Evelyn C. Maxwell in 1890 Pensacola

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In today’s edition of ‘Where are they now?’ we search for one of the original office buildings and residences of one Evelyn Croom Maxwell, distinguished jurist and lawyer of Pensacola, Florida.

Justice Evelyn Croom Maxwell. VIP in bar and bench circles. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/47155

In 1890, Emmett’s uncle, Evelyn C. Maxwell was the law partner of Stephen Mallory II, who served as U.S. Senator and Representative from Florida, and was the son of Stephen Russell Mallory (the law partner of Augustus Emmett Maxwell, Evelyn’s father, and Emmett Wilson’s grandfather).

Evelyn C. Maxwell in 1890 Pensacola, according to Webb’s Pensacola (City) Directory. Source: Ancestry.com

According to Webb’s Pensacola Directory, Mallory & Maxwell’s office was located at 204 1/2 South Palafox.

The address of Mallory & Maxwell’s law firm, from Webb’s Pensacola Directory for 1890. Source: Ancestry.com

The original Mallory & Maxwell office building still exits.

The block where Mallory & Maxwell’s original office stood in 1890. Source: Google maps

More good news: Evelyn Maxwell’s 1890 residence at 317 North Barcelona Street exists as well.

Evelyn C. Maxwell’s one-time residence at 317 N. Barcelona in Pensacola.

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Following the Money

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One of the things I’ve always found curious about Emmett Wilson’s life was why he never lived on his own, never owned a house, never had his own apartment in which he was responsible for everything (food, furniture, utilities and the like).

Emmett was a bachelor with an active and upscale social life and a good job. According to an interview in the Sterling (Illinois) Daily Standard in 1905, Emmett said he was always anxious to be on his own, to prove himself in the legal profession, to be his own man as soon as he could, because he was ready for it.

But according to different editions of the Pensacola City Directory, the U.S. Census for 1900 and 1910, and several articles in Florida contemporary newspapers, Emmett never really was on his own in the true sense of the word.

908 N. Spring Street, Pensacola. Source: Google Maps

In the 1900 U.S. Census, Emmett was enumerated at his father’s home in Chipley, then he moved that same year to his brother Cephas’ house in Marianna. Emmett had roommates both in college dorms and boarding houses while a student at Stetson University; when he moved to Pensacola, he lived with friends at a boarding house, then with the Kehoe family from 1911 onward. Obviously, he paid rent at the boarding houses (In 1908, 124 W. Belmont, today an office building, and in 1909, 908 N. Spring Street, still standing).

Was it money? Couldn’t Emmett afford it?

Sure he could.

Source: Who’s Who in America, Volume 4, 1906, p. 1201

It wasn’t that Emmett didn’t make enough money to live on his own. For example, in 1906, when Emmett was a clerk, then temporary Assistant District Attorney (a part-time position while he also worked in his uncle Evelyn Croom Maxwell’s law office). Emmett eventually became Maxwell’s partner in 1908. But in 1907, Emmett’s salary was $1,500 a year (the average salary for a family of four in the U.S. was about $600 in 1907), in addition to whatever he was making as a private attorney.

Emmett was named to the clerkship, then temporary assistant district attorney in 1906, which terminated in 1907. The image is hard to capture, but you can see the original at this link.

Source: Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States, 1907.

Emmett also lived with the Kehoes from 1911 onward — he may have paid something towards rent or household costs, but it probably wasn’t substantial, and because Jennie and Walter Kehoe considered Emmett a member of their family, I doubt they would have accepted much, if anything from Emmett towards rent. He made good money, and he had plenty of opportunities to save it.

In 1908 Pensacola, the average rent at a good boarding house was $5 a week, which included room, board, electricity and laundry services.

According to the Inflation Calculator, $5 a week in 1908 has the same purchasing power as $124.56 today — about $500 a month in rent. That was a bargain, considering Emmett’s rent included board and laundry services. Try finding that kind of rent package deal today.

I know that Emmett had to spend a lot of his own money on his political campaign in 1912. He complained in a speech after he won the primary in June, 1912, about how expensive it was — campaign spending records for 1912 show that he spent over $2,000 of his own money leading up to the primary — which is the equivalent of $50,074.14 in today’s dollars, according to the Inflation Calculator. Expensive, indeed.

So, although Emmett certainly would have been able to afford a home of his own by 1912, it seems he put his money towards his political ambitions. It was a gamble, but it makes sense.

