His Death Came “As a Great Shock”

Standard

Here’s another new-to-me clipping discovered through routine checking of updated databases:

Pensacola_Journal_1920-08-05_9

Obituary of Emmett’s father in The Pensacola Journal, August 9, 1920

Emmett’s father’s obituary contains interesting information.

For example, even though Dr. Wilson had been ill for several days, his death may have been unexpected, as it was a ‘great shock.’ Dr. Wilson’s death information (from a second source) mentioned he had blood poisoning, but it didn’t indicate the source of the infection. My colleague, Donna the Nephrologist, told me that blood poisoning (also called sepsis), can turn deadly rather quickly if not treated immediately, and perhaps those treating Dr. Wilson didn’t realize what it was he had at the time.

FYI — Dr. Wilson wasn’t “officially” practicing medicine anymore in 1920; he’d retired several years earlier (before Emmett’s death in 1918) because of poor health related to a heart condition.

There’s an error in the obit:

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 5.19.11 AM

He was related to the Maxwells by marriage.

This part is rather confusing — actually, Dr. Wilson was married to Elizabeth Virginia Maxwell, the daughter of Judge Augustus Emmett Maxwell (Emmett was named for his grandfather). Elizabeth died in 1891, when Emmett was eight years old. (I’m not sure where the obituary writer got the idea that Dr. Wilson was a son of Maxwell’s half-sister, but it just goes to show that one has to read the old clips carefully, and check the facts.)

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

The surviving wife (as mentioned in earlier posts) was Kate Langley Jordan Wilson, whom Dr. Wilson married about 18 months after Elizabeth’s death.

By this point, Dr. Wilson had lost three of his sons: Meade Wilson, Dr. Percy Wilson, and Emmett. Percy and Emmett died in 1918.

The last item about the sugar plantation in British Honduras has been also mentioned in earlier post, and it does cause some confusion, because at the time the Wilsons were living in Central America, the British government did not allow foreigners to own their property — and so, Dr. Wilson would have had to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown (thus revoking his American citizenship, which meant Emmett [born after the family moved to British Honduras] was a British subject, and therefore should have been disqualified from serving in Congress).

But I have seen family records stating Dr. Wilson never gave up his American citizenship, and Emmett once stated in an interview that his father only owned ‘a share’ in the plantation — not full ownership.

Still, the issue has always made me wonder. In fact, one reporter once shared in an interview that if you really wanted to piss off Emmett, ask him about whether or not he thought he was truly an American citizen or not, given his birth in British Honduras. Emmett would routinely fly off the handle and give a reporter hell about the question.

Emmett doth protest too much?

 

Advertisements

Dr. Wilson and the U.C.V. Reunion, July 1908

Standard

A scan from a limited production book, A Treasury of Family Heritage, compiled and edited by Martha B. McKnight. Copyright 1992 by Milton Dekle Everette. Copy provided by Joan Chance.

That’s Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, and acquaintances prior to a reunion for Confederate Army veterans in Scottsville, Virginia. Dr. Wilson and his friends boarded the train from Chipley on or about July 19, 1908 to attend the reunion, which was held July 21, 1908.

Family records indicate that Dr. Wilson was, in fact, wearing his original wool uniform on that hot, humid day. Duty and honor to the memory of their fallen comrades over comfort, I suppose.

Panoramic photograph of the rally and reunion of Confederate veterans in Scottsville, Virginia on July 21, 1908. Source: Scottsvile Museum

Here’s a direct quote about the reunion courtesy of the Scottsville Museum website:

An entry in the Minute Book of Henry Gantt Camp No. 75 describes the reunion’s beginning as follows: “The line formed in front of Town Hall and marched to the grounds just outside the village where a large crowd of people of the town and surrounding county had gathered to greet the veterans.  Hon. W.D. Patteson delivered the address of welcome, after which Judge R. T. W. Duke (of Charlottesville) in his usual bright and happy style introduced the Hon. Capt. Micajah Woods (of Charlottesville, formerly a lieutenant in Jackson’s Battery of Horse Artillery), the principal orator of the day.”

