Dora Wilson Smith & John Milton the V

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Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot research to fill-in-the-blanks with information about Emmett’s siblings. Today, I found an interesting (and new-to-me) document with useful information about one of Emmett’s sisters!

Source: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution via Ancestry

Don’t you love the details going back several generations and documented for Emmett’s family? Awesome!

Headstone of Dora and her husband Bryan. Source: Find-a-grave.com

So, John Milton the V was the grand-nephew of Emmett; the grandson of his oldest sister, Eudora (‘Dora’) Neely Wilson Smith. I have been in contact with John Milton in the past; he was kind enough to copy for me a page from a family Bible. (I wrote about Dora and Bryan in an earlier post; you can read it here.)

I don’t know or have much information about Dora — I wish I did — and unfortunately, Mr. Milton didn’t either. He did say that she had a rather sad ending to her life, which is confirmed in the line noting her death — at Chattahoochie, Florida — the location of the Florida State Hospital. Mr. Milton told me Dora was not in her right mind in her later years, and had to be hospitalized as a result.

God bless her soul.

 

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Recipient Most Likely

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The quest to locate the Wilson family Bible continues. Here’s what I’ve determined so far:

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Emmett’s father, Dr. F.C. Wilson, remarried about 18 months after the death of wife Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson. The new mizzus, Kate Langley Jordan Wilson entered the scene. She was a decent person; had no desire to erase the memory of the first Mrs. Wilson, but, clearly, she was now the family matriarch. She had her own family Bible, which she would want on display in the parlor.

The Wilson family Bible, which Elizabeth was the keeper of, was not discarded, but given to one of the older children, who would hold it dear, appreciate it for what it was — a treasured family relic.

Family records were kept in this book; it was also precious from a legal standpoint, as birth certificates were not necessarily issued by states, nor kept on a regular basis, until after the turn of the century. One example from as recently as the 1940s, was when Katie Wilson Meade took her family Bible to obtain a delayed birth certificate for son Everard Wilson Meade, so that he could join the Navy in World War II.

Everard's delayed birth certificate. If you look midway in the document, there's reference to a family Bible as proof of his birth. Source: Ancestry.com

Everard’s delayed birth certificate. If you look midway in the document, there’s reference to a family Bible as proof of his birth. Source: Ancestry.com

When Elizabeth died in 1891, there were several young children in the house. They would not have been given this precious relic. So, that would have eliminated Walker (six years old); Emmett and Julian (eight years old); Katie (12 years old). I’ve confirmed this with family descendants from these four Wilson children.

Turning now to the older children, here’s what I’ve determined, based on research to date:

  • Eudora, the oldest daughter: Dora was 16 when her mother died, and in my view, she would have been an obvious choice to be given her Mother’s Bible, had there not been older siblings already married and settled down. Dora’s grandson has shared with me that while Dora did not receive the Wilson Bible, she did receive the Maxwell Bible. This makes sense: Elizabeth would have been given her family’s Bible by her father, Augustus Emmett Maxwell. Perhaps Dora was given a choice: The Wilson Bible or the Maxwell Bible, and she knew that her mother held the Maxwell Bible especially dear.
  • Maxwell, the oldest son: When Elizabeth died, Max was part of a traveling band, on the road a lot, and generally considered unsettled. He was not yet married. It seems unlikely this precious book would be in his possession.
  • Cephas, the second son: In 1891, Cephas was still living at home but working with W.O. Butler as his law clerk and apprentice. In 1893, eighteen months later, Cephas was a newly minted lawyer establishing a practice in Marianna. He also married Lula May Wiselogel in 1893, three months before Dr. Wilson married Kate Langley Jordan Wilson. Although I have not been able to prove it yet (because I have not located any of Ceph’s descendants yet), it makes absolute sense (to me) that Dr. Wilson would have given the Wilson family Bible to Cephas as a wedding gift, and, symbolically, as a way of carrying on the Wilson family standard.
  • Percy, the third son: When Dr. Wilson remarried, Percy was in transition — he was an apprentice with a local physician, and, preparing to go away to medical school in Mobile. Percy was an unmarried teenager at this time, too. It seems unlikely that Percy would have been given the Wilson family Bible.

