Julian Wilson & The Steamer “Gertrude”

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Yesterday afternoon, I was going through my notes (looking for something else, naturally) when I found an article from the July 26, 1906 issue of The Chipley Banner, which reported Emmett’s twin brother Julian, “… a purser on the steamer ‘Gertrude’ was in town visiting his father at home, and left on Sunday to take his run on the ship.”

Of course, I had to stop what I was doing and track this down. Was it possible that there was information about the Gertrude out there?

Sure enough, the wonderful Florida Memory (run by the State Archives of Florida) came through. I found two photographs of the steamboat “Gertrude,” which ran up and down the Chattahoochie River.

The steamboat “Gertrude”, between Apalachicola and River Junction. Source: Florida Memory

I spoke with Julian’s daughter, Jule, several months ago, who told me that Julian and Emmett had become experts with the telegraph while they were teenagers working for the P&A division of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad around 1900.

Emmett did not feel a calling to the life of telegraphy, and set his sights on higher education and the law in 1900. Julian, however, liked telegraphy and Morse code, but he took a break from the railroad around 1903, and joined the crew of the Gertrude, just to mix things up.

Another view of the steamboat “Gertrude,” taking on a supply of wood. Source: Florida Memory

The job of purser was a natural fit for Julian; he was only with the steamship company for about two years (Jule thinks he didn’t care for life on the river), then returned to the L&N. He eventually became an accountant, and spent the rest of his career with the L&N. “My father loved working for the railroad,” Jule said. “He enjoyed going to work every day.”

By the way, the date of the original article that got my attention is interesting: Only a month earlier, Emmett came home permanently from Sterling, Illinois. Either The Chipley Banner was just now making note that Emmett was taking a long ‘vacation’ from his job back in Illinois, or Emmett’s family decided to say something, since it was obvious Emmett wasn’t headed back up North anytime soon.