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.

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Coveted Artifacts

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Yesterday, a colleague told me that she had seen an actual notary public stamp belonging to Emmett Wilson on a legal document dating from 1905!

She told me it was quite unique; Emmett’s name is part of the official stamp itself. This made me wonder what ever became of the actual stamp device.

Not just anyone could become a Notary Public in 1905: It was a patronage position that only the Governor of Florida could bestow. My colleague told me that the stamps were made by the governor’s own embosser.

I would love to get my hands on Emmett’s Notary Public stamp — if not to possess it, for the chance to examine it.

This was not something you just schlepped around in a briefcase. This model (approximately 110 years old) weighs five pounds. Source: www.etsy.com

The notary public stamp from Emmett’s day was not something you would want to schlep around in a briefcase. This model (approximately 110 years old) weighs five pounds. Source: http://www.etsy.com

Actually, there are several of Emmett’s personal artifacts I’d love to find. For instance:

  • His fountain pen. Emmett indeed used a fountain pen. Back then, a man’s fountain pen was something special. My own grandfather had his father’s fountain pen in fact, and it was common to pass these down in a family. I can’t prove it, but I like to think that Emmett’s was given to him when he graduated from law school back in 1904. Sometimes the pens had initials or names engraved upon them; unless Emmett’s was engraved, it is unlikely I’ll find it.
  • His pocket watch. This one may be close to impossible to find as well. At the end of his life, Emmett was having money problems, and he might have hocked it to pay some bills; there was no mention of it in his will (assets). In fact, he barely had more than the clothes on his back when he died.
  • An Emmett Wilson campaign button. I’ve mentioned this item in previous posts. I’ve had feelers out on this one for awhile.
  • His scrapbooks. Of course.
  • Any books that belonged to him. I know he was a voracious reader and had a fairly good collection (other than law books). I hope to find a vintage book with his name in it one day. He left them to Emmett Wilson Kehoe, the son of his good friend Walter Kehoe. EWK did not have children; they may be floating around somewhere in a vintage book store, or dispersed among nephews and nieces.
  • His wishbone tie pin. If you look very closely in the photo on this page, you’ll notice he has a little golden wishbone tie pin.
    Look closely. A wishbone for good luck!

    Look closely. A wishbone for good luck!

    I’ve seen some of these on Etsy; this little pin has a bit of a story behind it, I’m sure. I believe it was gifted to him by someone close; perhaps the Kehoes, or Lula and Cephas, or one of his sisters. For awhile, I thought a girlfriend would have given this to him — it is possible — but I don’t think likely. Victorian ideals about gift-giving were very much still the norm in small Southern towns around 1913. Unless you were married or engaged, expensive gold jewelry (like a gold tie pin or cufflinks) was not something a woman gave to a man. His good friend Minnie Kehoe might have been able to get away with giving Emmett a gold tie pin like this as a gift, but anyone else outside of family? Probably not.

  • Minnie Neal was the photographer of Emmett's law school graduating class. Ad from the 1905 Stetson Weekly Collegiate, February 15, 1905.

    Minnie Neal was the photographer of Emmett’s law school graduating class. Ad from the 1905 Stetson Weekly Collegiate, February 15, 1905.

    Any photographs from Stetson/Law school graduation. I’ve been lucky to come across some photos in the microfilm, but the best ones I’ve received have been shared with me by relatives and friends of Emmett’s descendants, who I’ve become friends with through the research. I know that the photos were taken, but I have not been able to track down relatives or locate negatives anywhere. The photographer didn’t marry or have children; I’ll try to reach out to descendants of siblings next, as well as to Florida and Georgia libraries and universities (particularly those interested in women leaders/women’s studies of the early 20th century).

This is my wish list of Emmett Wilson artifacts I hope to uncover in the next year.

The Writing Life

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I’d love to be able to tell you that writing Emmett’s story is something that feels natural, easy, and fun 100 percent of the time. I wish that were the case. But the reality is that writing is a lot of work. Creating something that hasn’t existed before out of a lot of (seemingly) disconnected, often hard-to-find informational artifacts takes time and creative energy, something I don’t always have, and I can’t always find it in my morning coffee.

I didn’t get much “writing” done over the past several days because the other part of writing this book (the administrative part) needed tending. Here’s a few of the things I had to do:

  • Type up all of the notes I took from Thanksgiving through the first week of January. Typing notes keeps things organized, readable. I’m old school in that I keep a notebook with me at all times. If I get an idea, I jot it down. Much easier that texting into a cell phone, and I surely don’t have to worry about autocorrect, as I’m an uncoordinated phone typist. I do this regularly; it keeps me focused in my data search, and where I’m going with the different chapters.
  • Track down and identify four new contacts. Sent queries. One of the contacts owns an extensive collection of Florida political memorabilia.
    Not this Wilson. The other Wilson. Image source: www.oldpoliticals.com

    Not this Wilson. The other Wilson. Image source: http://www.oldpoliticals.com

    Could it be that the person who owns the memorabilia has an Emmett Wilson Club button? I hope! Or, perhaps a Kehoe or Smithwick one? One thing is for sure: It takes time to craft a well written inquiry. I don’t repurpose a lot of my query letters. Also, if I am asking family members to contact me, it is personal. I want them to understand that I respect whatever decision they make (to contact me or not), and I would treat their information with professionalism. Good (and effective) queries take time, effort, and care.