But it is too bad that Emmett didn’t invest in real estate, or have something to call his own. Real estate ownership was considered a solid, sound investment. Also, owning a home conveyed the appearance of reliability, consistency.

Even sobriety.

And perhaps the last point was the other stickler.

By 1913, we know Emmett was a full-blown alcoholic, and booze was costly: For example, ONE gallon of nine year old Kentucky whiskey cost $9 in 1913. In 2018 dollars, that’s $225. I doubt Emmett limited his drinking to a gallon a week. It was likely SEVERAL gallons.

Emmett was also a member of two prominent men’s clubs in Pensacola: The Osceola Club and the Elks. The Osceola Club was a fancy society club where one could read, meet and socialize with select and prominent Pensacolians, and drink (although that was not publicized). Membership in The Osceola Club was approximately $500 a year, not including your bar tab, if you had one. And Emmett had one, for sure.

Yes, that’s $500 a year.

In 1913 dollars.

Or, $12,518, according to the Inflation Calculator in 2018 dollars.

I don’t have Emmett’s receipts, of course, but it seems obvious to me that spent most of his money on his political campaigns in 1912 and 1914, and booze.

And when Emmett died in 1918, he was in financial trouble. Emmett’s brother and executor of his estate, Cephas Love Wilson, stated in a letter that Emmett didn’t have anything of value in his belongings except a life insurance policy worth about $13,000, and that Emmett had already borrowed $3,000 against it (that he knew of). In the end, there wasn’t much, if anything, left of Emmett’s estate.

 

 

 

John Smithwick: A Kind-of Renaissance Guy

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John Harris Smithwick. Source: Find-a-grave.com

As promised, I’m following up on the earlier post about the folks at the Smithwick luncheon.

I’ll start with information about the host, John H. Smithwick: Farmer, attorney, U.S. congressman, accused check kiter, and survivor of the Knickerbocker theater disaster.

When the 1907 article was published, Smithwick was Walter Kehoe’s law partner. We know from Smithwick’s official biography he was born in Georgia in 1872; was graduated from Reinhardt Normal College in 1895, then attended law school at Cumberland University. He was graduated in 1897; admitted to the Georgia bar in 1898, then moved to Pensacola the same year as Emmett, in 1906.

Kehoe & Smithwick, located at 306 Brent Building, Pensacola. Source: 1907 Pensacola City Directory, from Ancestry.com

Smithwick and Kehoe remained partners through 1907; the next year, however, Smithwick and Kehoe separated amicably:

Smithwick is partners with T.F. West. Source: 1908 Pensacola City Director, Ancestry.com

and,

Kehoe in single practice. Source: 1908 Pensacola City Directory, Ancestry.com

By 1910, Smithwick has changed vocation:

Source: 1910 Pensacola City Directory, Ancestry.com

Although Smithwick appears to have stepped away from his legal profession, he maintained his important connections with The Pensacola Journal’s editor, Frank Mayes. Mayes was considered a political kingmaker in West Florida politics. On April 27, 1913, The Pensacola Journal’s editor, Frank Mayes, wrote a feature about traveling through Santa Rosa County with Smithwick, and visiting his farm:

Source: The Pensacola Journal, April 27, 1913, http://www.chroniclingamerica.gov

Mayes ran another feature on Smithwick’s farm, in the  May 17, 1914 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Although Smithwick expanded into farming, he was listed in the Pensacola City Directory with a business in naval stores; his residence as 206 W. Lloyd (a house still standing).

When Emmett gave notice that he was retiring from congress in April 1915, his two friends, Smithwick and Walter Kehoe (along with two other) ran for the Third District Congressional Seat in the June primary.

Sample 1916 primary ballot, as it appeared in The Pensacola Journal. Source: Chroniclingamerica.gov

Kehoe won the primary, then the general election. He served a rather undistinguished one term, then lost his bid for reelection in the 1918 primary runoff against Smithwick. There were no hard feelings though:

Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

One thing of note — Walter voted against suffrage at the same time his talented sisters, Fannie and Minnie Kehoe, were two of the prominent women leading the suffrage movement in Florida. (I can imagine how uncomfortable it was when Walter came home from Washington, to face his sisters at Sunday dinners and social events.)

Smithwick’s tenure in office was also undistinguished — until he left office.