The next two sons in the family, Meade and Frank Jr., were teenagers, unmarried, and living at the Wilson home when Dr. Wilson remarried. They were also working with the Louisville & Nashville railroad in various capacities (luggage manager, conductor, and the like). Neither of these boys were home consistently, as they were assigned to different depots along the railroad line now and then. It would seem that Frank Jr., as Dr. Wilson’s namesake, would be the obvious next candidate to have been given the Wilson family Bible, but the timing was off.

It’s true that Frank Jr. could have been given the Wilson family Bible later, after he settled down, married, and had his own family. But, I’ve been in contact with Frank Jr.’s descendants, and they don’t have the Bible.

One other clue that makes me think that Cephas received the Wilson family Bible was a notation I found in Katie Wilson Meade’s correspondence on the recent trip to Charlottesville:

Katie mentioned in a document from the 1930s that she copied a list of the births, marriages, and deaths recorded verbatim from the Wilson family Bible, and she stated that directly on the list. So, Katie did not have the actual Bible. Katie’s granddaughter confirmed that with me.

Katie was in close, regular contact with a few of her siblings and their spouses at that point, though: Frank Jr., Julian, and Lula Wiselogel Wilson, the widow of Cephas. Based on communication I saw between Lula, Cephas, and Katie Wilson Meade while I was in Charlottesville, I believe that Cephas was the recipient of his mother’s Bible.

 

Now, to track down Ceph’s descendants! Wish me luck!

Cold Facts

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All together, we have about 30 inches of snow on the ground at my house. My husband has dug a path down the driveway to the street … which probably won’t be shoveled by the county until Wednesday.

The view of my driveway to the street -- as if we could drive anywhere. That's 30 inches of snow at the end of my driveway.

The view of my driveway to the street — as if we could drive anywhere. That’s 30 inches of snow at the end of my driveway. No plows through the subdivision yet. We’re usually last because our street isn’t near a major route.

Looking back at my house.

Looking back at my house.

My neighbor's house is behind that big pile of snow, which is over my head.

My neighbor’s house is behind that big pile of snow, which is over my head.

I’m not going anywhere for a few days. Thankfully, we have plenty of provisions and firewood, and PEPCO has been on its toes — no lack of power.

The kids will be out of school until (most likely) Thursday. I can work from here except for actual writing on the book; unfortunately, with the young kids in and out all day, it is too distracting. So, I decided to spend time checking back with archives, checking in with sources, revisiting outlines, organizing information. And just out of curiosity, I checked, and yes, Mercury is in retrograde. Ironic?

Checking back in with sources is often the step that gets overlooked or forgotten, so I don’t consider this negative, or as if I’m spinning my wheels.

It’s been productive over the last few days, too.

  • On Friday, I checked into Florida State University’s Heritage Protocol & University Archives, and discovered they’ve added the Platonic Debating Society Book, 1897-1904. The book includes meeting minutes, debates, assignment of officers and debate contestants. According to the collection note:
    Platonic Debating Society, 1900. Emmett is in the back row, fifth from left. Source: FSU archives

    Platonic Debating Society, 1900. Emmett is in the back row, fifth from left. Source: FSU archives

    “The order of business for regular meetings included such proceedings as regular debate, decision of judges, irregular debate, decision by the house, and the appointment of debaters, officers and committees. During regular debates, each speaker was given fifteen minutes to make his argument and five minutes for a rejoinder.”  This is where Emmett would have practiced his early debates, and gained debating skills and feedback! Imagine — finding text of some of his early speeches! I’ve asked for a copy of anything relating to him from this book. I can’t wait to hear back from the archivist!

  • And heeerrreeee's Bryan! Third row, third from the right. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

    Wynter Elijah Bryan Smith. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

    The excellent Sue Tindel over at the Jackson (Florida) County Clerk’s office found contact information for the grandson of Eudora (‘Dora’) Neely Wilson Smith. Dora was the oldest daughter of Dr. FC and Elizabeth Wilson; she was about four years older than Katie Wilson Meade. I have no photos of Dora, or anything else other than a few clippings from various newspapers about her life. Her husband was Wynter Elijah Bryan Smith, a lawyer and state representative. They had one child, a daughter. That daughter had one child, a son. I have written a letter to the gentleman, and I hope to hear back from him.

