Emmett, Texter

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Did you know that Emmett got his professional start texting (of sorts) for a living?

True. And if you think about it, telegraph operators were early ‘texters.’ (Here’s a great history of telegraphing — see the first half of the article for details about the importance of the telegraph in our society.

Emmett Wilson’s first “official” job was as a general, all-around assistant at the Chipley, Florida Pensacola & Atlantic train depot, sometime around 1894. Working for the railroad was not just a family tradition among the Wilson men; it was today’s equivalent of a kid interested in space working for NASA.

And Emmett was a kid, starting out at the bottom of the railroad depot job hierarchy, at about the same age as his older brothers Frank Jr. and Meade. Working for the railroad was important; and, if Emmett was willing, he’d rise up the ranks to a professional position, as did Frank Jr. and Meade, who were now conductors. (Emmett once told a reporter that he once dreamed about working for the railroad so that he could run along the tops of the cars while they were in motion, en route to faraway, more interesting places than Chipley. Early on, Emmett probably saw working for the railroad as a means to an end.)

Emmett was more than willing. He was super ambitious from the get-go — his eye was on the telegrapher’s job — a coveted and critical communication position that served not only the messaging for the community, but the telegrapher often conveyed critical transportation data up and down the rails.

After a year or two proving himself capable around the depot, Emmett eventually became expert with Morse code, and was tapped to train as a telegrapher, and by age 17, was managing small depots along the P&A line.

Emmett was 17 when he was dispatched to run small-town train stations on his own, which included the telegraph. Source: The Chipley Banner, December 2, 1899, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Emmett’s full-time career with the railroad was over within a year, as he would enroll at West Florida Seminary in 1900, to pursue a college degree. He’d fill in at both the Chipley and Marianna train depots now and again, when home from WFS on vacations or weekend visits to supplement his school funds.

 

 

 

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All in the Family

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See you at your neighborhood precinct!

See you Tuesday at your neighborhood precinct!

I’m taking a break this week from the Emmett Wilson writing marathon to follow in the Wilson family traditions of being politically involved.

On Tuesday, I will be an Election Judge in my precinct. I’ve been assigned a 6 am to 3 pm shift to run the poll books (in the morning), and whatever other duties the Chief Judge assigns on Election Day.

Emmett’s brother (and my distant cousin) Meade Wilson minded the polls, as did Francis Wilson, Jr., in Pensacola for several different elections. I don’t think Emmett ever worked the polls, or served in any similar capacity. The first time he voted was in the 1904 elections, and he was a Senior at Stetson University. Within two years, he was the Assistant District Attorney, then, States’ Attorney — so he wouldn’t have served any voting assistance capacity.

Meade Wilson was an election judge, at least up until the point he ran for office in 1909. Source: The Pensacola Journal, April 1909.

Meade Wilson was an election judge, at least up until the point he ran for office in 1909. Source: The Pensacola Journal, April 1909.

I decided to sign up right after I voted in the primary. There was sign-up sheet at the exit for those interested in helping out at the general election. I signed up; three weeks later I was invited to apply to work the general election.

After my application passed review, I was given an Election Judge manual to read, then I took three tests (they weren’t that easy). After I passed the tests, I was invited to attend the training sessions. The training was rather involved, including setting up the electronic poll booths, the ballot collecting devices, and the electronic voting assistance for voters who are hearing and/or sight impaired.

What’s more involved is the paper-trail: You wouldn’t believe all the sign-offs required at just about every step of the voting process — almost every form requires the signatures of election judges of both parties. And talk about bipartisanship in action — for instance, if a voter is blind and needs assistance, then an election judge from both the Democratic and Republican parties have to assist the voter together.

 

Minnie Kehoe, a woman ahead of her time. Source: TJCE, Vol. 24, No. 5, p. 278.

Minnie Kehoe, lawyer, businesswoman, suffragette and trailblazer.

I’ve enjoyed learning how the voting process actually works:

  • It is completely citizen-run, and that is a great opportunity to do one’s part in something so important as an election.
  • It is particularly important to me, after having learned so much about suffrage during Emmett’s lifetime, to support and protect this precious privilege.

I don’t know if you read this article from October about some women who supported repealing the 19th Amendment. I gotta say, geez, women. READ HISTORY. Do you have ANY idea what Minnie Kehoe and her colleagues went through just for us to have the privilege to choose our leadership? Gah.

I’m looking forward to Tuesday. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Also — in Emmett Wilson Book news, I am down to the last 35 pages of the last chapter. Once I finish — I’m still not done!

I will do heavy editing, then construct the reference and notes pages. I still plan to hit the December 31 deadline. That’s my cousin — and Emmett’s niece’s — 99th birthday! I hope to have a draft to send to her soon.

 

 

 

Circle of Family: Everard Meade Wilson

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Today’s Wilson family essay is about Emmett’s older brother, Everard Meade Wilson, 1873-1914.

Meade was the fifth son of Dr. Francis C. and Elizabeth Wilson. He went by “Meade;” named for Everard Meade, Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, and husband of her sister, Lucy Brockenbrough Maxwell Meade. Meade was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, when the Wilsons and Meades lived next door to each other. It isn’t clear if the Meades or the Wilsons owned their property; given the low estate totals ($180 and $150, respectively), I’d say they didn’t.

The 1870 Census of Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi. Source: Ancestry.com

The 1870 Census of Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi. Everard Meade is a teacher. He started out as a private school teacher in Pensacola, which is where he met the Maxwells. Source: Ancestry.com

Here’s what I’ve learned about Meade in the Wilson family research:

While three of the eight Wilson brothers ran for political office and had public service careers, Meade was more of a behind-the-scenes kind of fellow. He was politically active, well connected, well liked and respected. Almost all of the sources I’ve found about Meade are consistent: He valued the importance of his family’s solid reputation, he understood the importance of getting along with his peers, of an excellent work ethic, of being reliable, of doing his best possible job every single day.  Meade was a positive force in the Wilson family, without a doubt.