Source: Wicked Capitol Hill: An Unruly History of Behaving Badly by Robert S. Pohl. Source: Amazon.com

And:

Source: Richmond Times, May 15, 1947. Genealogybank.com

Smithwick claimed he was innocent until the day he died.

===

The most interesting story I found about Smithwick was that he was a survivor of the Knickerbocker Theatre disaster in Washington, D.C., January 28, 1922.

In an interview he gave to Associated Press reporters, Smithwick recalled in great detail the how the ceiling of the theatre caved in under the heavy snow that had accumulated on the roof, and that he’d climbed out of the rubble, and walked home, without his hat or coat. He had several cuts and bruises, and likely a concussion. Smithwick said he didn’t realize how badly he was injured, until he arrived at home and family members called in a doctor immediately upon observing his condition.

Interesting fellow, John Smithwick.

===

There are a few excellent articles on Knickerbocker Theatre disaster:

  • Kevin Ambrose’s excellent article 95 years after the disaster, including stories of those who helped rescue theatre patrons, and those who tragically lost their lives.
  • A historical essay about the Knickerbocker disaster on the blog, The Dead Bell.
  • The Knickerbocker tragedy, via the excellent Ghosts of DC blog, and
  • John Smithwick’s interview, with great details, published by the Associated Press (below), via the New York Times.

Source: New York Times, January 1922.

An Expensive Lesson

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Emmett’s best legal education came not at Stetson University (where he was the valedictorian of the 1904 law class; it came not at the hands of his esteemed and experienced older brother, Cephas Love Wilson, Esquire.

It came when he was, essentially, fired from his dream job in Sterling, Illinois in late May, 1906.

Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

Emmett had left his home, his family, his old friends, and a decent job to move almost 1,000 miles away to start a new law partnership with Nicholas Van Sant.

Emmett’s criteria for his dream job:

  • To immerse himself in the law;
  • To be left alone to his own devices without well-meaning friends and family members offering suggestions/advice.

He got what he wanted.

But four months into the dream job, he’s discovered that his situation isn’t what he expected. As the solo lawyer in the firm (Nick had a full-time job as president of the Sterling State Bank), he certainly got to immerse himself in the law — but he was awful at office administrivia — and I don’t think he was prepared for how much work there was to do with the cases, by himself, even with the help of a secretary.

From The Sterling Evening Gazette. February 22, 1906,

I suspect Van Sant enlisted the assistance of one of his employees, possibly Frank Heflebower, to review the Van Sant & Wilson firm account books. From The Sterling Evening Gazette. February 22, 1906,

This was just the thing that Cephas had warned Emmett about back in Florida before he left: It wasn’t enough that Emmett was a good litigator. Running a law firm by yourself involves a lot of managerial and administrative skills that he just hadn’t mastered yet.

The loneliness got to him, too: Even though Emmett preferred solitude, it was because it was his choice to remain alone, on the outside of the social circle, if that makes sense. He was from a prominent social and political family in Florida, where he’d not had to worry about social acceptance — everyone who was anyone in West Florida politics and society knew him because of his family. Emmett didn’t have to put forth any effort to become ‘known’ back in Florida. His family’s reputation did that for him.

The red arrow is the approximate location of the Van Sant & Wilson law firm. Source:

The red arrow is the approximate location of the Van Sant & Wilson law firm. Source: mygenealogyhound.com

But in Sterling, Emmett was an oddity, an outsider, an unknown. After having family, friends, loved ones in your face (and in your business) every single day, as it was for Emmett back in Marianna, it probably was a relief for him to be left alone. At least for the first few weeks.

The locals in Sterling were certainly polite to him, but it was hard for him to break into professional and social circles when you are (just about) the only Southern Democrat in solidly Republican northwestern Illinois.

What I think also did Emmett in was the fact that he had to actually work hard to become a part of Sterling’s political and social community.

Think about this: The social and political relationships linked closely to business relationships in this small town. Emmett hadn’t had to work at any of these relationships at this level before leaving Florida.

I estimate that by the end of April, 1906, he realized that the move to Sterling was a mistake. It wasn’t his legal skill; it was the fact that he didn’t fit in, personally, and he didn’t know what to do about that, because he’d never had to give that thought.

That’s when he slipped back into drinking for relief. Eventually, the drinking interfered with his legal skills, which is when someone (or something) tipped Nick Van Sant that something was awry with his protege.