  • Yesterday, I spent most of the day tracking down Meade Wilson’s descendants. He had two sons, Meade Jr. and Francis M. Wilson. Both are deceased; Meade Jr. did not have children. Unfortunately, I’ve found out that Francis M. Wilson and his son, Francis Jr., are also now deceased. The last known address of the family was Lakeland, Florida.

The challenge: Once you get into the third generation (great-grandchildren) and beyond, the likelihood that memorabilia, letters, and so forth about any of the original Wilson siblings is greatly reduced.

However, it would seem to me that if a member of a family held national- or state-elected office, that information would be worth keeping, or, donating to a library or historical society.

My next task will be to check in with state and local libraries and historical societies, for new additions.

 

 

 

Great Oaks Part II & Florida’s Version of Scarlett O’Hara

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Great Oaks, Greenwood, Florida. Source: www.city-data.com

Great Oaks, Greenwood, Florida. Source: http://www.city-data.com

Last month, I had an article about Great Oaks, a historic house in Greenwood, Florida.

There’s an Emmett Wilson connection to it: His sister Dora married a man, W.E. Bryan Smith, whose relatives lived in the home. It is very likely Emmett saw this house, or, visited it in his lifetime.

A colleague wrote me afterwards to recommend a book — a story set at Great Oaks in the 1830s. The tale is fiction (the community was founded in 1824; Great Oaks was built in the 1860s), but a few events in the story are factual, and the point of reading the book was to get the description of Greenwood and Marianna, which hadn’t changed that much by the time Emmett lived there in the 1890s. Indeed, Greenwood — like Marianna — had grown up a bit by the 1890s, but it was still rural, timber was still king, roads were still bad, travel was still difficult and onerous, and so forth.

The book is out of print, so I put in a request through InterLibrary Loan. One week later, the book was in my office.

Here’s the book:

The Great Tide, by Rubylea Hall.

The Great Tide, by Rubylea Hall.

Not a very exciting cover, is it? Well, you can’t judge a book by the cover. That’s for sure. Take a look at the customer reviews of this book — talk about interesting! Here’s another, more ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ version of the cover from Amazon.com:

A little more interesting. Source: Amazon.com

A little more interesting. Source: Amazon.com

The book was written in 1947 by Rubylea Hall. Here’s a review of the book from the Chicago Tribune, October 5, 1947. Another review with excerpts, by Kenneth Kister, is here.

Back cover information on the author, Rubylea Hall.

Back cover information on the author, Rubylea Hall.

The inside jacket story.

The inside jacket story.

I read the entire book in about three days.

I thought Hall’s book was well researched; of course, Hall doesn’t include any research notes or bibliographic information in the book (because it is fiction), but some of the events that take place in the book are factual — i.e., the hurricane that wiped out St. Joseph, and the yellow fever epidemic. Also, she gives you specific, detailed descriptions of the land, the buildings, and how people actually lived on a 19th century plantation. We, who don’t have to make every single thing we own nowadays, get a good look at how hard and costly it was to obtain anything that wasn’t made right there on the plantation (for example, the materials used to make Caline’s wedding dress).

The Bellamy Mansion, which is no longer standing. Source: http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/bellamybridge.html

The Bellamy Mansion, Marianna, which is no longer standing. Source: http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/bellamybridge.html

The book also mentions a house, built by Dr. Samuel Bellamy, where the heroine, Caline Underwood, stayed on her way to her new home in St. Joseph, Florida.

It is a big book — over 500 pages — and it holds your interest throughout.

I have to also admit, while I got very good feel for what it was like to live in rural Florida at that time, as I was reading the story, I kept seeing parallels between Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, which was published only 11 years before The Great Tide.

