Break Up


I like to check on my favorite databases every six or eight weeks, so as not to miss any updates. And — SCORE! — the excellent Chronicling America newspaper database (of the Library of Congress) had added several years of The Pensacola Journal since my last visit!

And what an interesting find!


Check out the “Letter to Santa Claus,” almost in the center of the paper. It was written 101 years ago today!


A breakup in progress! Or was it? Lots of little digs at Emmett in here, too.

The editors who wrote this snippy little piece had had it with Emmett by this point. If you recall from an earlier post, Emmett damn near died almost exactly one year ago — he was found unconscious in his room at the Congress Hall Hotel, where he lived right across the street from his office in the House Office Building (today known as Cannon House Office Building).

This was the nadir of Editor Frank Mayes‘ patience with Emmett — whom he had brought out of obscurity to national prominence as  a U.S. Congressman. All Emmett had to do was follow Mayes’ bidding in Washington, D.C.; follow the party’s directives without question, and Emmett would likely be given a nice, cushy job on the Florida State Supreme Court (which Mayes & Co. KNEW was Emmett’s lifelong goal).


Frank L. Mayes of The Pensacola Journal. Champion grudge holder. Poor judge of character too, I think.

What Mayes & Co. didn’t realize was that despite Emmett’s terrible addiction, he had a good heart, and integrity. Emmett was also a people-pleaser of sorts: The  outcry and negative publicity that good old Frank Mayes put out in his own paper, about his personally selected man to represent the party’s ideas in Washington, got to Emmett. He was already a full-blown alcoholic when he took the oath of office on March 4, 1913; Mayes knew that, too. He figured Emmett would spend a lot of his time soused, a little out of his mind, and he’d probably just do as he was told.

Mayes underestimated Emmett’s character, which makes me feel good (because I am not Team Frank), but it also points out the poignancy of someone trying to do what’s best, only to get tripped up by politics, and someone else’ plain old ambition. Emmett wanted to do a good job for his constituency. Mayes didn’t care; as long as his ambitions were satisfied.

Long story short: Emmett followed his heart/good sense with a postmaster appointment because it was the right thing to do, and it cost him his career.

Back to the breakup item: In April 1915, Emmett had already announced he wasn’t running for a third term. In the article about his decision to retire from Congress, he said that it was all his decision, but you can bet your sweet bippy (or the 1915 equivalent) that the Florida State Democratic Party forced it.

Whatta guy.


I Know Where You Were


I do periodic revisits of different databases, since they are updated from time-to-time. For example, Chronicling America (one of my favorites), which updated their electronic holdings of The Pensacola Journal back in June.

Sometimes I just don’t catch everything on the first run-through. Database revisits are akin to editing drafts. You have to take some time away so that fresh eyes can see the treasure!

Yesterday, I took a look at, a wonderful database of historic photos, and saw this:

The Blount Building, 1908. Source:

The Blount Building, 1908. Source:

Zoom in on the fourth floor, corner office, and you see this:

The law offices of Evelyn Croom Maxwell, Emmett's uncle, and, law partner at this time. Maxwell and Wilson formed a partnership January 2, 1907.

The law offices of Evelyn Croom Maxwell, Emmett’s uncle, and, law partner at this time. Maxwell and Wilson formed a partnership January 2, 1907.

This was where Emmett was working from January 2, 1907 until about 1909. As soon as the American National Bank Building  (nowadays, Seville Tower) was built, Emmett hung out his shingle there with Walter Kehoe, on the 7th floor.

American National Bank Building, the tallest structure in Pensacola for many years, on the right. Emmett's office was on the 7th floor, facing Palafox and the Customs House, which was right across the street. Source:

American National Bank Building, the tallest structure in Pensacola for many years, on the right. Emmett’s office was on the 7th floor, facing Palafox and the Customs House, which was right across the street. Source:

The ANBB, now Seville Tower, today. Source:

The ANBB, now Seville Tower. Source:

OK. So, Evelyn Croom Maxwell. He was Emmett’s mother’s half-brother. (Emmett’s grandfather, A.E. Maxwell, became a widower when Emmett’s mother Elizabeth was three years old. He remarried when Elizabeth was about eight years old; Evelyn was one of several children from A.E. Maxwell’s second marriage.)

Justice Evelyn Croom Maxwell. VIP in bar and bench circles. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Justice Evelyn Croom Maxwell. VIP in bar and bench circles. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Maxwell did a lot of ‘paving the way’ for Emmett when he first moved to Pensacola in September, 1906, after the humbling experience he had working for Nicholas Van Sant in Sterling, Illinois. Emmett came home to Florida with a fresh new look at what it really means to be a lawyer on your own (i.e., he lost a lot of the cocky attitude he had prior to the move). Maxwell was important in legal circles. It was through his influence that Emmett, a green lawyer with little depth of experience, was made temporary Assistant District Attorney for his circuit just weeks after relocating to Florida. Emmett had a lot to prove; others with more experience were going after that job, too, and were surprised the plum went to Emmett. Politics works that way, you know, boys and girls.