Dr. Wilson was a member of the 11th Alabama Infantry. While he would have likely attended reunions in Alabama, his family was originally from Lunenburg County, Virginia. A reunion in nearby Albemarle County would have provided a great opportunity to visit siblings and other relatives.

Emmett’s father, Dr. F.C. Wilson. Officially, Dr. Wilson was a private during his service in the Confederate Army, but family records indicate he earned a brevet promotion on the battlefield. No one is sure who chiseled the “PVT” from the plaque, but we know it wasn’t Emmett.

Dr. Wilson played an active role in the Camp McMillan Chapter of the United Confederate Veterans. He attended several other reunions, notable one in New Orleans, and attended regular meetings. Minutes were often posted in the local paper.

Proceedings from a UCV meeting in Chipley Florida, January 1913. Source: The Chipley Banner

 

The Runaway Incident

Standard

 

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.

===

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

 

June 23, 1891

Standard

 

Emmett’s mother, Elizabeth V. Wilson.

On June 22, 1891, Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, returned to Chipley, and his family, after a four-month separation. Dr. Wilson had been in Kentucky, attending medical school for one semester, to obtain a now-required medical credential so that he could continue to practice medicine in Florida.

The separation was a hardship for the family. The family was dependent on Dr. Wilson’s salary, and his absence meant money would be tight for awhile. Also, it meant Elizabeth would single-parent 10 children, manage Dr. Wilson’s medical practice (maintaining records, paying bills, providing nursing services when necessary, and so forth), and run the household. But Elizabeth was resilient and strong. She was not a stranger to difficult situations; I’m sure she told Dr. Wilson that she would manage just fine, everyone would pitch in, and not to worry. Things would be back to normal in only a few months.

And indeed, on June 23, 1891, things seemed back to normal for the family. That morning, Dr. Wilson immediately resumed his medical practice.  He hitched his horse to his buggy, packed his medical bag, and invited Elizabeth to come along with him as he made his rounds in Chipley.

Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson, about 1865.

I imagine Dr. Wilson wanted to spend some quality time with Elizabeth, as they rode out together in the buggy along the dirt roads of Washington County, on that warm, sunny day in June.

We can imagine Elizabeth catching Dr. Wilson up on all the family activities and news. Theirs was definitely a love match — I imagine them talking about how much they missed each other. It is easy to imagine Dr. Wilson telling his beloved Elizabeth that would make it up to her for keeping everything together so well all by herself, especially now that he was home for good.

Midday, Dr. Wilson and Elizabeth rode into downtown Chipley, and stopped at a drugstore, to get a cool drink. One of the storekeepers brought the drink out to Elizabeth — she drank it — then collapsed, unconscious.

Dr. Wilson took Elizabeth immediately to the nearest house, where the neighbors put Elizabeth in bed right away.

Despite all his best efforts, Elizabeth never regained consciousness; she died several hours later.

It is not known what Elizabeth drank at the drugstore. Some family members believe she died of an aneurysm, but because an autopsy was not performed, the cause of death was not conclusive.

Medical History

Standard

Yesterday’s essay about Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, spurred me to pay a visit to one of the best-kept museum secrets here in metro Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of Health and Medicine.

National Museum of Health and Medicine. Photo source: http://www.go4travelblog.com

Just so you know — this is not a museum for the faint of heart or the weak-stomached. But this is a great place to visit if you are interested in how medicine was practiced during The Civil War, and how one learned to practice medicine via an apprenticeship (as was the case with Dr. Wilson).

This post is quite picture heavy; I think the photos best tell the story of what you can learn from this museum.

 

 

Photographs that accompanied case studies.

 

 

 

The box of slides containing tissue of the tumor that was in Ulysses S. Grant’s throat. Grant was a heavy smoker and was diagnosed with throat cancer in February, 1885; despite the removal of the tumor, the cancer had advanced and he died in July, 1885.

 

A type of microscope that Dr. Wilson might have used in his medical practice.

There are several displays of battlefield injuries from The Civil War, complete with the original bullet intact. This part of the museum is disquieting when you realize the artifacts were, once, human beings.

 

 

Several of the displays identify the actual battle where the injuries were received. For the record, Dr. Wilson was at Spotsylvania, as well as the Battle of the Crater.

