Not the Villain

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Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. Source: State Archives of Florida.

Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. Source: State Archives of Florida.

Am I going soft on Emmett’s womanizing older brother, Cephas Love Wilson?

A friend who had read this recent essay on Cephas asked me the other day if I had changed my mind about Cephas — did I now view him as less of an antagonist?

I told her it wasn’t so much that as I’ve come to understand him better after studying him for three years.

This doesn’t mean the same thing as agreeing with or liking the guy. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a huge fan of Ceph. He cast a long shadow, had a huge ego, and never let Emmett forget who was the senior partner during their tenure as Wilson and Wilson, Attorneys-at-Law.

From where I sit, the brothers worked well together, but there were epic power struggles between them, with Emmett often landing on the losing side of the battles, and Cephas doing the equivalent of a Gilded-Age head noogie on Emmett more often than not.

But — as I’ve discovered over the past three years of research — Cephas wasn’t always a complete jackass to Emmett. He was also known to be downright generous, kind, and unselfish to his younger brother, when given the opportunity.

A few weeks ago, I was going through my file collection for Emmett’s post-Stetson chapter, and I came across this:

Emmett sworn in mid-June, 1904. But he had already been sworn in the day after he graduated law school back in May, in Jacksonville. What gives? Source: Jackson County (FL) Courthouse

Emmett sworn in at the Jackson County Courthouse, June 14, 1904. But he had already been sworn in the day after he graduated law school back in May. What gives? Source: Jackson County (FL) Courthouse

According to the court record for June 14, 1904, Emmett was sworn in by Judge Charles B. Parkhill ‘to practice law in this Circuit and inferior Courts of the State of Florida.’

Judge James W. Locke. An appointee of President U.S. Grant. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_William_Locke

Judge James W. Locke.Source: Wikipedia

But wait — I knew Emmett and his fellow law school graduates friends left Stetson University the day after graduation (May 25, 1904), took the train to Jacksonville, and were sworn in to the Florida bar upon presentation of their diplomas to the court by Judge James W. Locke.

According to the Stetson University Law School Bulletin for 1904, that was all an aspiring lawyer had to do in order to hang up his shingle — and — I knew that Emmett’s swearing-in in Jacksonville with his fellow graduates is on the record in the Duval County Archives, too.

Emmett presented his diploma to Judge Locke in Jacksonville and was duly sworn in. Source: Stetson University archives.

Emmett presented his diploma to Judge Locke in Jacksonville and was duly sworn in. Source: Stetson University archives.

Did a man have to petition every county in which he wanted to practice law? And if so, wouldn’t that be incredibly inefficient?

I posed this question (and showed the court archive record) to my colleague, the excellent Sue Tindel of the Jackson County (FL) Court Archives. It turns out that all Emmett needed to do was to be sworn in once. What happened in the Jackson County Courtroom that day was something special:

“Actually, the entry read circuit and inferior courts in the State of Florida – not just the Jackson County Bar.  It almost sounds redundant for Emmett to gain admission to the Bar in Duval County and then come to Jackson County and do it again.  Wonder if Cephas had a hand in it and made a big deal about it.

“It would have been a grand kind of thing for him to have his little brother acknowledged by the legal elite – which is what sounds like happened.”

I mention this because I think this would have been something Cephas would have done for Emmett, especially because no one from the Wilson family was on hand to attend Emmett’s graduation ceremony from Stetson University. I haven’t found out why — I do think it is odd, particularly since Emmett was the valedictorian.

Regardless, Cephas and the Wilsons were proud of Emmett’s accomplishments, and I believe this special acknowledgement went far to mend whatever disappointment Emmett may have felt.

Field Trip: Emmitsburg, Maryland

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It is a kind of poetic justice that I would find a trove of information for Emmett’s book in a town bearing his name.

I surely did not see that one coming.

Emmitsburg, Maryland, is a small college town 10 miles south of Gettysburg, near the state line. What brought me here today was the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive. As reported in the last post, the Daughters of Charity built Pensacola Hospital in 1915, where Emmett died in 1918.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine and Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine and Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive

What I was looking for was specific information on where he died in the hospital (ward photos, descriptions), who cared for him, what his medical treatment was like, and any other details about the hospital and its staff from 1915-1918.

Holdings at the Provincial Archive specific to Pensacola Hospital.

Holdings at the Provincial Archive specific to Pensacola Hospital.

The most useful information was a set of correspondence from the Sisters who organized the hospital and, basically, ran it. The letters were chatty, which surprised me (my experience with Sisters has always been that they kept a lot to themselves). These letters documented some local scandals, hospital-related, of course, and provided an excellent insight into certain personalities of Pensacola.

Nothing was specifically said about Emmett. However, his doctors were mentioned, and the Sisters gave great insight into their personalities, bedside manners, and the like.

Also, I found a document that was very influential in the Sisters’ in psychiatric nursing training back in the day. It is descriptive, and from that, I have a good idea of how Emmett was cared for as he lay dying in Pensacola Hospital.

The archivists at the Provincial Archive are wonderful; I had a great time hanging out with them and talking about the Sisters who ran Pensacola Hospital in 1918.

Before I left, I wanted to pay a visit to a very special person on the premises — Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

There aren’t too many places where you can hang out with nice folks, do research, dig in an archive, and visit an honest-to-goodness Saint. Well, you can in Emmitsburg.

The Basilica is large, quiet, airy. There was no crowd, thankfully. The entire experience was peaceful, dignified.

There were a few people at prayer in the Basilica; I don't like taking photos when people are praying in a church, so I don't have many photos of the interior of the Shrine for that reason.

There were a few people at prayer in the Basilica; I don’t like taking photos when people are praying in a church, so I don’t have many photos of the interior of the Shrine for that reason.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. This is a small altar on the right side of the basilica, with her relics.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. This is a small altar on the right side of the basilica, with her relics.

A tiny relic close up, at the kneeler.

A tiny relic close up, at the kneeler.

Spending a few quiet moments in the Basilica was a nice way to end the research visit. Food for the mind, food for the soul.


Now that I have some new data to work into Emmett’s story, I’ll need to spend a few days reading the letters carefully, and cataloging what I find.

But not tomorrow; alas, I have mandatory faculty training all day. It’s all good. I do better processing new information after I step away from it for a day or so.

Have a good evening, everyone!