Meade got his start at the bottom of the rung with the L&N Railroad, along with his brother Frank. It wasn’t too difficult for the Wilson boys to get a job with the railroad; they were able to use the influence of their grandfather Augustus Emmett Maxwell, who had once been president of the Pensacola & Montgomery Railroad. But it wasn’t a sinecure for either — both Frank Jr. and Meade worked hard and earned their stripes. Working for the railroad back then was a great job for a young man, especially one who lived in a small town; it was akin today to working for NASA in a lot of ways: Travel, excitement, exploration of new places, while earning a wage and getting great on-the-job training.

An example of the ORC membership card from 1900. Source: Ebay.com

An example of the ORC membership card from 1900. Source: Ebay.com

Meade eventually became a conductor (as did Frank), joining the Order of Railway Conductors. This was an important job, as the conductor was considered the ‘captain’ of the train (which I did not realize). You can read about the importance of the conductor on trains here, a great resource from the Smithsonian Institution, and a transcript of one of the meeting rituals, here.

Emmett, Julian, and Walker also earned their first work experience via the L&N Railroad too — you can bet that the older brothers Frank Jr. and Meade put in a good word for them, and because both Frank Jr. and Meade were highly valued, well respected on the railroad, their word meant something. Regardless of their brother’s influence, both Emmett and Julian also had to work their way up the railroad ladder — starting with jobs that included sweeping out the depot, handling baggage, dealing with surly customers, and the like. Eventually, the twins became telegraphers — another valued position with the railroad.

Meade’s career was going well until September 26, 1906, when a devastating hurricane (probably a Category Five storm according to today’s standards) hit Pensacola. Meade was on a train that day, and was one of three seriously injured, as his train went through a culvert.

From the October 6, 1906 edition of The Pensacola Journal. Source: Chronicling America.gov

From the October 6, 1906 edition of The Pensacola Journal. Source: Chronicling America.gov

It doesn’t say how badly Meade was hurt, but obviously, it must have been serious. The engineer died of his injuries. And, there were probably other underlying health issues, as Meade resigned from the railroad less than a year later, in 1907. This must have been a tough decision for him: He was clearly someone who enjoyed going to work every day.

As of July 30 1907, Meade resigns from the railroad. This was probably a tough decision for him. Source: The Pensacola Journal, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

July 30 1907. This was probably a tough decision for him. Source: The Pensacola Journal, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

That was not the end of the road for Meade, though: Politics ran strong in the Wilson men. Meade was popular; it would make sense that he would parlay that popularity into politics, probably at the encouragement of Frank Jr., Emmett, and Cephas.

Meade ran for office at least once:

April 8, 1909 -- Meade announces for 13th precinct alderman race. Source: The Pensacola Journal, in Chronicling America.gov

April 8, 1909 — Meade announces for 13th precinct alderman race. Source: The Pensacola Journal, in Chronicling America.gov

Alderman race, May 2, 1909 returns. He ran a close race, but unfortunately, didn't win. Source: The Pensacola Journal in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Alderman race returns, May 2, 1909. Meade ran a close race, but unfortunately, didn’t win. Source: The Pensacola Journal in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Even though he didn’t win, Meade often served as a ward heeler, serving as a precinct captain in several elections, helping with registration/voting, and, definitely backing Emmett when he eventually ran for Congress in 1912. (Yes, he was a member of the Emmett Wilson Club!)

 

The American National Bank Building, now Seville Tower, today. Source: Pensapedia.com

The American National Bank Building, now Seville Tower, today. Emmett’s office was on the seventh floor. Meade’s was on the sixth floor. Source: Pensapedia.com

And, even though politics didn’t work out, Meade found a lucrative and successful career in insurance and real estate. By 1909, Meade was affiliated with the Union Central Life Insurance Company. After a few years, Meade became an agent for the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company.

At one point, Meade worked in the same office building as Emmett, the American National Bank Building, just a floor down from his younger brother. (When Emmett died, the only thing he had left of value was a life insurance policy with the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company. I wonder if Meade was the one who sold Emmett his a life insurance policy? Emmett purchased his policy in 1912, as he began his run for Congress. It seems likely, doesn’t it?)

Meade was married to Carolyn “Carrie” Bond Wilson, from Bluff Springs, Florida. They had two sons: E. Meade Jr., and Francis C. (who eventually changed his middle name to Maxwell, in honor of his great-grandfather, Augustus Emmett Maxwell).

Meade may not have found success in politics, but he was active on a variety of community organizations; for instance, he was vice president of the municipal campaign committee of the Jacksonville Board of Trade in 1913. But I get the idea that his health was often the speedbump in an otherwise active, fast-growing career; there are several articles in The Pensacola Journal over the years that mention his being unwell, and a sojourn in North Carolina to rest and recover.

Meade seemed to be doing well for himself and his family: His career was solid with Fidelity Mutual; in 1913, he even went to Washington, D.C., to visit Emmett (now a U.S. Congressman) while en route to the company’s home offices in Philadelphia.

But in 1914, his health appears to have gone downhill rather quickly and unexpectedly; he’d been sent to North Carolina to recuperate.

July 4, 1914. The Pensacola Journal. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

July 4, 1914. The Pensacola Journal. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

He seemed to be doing better, but the next day:

Tampa Tribune, July 6, 1914. Source: GenealogyBank.com

Tampa Tribune, July 6, 1914. Source: GenealogyBank.com

According to Meade’s death certificate, the cause of death was fast-moving  pulmonary tuberculosis.