the phone call from Washington to Marianna would also have been time consuming, and quite expensive. It was simply more efficient and economical to get the telegram to Cephas ASAP. 

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Finally, take a look at the story that ran right below the article on Emmett’s brothers being summoned to Washington, D.C.:

Was the article on drinking an unfortunate placement or was the publisher sending a message? Source: The Pensacola Journal, December 21, 1914, page 1, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

At this point, Frank Mayes’ widow Lois Mayes was the publisher of The Pensacola Journal, and she was not a fan of Emmett’s. (The love-hate relationship between Frank Mayes and Emmett Wilson is an interesting story for another day.)

Lois, and the political movers-and-shakers of Pensacola, knew Emmett had a problem with alcohol. Most of Emmett’s colleagues and friends were now stepping away from him, tired of his behavior and wary of the professional fallout from associating with a known drunk.

Was the placement of this article on drinking an unfortunate coincidence or was it done on purpose?

 

Emmett’s Will

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One hundred years ago today, almost exactly a year to his death, Emmett wrote his will.

Emmett’s will, as it appears in the Florida probate documents. Filed June 1, 1918 by his brother, Cephas Love Wilson, executor. Source: Ancestry.com

I have a copy of Emmett’s original will; the document was typewritten by Emmett himself, on old Banking and Currency Committee stationery that he had saved from his tenure as a U.S. Congressman. Emmett edited and corrected the errors in the single-spaced document document himself, in pen.

Emmett’s original will wasn’t dictated to a secretary, nor was it signed by witnesses, nor was it notarized.

I believe he simply went into Walter’s office in downtown Pensacola (he wasn’t practicing anymore, but I’m sure Walter let him use the office, as they shared it once as partners), and borrowed a typewriter. I think it is particularly touching that he used his own paper — stationery from when he was at the top of his professional life — and wrote his will in solitude.

For a man who was, by now, dying of alcoholism, and likely in and out of clarity, Emmett appears to have thought out carefully how he wanted his few possessions dispersed. Emmett was solvent June 1, 1917 — the date he wrote the will — and he wanted to distribute his money and property (about $7,000) to Dr. F.C. Wilson, Jennie Kehoe, and Emmett Wilson Kehoe. According to the inflation calculator, $7,000 in Emmett’s time is about $133,400 today.

Unfortunately, by the day Emmett died, on May 29, 1918, he had run out of money and was borrowing against his life insurance policy to pay everyday bills — that’s according to a letter from Cephas, which was included in Emmett’s file in Pensacola. Somehow, Emmett went through all of his money (and then some) in a year.

It is amazing to me, during what must have been a terrible, emotional and psychological time for Emmett, that he got his affairs in order knowing for certain:

He wasn’t getting married.

He wasn’t going to have his own home.

There wasn’t going to be a new political career.

There wasn’t going to be a new law practice.

And, that the end was probably coming sooner rather than later.

Dissecting the Message, Part IV

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If you’re just now joining us, we’ve been dissecting a letter from Emmett’s brother and law partner, Cephas Love Wilson, addressed to his brother-in-law Emmett Augustus Meade (husband of Katie Wilson Meade), dated January 10, 1910 (here, here, and here). Today, we’re finishing up our analysis of the message itself.

Here’s the last section of Cephas’ letter:

lastsection

As mentioned in an earlier post about Katie Wilson Meade, two out of three of her children died in infancy: The first child was only 10 days old; the second, 10 months.

Francis Emmett Meade, age 10 months (left) and Emmett Augustus Meade, age 10 days right). Note the odd third footstone on the bottom right of the photo.

Francis Emmett Meade, age 10 months (left) and Emmett Augustus Meade, age 10 days right). Note the odd third footstone on the bottom right of the photo.

Katie’s granddaughter Elizabeth (who I met last year in Charlottesville) did not give a reason for the early deaths. I had the impression from Elizabeth that these were things never spoken about (much like Emmett Wilson’s alcohol addiction, or, the death of Katie’s mother, Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson): Painful memories were kept quiet, or, best forgotten. However, Elizabeth reminded me that Katie and Emmett Meade were first cousins, and that might have been a factor with at least one of the infant’s deaths.

For all that this was a large family fairly spread out across West Florida, and up the East Coast, they were tightly knit. I have several documented examples where Katie’s father, and the Wilson siblings, would drop anything and everything if one of their own’s lives was despaired of; Cephas’ comment in the letter is not just a pleasantry.

Finally, the handwritten comment in the margin of the original letter is wonderful and poignant:

jerisey.jpg

‘”Jerisey”(?) sends love & best wishes. She stays in my office more.’

I believe “Jerisey” was a beloved family dog, who stays mostly with Cephas, and in his office (and not in the family home). Maybe Jerisey was not always allowed in the house; sleeping on either the front or back porch most of the time.

This side note gives us a more human or accessible understanding of Cephas.  When I first ‘met’ Cephas in this research, I thought he was a bit of a dog himself, i.e., the way he seemed to glom off of Emmett Wilson’s successful congressional career, and the damning article about him stepping out on Lula while he was attending a conference.

Over the past four years, my impression of Cephas has changed: He wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes. He let his ego get in the way of a lot of things in his life — we all do that, though. It is neither fair nor accurate to expect. And now, I what’s not to like about a man who truly cares about his siblings, who opened his doors (and his wallet) to help his family anytime he was asked?

What’s not to like about a man who allows a beloved pet to hang out with him in his office on a regular basis?

I’d love to find a photo of “Jerisey.”