Also on display is the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln.

 

Pocket surgical kit belonging to Dr. Mary Walker.

Yikes.

Portable dental and autopsy kits.

No wonder most of the casualties of The Civil War were due to infection.

An X-ray tube. Dr. Wilson might have used something like this in his practice.

There are several other displays in the museum dedicated to Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (or MASH units), military nursing (truly excellent), and a presentation on how recent flu epidemics are actual variations (‘descendants’) of the original 1918 pandemic.

Aside from coming away from the museum with a greater appreciation for modern medicine (and good health!), the visit made me curious about how Dr. Wilson got interested in medicine in the first place. Dr. Wilson was a private with the infantry during The Civil War; neither connected to a medical unit nor assigned to a hospital.

What I know from the family records is that a) Dr. Wilson did not talk about his experiences as a soldier and b) when he did, it was only about when he was with Robert E. Lee at the surrender at Appomattox.

I wish I could ask him about his experiences.

Portrait of a Father

Standard

Dr. Francis C. Wilson, Emmett’s father, taking it easy in the back yard, @ 1895, Chipley, Florida. Check out that corn cob pipe!

This photograph of Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, was taken on a sunny afternoon — maybe Father’s Day — around 1895.

His eyes are open, and they appear to be focused on the long corn cob pipe. I wonder if he whittled that pipe himself? Or perhaps one of his sons — Emmett? — carved it for him?

I like to think that in this photo, Dr. Wilson is glad to be off his feet and relaxing after a full day seeing of patients. Dr. Wilson had regular office hours — his home office may have been the building behind him, to the left — but he was a full-service physician who spent about a third of his time on Washington County roads.

Imagine what he had to include in his medical bag when he was on the road: Dr. Wilson treated everything from measles to yellow fever; he set broken bones, delivered babies, amputated limbs, counseled the depressed and addicted, embalmed the dead. He even performed emergency dentistry when necessary.

Here, Dr. Wilson is wearing his straw hat (a necessity when traveling for hours on the hot, dusty Florida back roads) and his white lab coat over a white shirt and suspenders, the coat bunched up a little in the back. Interesting that he’s still dressed for this office in this most casual of photos. (I have no information who took the photo, but the photographer is in the lower right hand corner of the shot, was likely one of the Wilson children.)

Of all the photos I have of the stately and serious Dr. Wilson, I like this one the best, because it illustrates something completely different for me — Dr. Wilson taking a break, which is something I don’t believe he did much, as the recently widowed, sole support of 10 children. Maybe that’s why he’s still wearing his hat and lab coat in the photo: Because he wasn’t comfortable relaxing completely.

The background information I have about this period in the Wilson family was that Dr. Wilson was channeling his grief at the loss of his wife Elizabeth into his work during this time — an absentee father who would strive to keep his emotions and feelings in check. Neighbors and friends would comment on how noble and dignified Dr. Wilson was after his devastating loss.

Obviously, Dr. Wilson loved his family, and dealt with his grief in the best way he knew how. Unfortunately, this would not have been something 13-year-old Emmett would have understood or realized at the time, and I believe this affected the relationship he had with his father, for theirs was a distant, formal relationship.

But in the end, Emmett cared about his father, as he made provision for him in his will, even while dying of alcoholism, and even after his father had basically washed his hands of Emmett.

Dr. Wilson was a tough, resilient, practical man who would sacrifice personal comfort and happiness for the good of his family. Perhaps Emmett recognized what was going on with his father toward the end of his life.

A tragic find

Standard

As I continue to organize my collection of articles and files, I came across a tragic story from the September 1, 1912 edition of the Pensacola Evening News.

Source: Pensacola Evening News, September 1, 1912, p.1 (microfilm).

I saved this article because I’m certain Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, would have been on hand to assist Dr. Coleman (there were only three physicians in Chipley in 1912).

I’ve shared this article with a Washington County (Florida) genealogy group; hopefully there are Coleman family descendants who would want this information for their family records.

Reading this article made me seek out and embrace my children. My heart aches for Johnnie’s parents, even 115 years later.