I’m sure Maxwell got wind of the opportunity and presented it to Emmett, because in an interview, Emmett had told the reporter (a bit naively in my view) that he was surprised he got the position, because he hadn’t even applied for it in the first place.

Anyway. I can see Maxwell saying, you know, nephew of mine, I am going to bat for you here and I can probably get this for you. But, if you screw up, it reflects on me. It’s a good opportunity for you to establish yourself in politics, since you need some public service under your belt. It’s part-time. You can build up experience with me in the practice here, as well. Win-win.

But don’t screw it up.

Emmett strapped on the big boy suspenders, got to work, and did not disappoint. By all reports, Emmett distinguished himself. He was the youngest DA in the United States at the time. People were watching him, expecting him to screw up, which I’m sure he did from time-to-time, but overall, did a great job and title went from temporary to permanent ADA a year or so later.

I can tell you that that corner office in the Blount Building was Maxwell’s. The office extended along the left side of the building for a few windows’ worth of space.

Emmett probably worked, sat, gazed out of one of those windows every day, contemplating his future, thanking his lucky stars that he had a fresh start and an uncle who was willing to give him a chance.

Temporary Luddite; Technology Blessing


It has been busy as heck since school let out. Let me tell you. I thought I was ready to have the kiddos home all day (I’m working mostly out of the home office this summer), but even with well thought out activities, it is a lot of stop-and-start.

I have two triumphs to report this week:

Not my daughter, but a group of Amish girls. Source:

Not my daughter, but a group of Amish girls. Source:

On Monday, we had to pry the technology from my oldest child’s hands as she went off to camp in Amish country.

No tech is allowed AT ALL at that camp. The wifi access is probably terrible, anyway.

Heck, she’s the one who said she wanted to go to camp at this place with her best friend. When reality hit on Sunday night, as she realized she’d be without her Kindle and other pacifier devices, she looked actually panicked.

Sage (far right) and her friends on a hayride. Yep, she's having fun. Source: BRR

Sage (far right) and her friends on a hayride. Yep, she’s having fun. Source: BRR

“What am I going to do all week?”

I did not want to trot out the old, “When I was a girl back in the ’70s, we did this and such….”

I didn’t. I just assured her there would be stuff to do. So, Monday morning, we drove her to the camp. No news from her, but we were sent some great photos.

She seems to have adjusted to the Luddite life just fine.


You remember earlier in the year when I accidentally deleted several hundred .jpg files from The Pensacola Journal? I had saved several hundred image files with information about Emmett Wilson on them, gathered by painstakingly reading old microfilm and going screen-by-screen to cull the data.

I had resigned myself to rerequesting seven years’ worth of film to scan and capture the images.

Well, on Sunday, I did a check back on the Library of Congress‘ database, Chronicling America. Lo and behold, I found that all of the years I had lost are there, scanned in, and in .pdf image format. Hallelujah!

Two things, though:

  • I’m glad I went through page-by-page to locate Emmett’s original information, and document it the first time through, because the search engines are not perfect. There were at least a dozen articles the search engines did not capture for me, even after several tests. You still cannot absolutely rely on search engines to do your research, folks.
  • The film is not complete in one of the years. In the original 1912 batch of film, there was a Carnival Booster section (an extra section to raise money for the 1913 Mardi Gras celebrations) included in the November 25 issue. This extra section (and a few other similar supplements) is not in the LOC film. I’m still going to have to request the individual reel.

Having the film available at any time is a great time saver, because microfilm requests take about three weeks between initial request and the time my library receives it for me to read. I still have read through everything, but this is a tremendous help.



A Strategy for Research: Organizing Data


When it comes to writing a major piece, such as Emmett’s book, you collect a lot of information. That’s a good thing, but it can be overwhelming.

I’d mentioned in an earlier post that I have (literally) hundreds of source items, and I’m still collecting information (and probably will for a while). Emmett didn’t leave a journal (that I know of), and I still don’t have his Elusive Scrapbooks. (HINT. HINT.) That means I’ve had to piece his life together from any source available.

Here’s what I do with the information:

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

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

This is just a snapshot of one of my spreadsheets. I organize Emmett’s information by year, in chronological order. With this, I get an overview of what is going on with Emmett on (sometimes) a daily basis. I also put his family’s doings in this chart, and other important local news events that probably affected Emmett.

As you can see, it is organized by date, then a description of the item. The third column is for my notes (mostly comments, outstanding questions, references to other sources, where else I should look for confirmation, and so forth).

The final column is where I have filed the actual copy or source of the news item. For instance,  I mention the 1914 hard copy notes of The Pensacola Journal. What this means is that I read the microfilm, took notes on the item, scanned or copied that article and saved that scan in a file on my computer.

I do this for EVERY source I use, because I am anal retentive.

I may not use every one of these sources. I probably won’t. I have (now) over 1,100 of these little mentions as you see in the snapshot above, and that amount grows every week. The best part about information organized in this way is that it provides a framework from which to build Emmett’s story.

Some folks may think this is overkill. If I actually had Emmett’s scrapbooks, or journals, or had the ability to talk to him in person, perhaps. But this is the only way I know, at present, to reconstruct his life so that I can write about it accurately. If you have a better idea, I’d love to hear it. 🙂