  • Review my old ‘sent’ mail for previous contacts and colleagues who have not replied to earlier questions. Sent follow-ups. There were several smaller libraries and community historical organizations that have not gotten back to me. The smaller community organizations often are run by volunteers, so it is likely that the queries fell between the cracks. This happens a lot.
  • Juggle a technical problem with an InterLibrary Loan request. At the U of Maryland, I have to fill out an electronic form for each item I borrow from another institution’s reserves. Last week, I got an autoreply that said: “Exhausted all sources, item unavailable.” It was returned less than 12 hours after I submitted it — way too soon for the search to have been completed. My usual routine is to check out for myself if the source actually does exist via Worldcat.org, confirm it, then, make the official request. I did all of that, and still got the “exhausted all sources” message. Long story short: The lending institution’s product number was off by one digit in their listing; ergo, a typo cost us two days.
  • Test a project organizing application. I’m looking at a software product called “Mindmeister.”  Other writers use it instead of a gigantic erasable whiteboard as a way to map their chapters, character relationships, and so forth. This is a lot less messy (as my scribblings get indecipherable, and I get erasable whiteboard ‘ink’ all over my clothes when I work), and it looks like it might work in terms of organizing my chapters/character relationships/behind-the-scenes issues.
This is how the writer Jeannie Ruesch used it in one project. I can see how it would apply in my own organization of inf. Source: http://jeannieruesch.com/2013/03/how-writers-can-use-mindmeister/

This is how the writer Jeannie Ruesch used it in one project. I can see how it would apply in my info organization. Source: http://jeannieruesch.com/2013/03/how-writers-can-use-mindmeister/

I’m not sure if I will use this one yet, although I see the benefits. The thing is, I feel like I have to stop and learn how to use a new tool in the middle of all that I’m doing/learning/staying atop when it comes to technology anyway, and I’m thinking, it is just one more app to deal with — sigh. Sorry for the geezer rant. Honestly, this app has a lot of potential; I have a ton of details to organize, and I do better with a graphic or map of where I’m going with Emmett’s story. I’ll test it and let you know how it works.

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It can be hard to disengage mentally from everything else when the “writing moment” for Emmett’s book arrives and focus exclusively on that creative task. I have to inform my colleagues and family when I need an hour in my office without distractions, to write. They know what I’m doing; they get it. It still feels funny to me to say I’m doing this and why I need the alone-time; it is as if I’m letting them into my unedited, rough-draft creative moment, and it is private to me. I don’t want people seeing or knowing I’m struggling with thoughts behind a closed door as they become words on paper– because the struggle is huge for me at times, frankly. There are days when all I’ve been able to do is weep with frustration behind the closed door, because the words just weren’t coming, or they felt contrived.

The thing is, the ‘struggle’ never lasts very long. Once it is over, I’m able to step back mentally and begin again — and the new approach often is better, because I’ve worked through that creative difficulty. When I feel the frustration coming over me, I’ve learned to set whatever the knotty writing problem is aside for a day or two (or a week) and work on something else. For me, distance and time are the universal solvents for writing problems.

What seems to work best for me, though, is to write every day, for no more than an hour at a time. It is like physical exercise; you will see improvements, but the secret is to keep at it, and reasonably. It doesn’t have to be a big deal; there are many ways to ‘write every day’: Outline an article; enter research data into a timeline; proofread and edit copy; write a rough draft; write correspondence that relates to your project; draft two or three pages of text. Write a blog entry. 🙂

Writing, like cardiovascular exercise, takes a lot of energy. When I work out or run, I find that I cannot go more than an hour without doing injury to myself. Likewise with writing. Because writing requires a lot mental energy, if I go for a long time without a break, I’ll burn out. I’d hate to burn out before I finished Emmett’s book.

For what it is worth.

If Only…

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If only Emmett had become a cult hero, he’d have a shirt like this too!

Although he didn’t have a t-shirt, he did have a club. True! When Emmett was running for Congress in 1912, his constituents organized an Emmett Wilson Club, and set one up in every county in the Third Congressional District (fyi — Florida’s current Third Congressional District is completely different from what it was in 1912).

The Emmett Wilson Club organizes. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1912

The Emmett Wilson Club organizes. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1912

The club was only in existence for about two weeks because his opponent, Dannitte Mays, decided to withdraw from the second primary runoff (there were second primaries in 1912). Mays, the incumbent, had concluded that Emmett’s political machine was too successful and well organized to make a successful challenge. Mays was correct.

I know there were little campaign buttons made — I’d love to find one. Perhaps one of these days I’ll come across one of them! When I do, I’ll share a photo!