A few examples:

  • Remember when Scarlett O’Hara was fleeing burning Atlanta with Melanie Wilkes on an old mattress in the back of a rickety old wagon, with a sorry ass mule to pull them along to her family home at Tara? Caline flees St. Joseph, Florida with her ailing yellow-fevered husband Douglas on an old mattress in the back of a rickety old wagon, with a sorry ass horse, to pull them all the way to her family home in Greenwood.
  • Along the way to Tara, Scarlett’s mule dies, and she has to pull the wagon herself the last mile or so to Tara, only to find that the Yankees have trashed the place and her mother is dead. In Hall’s book, Caline and her small traveling party stop for the night, but awake to find their horse gone/stolen, and she has to pull the wagon the rest of the way to Greenwood, only to find that the family plantation is a shambles (in the story, the economy went bust and her family lost almost everything but the house and property in the process).
  • There are parallels in the personalities; i.e., Scarlett and Caline are sassy and outspoken, and don’t care if others (elders) disapprove. Also, the two women have little ‘catchphrases’: Where Scarlett says, “fiddle-dee-dee,” Caline says, “stuff and nonsense.”
  • In GWTW, the marriage between Rhett and Scarlett, at least initially, is a business deal. Likewise with Caline and her husband, the wealthy Douglas Underwood. Both Scarlett and Caline come right out and tell the men they aren’t in love with them; they want to be wealthy and comfortable, and not have to worry about poverty. 

For what it is worth: When I mention the comparison between Hall and Mitchell’s books, the point is not to be critical of Ms. Hall as a writer, but to highlight how we are all influenced by what we read, study, research. Writers borrow literary tricks from other writers all the time; Rubylea Hall surely read GWTW (like everyone else did when it became a best-seller), and was influenced by it.)

Borrowing writing formulae/structures is not wrong, nor is it plagiarism. For example, many novels, books and stories follow a tried-and-true storytelling structure  — an eight-point arc.  Go ahead, pick a book you like, and chart it out. You’ll see what I mean.

It was good to discover this book. I enjoyed reading it, and it gave me a really good ‘feel’ for the Marianna environment, which will be useful when I start writing that section of Emmett’s story.

Circle of Family: Dora Wilson Smith

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Emmett had two sisters: Eudora Neely Wilson Smith, and Catherine Elizabeth Wilson Meade. They went by “Dora” and “Katie.”

I’ve introduced you to Katie Wilson Meade already; Emmett was very close to Katie, who was born in British Honduras about five years before Emmett and Julian.

Even after two years of digging around in Wilson family arcana, Dora is still a bit of a mystery to me. I simply don’t know that much about her; I haven’t been able to locate a lot of information just yet. (I’m also thin on information about a few of Emmett’s other siblings as well). I’ve not been able to locate descendants, either.

Here’s what I know about Dora:

  • She was born in 1875 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, when Emmett’s parents had moved in with Elizabeth Wilson’s sister and brother-in-law, Everard and Lucy Maxwell Meade. This was right before the entire family moved to British Honduras, where Emmett would be born.
  • She earned a teaching certificate to teach third grade in Washington County (I have no record that she did, though).
  • Around 1900, she and her sister Katie moved to Marianna, to live with their older brother Cephas and his family (wife Lula; daughter Kathleen, son, Ceph Jr.).
  • About 1902, Dora married Wynter Elijah Bryan Smith, a lawyer, who eventually served as Mayor of Marianna, and he served in the state legislature in 1909. Family information indicates he went by “Bryan.”
Members of the 1909 House of Representatives, Tallahassee, Florida. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Members of the 1909 House of Representatives, Tallahassee, Florida. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

 

And heeerrreeee's Bryan! Third row, third from the right. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

And heeerrreeee’s Bryan! Third row, third from the right. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

 

I’m not exactly sure where Dora and Bryan lived in Marianna, but I found an interesting story in the Jackson (Florida) County Times about the Smith family; there’s mention of a historic home there called Great Oaks. It is unclear if Dora and Bryan actually lived there; but Bryan’s family did. It would be great if there were artifacts or documents related to Dora and Bryan (and of course, anything relevant to Emmett). I know Emmett and Bryan had some interactions over the years related to law cases and politics. I’m not certain that this was a close relationship, though.

Minimally, I’d love to find a photograph of Dora. I’m also interested in her middle name, “Neely.” I haven’t seen that in any of the Wilson or Maxwell genealogies to date.

All I have is a graveyard shot of Dora's head stone. I'd love to see a photo of her. Source: Find-a-grave.com

All I have is a graveyard shot of Dora’s head stone. I’d love to see a photo of her. Source: Find-a-grave.com

Perhaps I’ll find a photo of her when I make the research trip down to Marianna in September. Maybe I’ll luck out and some out there will have a photo of her! I hope!


I’ve been writing up a storm the past three days. I’ll be back in a day or so to give you an update.