September 7, 2016
The American University
I have holes in my Emmett Wilson timeline. Oddball gaps where I don’t know what was going in on his life. The only way I know how to narrow that gap is simply to read the contemporary newspapers from Emmett’s time — his family was prominent in West Florida. If anything, I can track down his family to see what they were doing, then try again to contact descendants about the time period. I don’t have much to go on.
One of the tools I’ve lately discovered is contemporary newspapers. There are several online, and many are available on microfilm for me to borrow via InterLibrary Loan. Today, I’m using the microfilm reader at The American University, where I am both an alumni and adjunct faculty, so I have privileges here.
Last month, 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 in October 2015, 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:
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.
After Emmett came home from WFS in January, 1901, he immediate started clerking for Judge Daniel J. Jones, one of the most important lawyers in West Florida, with the idea that he would do as his brother Cephas: Clerk for a prominent jurist for a few years, take the bar exam, and begin his practice. But times were changing for the legal profession around 1900, as more states were requiring law school and official degrees as proper credentials over old-school apprenticeship training.
Emmett and Judge Jones must have discussed the future of the profession, and I am certain Judge Jones would have encouraged Emmett earn a law degree at a college or university, to ensure his best possible professional opportunities.
And surprise — I’ve discovered Emmett was attending Meux’s Business College, taking shorthand and secretarial courses.
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. It’s possible he was staying with the Kehoe family, but I like to think about Emmett being in proximity to his grandfather. I’ve always believed that Emmett Maxwell and Emmett Wilson were very close.
Alas, there’s a big, empty lot now where the Maxwell house once stood.
And then, I found this:
Imagine clerking for a judge and not knowing shorthand? I suppose that was a problem for Jones. At least he gave Emmett a chance; mentored him for a bit, told him perhaps that he had the brains to do well in law, but he needed some basics. Stenography for sure, and then once he could truly do the work of a clerk for awhile, go to law school.
So, I’ve figured that Emmett remained with Jones as a clerk for about six months, before he left to take the shorthand course at Meux’s Business School in Pensacola. The course ran between eight and 10 weeks.
Then, Emmett returned to Marianna in 1902 to clerk for Cephas for several months, then earning enough money to attend Stetson University in September, 1903.