Whoever (or whatever) it was, it spurred Nick to stop by the law firm one day to examine the books. Nick, himself, probably turned them over to his cashier, Frank Heflebower, who would have gone over the accounts carefully. Frank would have advised Nick that something didn’t balance.

The clue that leads me to think this was about poor financial management on Emmett’s behalf comes from an interview Van Sant gave in the 1950s where he discusses his long career, and mentions that just about the only year the law firm wasn’t profitable was the first one, when he’d only cleared $700 that entire year. The fact that Emmett was drinking (probably on the job) didn’t help.

They parted on a friendly basis: Van Sant found another partner who he’d known for several years and was local. It is likely Van Sant also absorbed losses incurred from his partnership with Emmett.

Emmett started his career over again, in Pensacola, working for his uncle, Judge Evelyn Croom Maxwell, wiser for the experience and uncomplaining about his lot in life (at least he did not complain publicly anymore).

Emmett in Pensacola, 1902

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A little over a month ago, I reported on finding electronic copies of The Pensacola News for 1902. The electronic newspaper is located on a database at the George A. Smathers Library of the University of Florida. You can see the copies for yourself at the link here.

There are only a few years of this publication available — and luckily, it exists electronically. My colleagues at the University of West Florida have several bound copies of The Pensacola Evening News (the later iteration of this same paper) from 1913 to 1918, but unfortunately, could not let me (or anyone else) look at it, because the bound copies are literally disintegrating. When I was in Pensacola last October, I asked (my second request), even brought my own cotton gloves with me. The archivists — who know me fairly well by now — really wanted to let me look through the books, but they couldn’t.

One thing to note about the electronic copy is that it is only as good as the hard copy that was scanned in. Here’s an example:

Notice the faded text on the left side of the page. Unfortunately, this is the situation for the left side of the pages throughout the bound book of newspapers. Source: The Pensacola Daily News, Feb 14, 1902, page 1. University of Florida

Notice the faded text on the left side of the page. Unfortunately, this is the situation for the left side of the pages throughout the bound book of newspapers. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, Feb 14, 1902, page 1. University of Florida

I spent several weeks carefully going through every single paper available electronically during the brief period when Emmett lived in Pensacola (September 1901 to February 1902), before he enrolled at Stetson University.

What I know about this period is that Emmett was attending Meux’s Business College, taking shorthand and secretarial courses.

Advertisement from August 30, 1901 edition of The (Pensacola) Daily News. Emmett had been clerking for Judge D.J. Jones, during this time -- but he could only do so much without knowledge of shorthand. It is likely Jones recommended Emmett obtain shorthand training. Emmett was visiting family during the summer of 1901, and this advertisement got his attention. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, August 30, 1901.

Advertisement from August 30, 1901 edition of The (Pensacola) Daily News. Emmett had been clerking for Judge D.J. Jones, during this time — but he could only do so much without knowledge of shorthand. It is likely Jones recommended Emmett obtain shorthand training. Emmett was visiting family during the summer of 1901, and this advertisement got his attention. Shorthand was cataloged under the ‘Sciences’, as in business science. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, August 30, 1901.

Emmett most likely lived with his uncle, Judge Evelyn Croom Maxwell during his six months in Pensacola. Emmett’s grandfather, Judge A.E. Maxwell, was also in Pensacola, but not in the best of health in 1901 — and at that point, A.E. Maxwell had moved in with his son.

Here's the census of 1900 showing that Emmett's grandfather (who went by 'Emmett'; hence the "E.A." in the list) was living with his son and daughter-in-law on Belmont Street in Pensacola. Source: U.S. Census, 1900

Here’s the census of 1900 showing that Emmett’s grandfather (who went by ‘Emmett’; hence the “E.A.” in the list) was living with his son and daughter-in-law on Belmont Street in Pensacola. Source: U.S. Census, 1900

Alas, there’s a big, empty lot now where the Maxwell house once stood.

Book Progress; Emmett’s Vacation

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Emmett’s story is still moving forward; as reported a few weeks ago, I’m nearing the end of the first installation of the book, which covers 1899-1906.

At present, I’m deep in the last half of 1905, around Labor Day. It wasn’t a big, last-summer-hurrah vacation for Emmett, because in 1905, Emmett spent the holiday in Marianna.

He’d might have wanted to go to Pensacola, but it was unlikely he went this year:

In previous years, he'd likely have gone to Pensacola to stay with the Kehoes or his uncle Evelyn Maxwell's family, but this year there was a serious yellow fever outbreak. Source: The Pensacola Journal, page 1, Sept 5, 1905.

