Emmett’s Will


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.

Coveted Artifacts


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.

Ya Never Know…


In an earlier post — hell, in several earlier posts — I politely beg and plead for assistance in finding Emmett’s Elusive Scrapbooks.

Emmett Wilson Kehoe, son of Jennie and Walter Kehoe. 1930, University of Florida. Source: Ancestry.com

Emmett Wilson Kehoe, son of Jennie and Walter Kehoe. 1930, University of Florida. Source: Ancestry.com

The deal is, Emmett kept scrapbooks, and he willed them to his namesake, Emmett Wilson Kehoe, when he died. I have been in contact with the Kehoe family descendants, who know what I’m looking for, but they are a bit stumped as to where they would be now — if they exist.

I’ve done several novenas, even. I’m not giving up hope.


Because of this:

Photo source: The New York Times.com

Photo source: The New York Times.com

A Shakespeare folio was found in France, in a PUBLIC LIBRARY, tucked away somewhere, just waiting to be discovered.

I can only imagine what the Shakespeare experts said when they realized what it was they had in front of them. Actually, the direct quote from one of the American experts who went to France to see it said, “This is huge.”

(Oh, you know he probably did not say it that calmly. He probably did a few squeals, screeches, happy dances when he realized exactly what it was that was found.)

The French director of the library’s medieval collection owned that he got ’emotional.’ Hell yeah, that’s more like it.

I would be more than ’emotional’ if Emmett’s scrapbooks turned up, because other than his will and a few speeches, I have nothing in his own words, per se. The scrapbooks will give me a very clear image of Emmett the man.

This is why I say, you never know what can or will turn up in the research.

Oh — if anyone has a lead on the scrapbooks, I would be eternally grateful — and thankful. It is that time of year, you know.