In previous years, he’d likely have gone to Pensacola to stay with the Kehoes or his uncle Evelyn Maxwell’s family, but this year there was a serious yellow fever outbreak. Source: The Pensacola Journal, page 1, Sept 5, 1905.

Besides, by Labor Day, Emmett already had his big vacation.

Every year in August, Emmett spent his summer vacation with friends and family in St. Andrews. After he was more established in his career, he would block out the first two or three weeks in August specifically for St. Andrews, where he would spend it with either Cephas’ family (they rented a cottage for a month), or with the Kehoes (who also took a cottage for the same duration). If there wasn’t enough room for him at one point or another, he’d take a room at the Gulf View Inn for a few days or a week.

St. Andrew's Buoy, August 21, 1902 -- Cephas and family renting a cottage. This was routine for Cephas and other Wilson family members.

St. Andrew’s Buoy, August 21, 1902 — Cephas and family renting a cottage. This was routine for Cephas and other Wilson family members.

Emmett would make sure to let the newspapers know when he was headed off on vacation every year. Thanks, Emmett! Source: The Pensacola Journal, August 5, 1908

Emmett would make sure to let the newspapers know when he was headed off on vacation every year. Thanks, Emmett! Source: The Pensacola Journal, August 5, 1908

One thing that stands out in studying Emmett’s vacations is that he was very much a creature of habit.

Every year, without fail, it was St. Andrews, where he would spend most of the time fishing with his brothers. He would not (and did not) simply take off for somewhere new, just to go exploring — routine was comfortable. Besides, he was a mostly solitary, reflective type of person — hours of fishing suited him very well. He could retreat from whatever pressures and stressors in solitude, sitting on a quiet sandbar, waiting, thinking, yet still being productive in catching his dinner.

 

 

An Update on Walker Anderson Maxwell

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Earlier this week, we looked at a few of Emmett’s colleagues from his early days in Pensacola. Since then, I’ve had an update on Emmett’s uncle, Walker Anderson Maxwell, from the excellent Sue Tindel of the Jackson County (Florida) County Courthouse.

Just to review, here’s the newspaper clip from the last post:

From the May 21, 1909 edition of The Pensacola Journal.  Source: Chronicling America.gove

From the May 21, 1909 edition of The Pensacola Journal.
Source: Chronicling America.gov

According to Sue,

“Letters of Administration were filed by Cephas (Emmett’s brother); stated that Walker A. died intestate and the estate consisted of an insurance policy payable to his estate.

“The widow waived her rights as administrator and Cephas petitioned to have Sheriff H.H. Lewis act as administrator.  Cephas stated that Walker A Maxwell died owing M.L. Dekle (Matthew Leonidas Dekle) a large sum of money which was payable out of the insurance funds.  No land etc is mentioned.  I was a little surprised by this.”

As was I. The obituary in The Pensacola Journal states a surprise, short illness, but does not identify it. This raises all kinds of red flags in my imagination.

In the movie, George is in debt to the evil Potter to the tune of $8,000. He doesn't have the money, but, according to his life insurance policy, he's worth more dead than alive.

In the movie, George is in debt to the evil Potter to the tune of $8,000. He doesn’t have the money, but, according to his life insurance policy, he’s worth more dead than alive. Source: filmsite.org/itsa

Could it be that Maxwell borrowed a lot of money from Dekle and couldn’t pay it back? Could it be that Maxwell, who was in ‘charge of the extensive mercantile and plantation interests’ of Dekle got in over his head, somehow, and took his own life, thinking along the lines of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life?”

Once upon a time, the Maxwell name carried a lot of weight in West Florida politics.  The Maxwells were considered a dynasty in West Florida legal circles, starting with Emmett’s grandfather, Augustus Emmett Maxwell, and uncle Evelyn Croom Maxwell, both of whom served on the Florida Supreme Court.

Augustus and Evelyn were wealthy, prominent men; Walker didn’t seem to have had that sort of prominence, and I wonder if that bothered him. Perhaps Walker aspired to the same, and just wasn’t getting there fast enough (in his estimation).

There’s nothing wrong with leading a life of non-prominence; an everyday job has dignity and meaning, maybe even more so than some of the more ‘important’ jobs and jobholders we see in the workforce these days.

At this point, I’m only speculating, because I haven’t seen the copy of the death certificate yet.