Spring Break at Ormond

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The research project about Emmett’s junior-year dorm-mates was not some big distracting side-adventure: I was going somewhere with it. Namely, Ormond Beach.

Two months before the essay about the Earls of East Hall appeared in The Stetson Collegiate, I came across this item:

The foursome took the train to Ormond Beach, likely skipping out on their classes Friday. Source: Deland Weekly News

The foursome took the train to Ormond Beach, likely skipping out on their classes Friday, March 27, 1903. Source: Deland Weekly News

Which of these guys had an automobile at that time? Answer: None of them. DeCottes and Carter came from families that might have provided an auto — maybe. In 1903, privately owned automobiles were around, but they were not common.

For example, an article from The Weekly Tallahassean for November 8, 1900 mentions that much excitement was caused when the first automobile was seen on the streets of Tallahassee. Only three years later, in November, 1903, it was still such a novelty that The Weekly Tallahassean reported a “locomobile” sighting downtown. These were the days that cars were oddities, attention-getters.

Funny. Nowadays, if I see a horse on K Street in downtown D.C. (the National Park Service still has mounted police that patrol downtown), I stop and gawk, whereas Emmett would think nothing of it.

An auto in 1903 was more trouble than a horse: The roads were mostly dirt, rutted, better suited for horses. And, you had to ‘feed’ the auto. In 1903, if you owned one of the two or three cars in Tallahassee, and ran out of gas, you might have to wait for help from a neighbor on a horse.

Also, autos were considered the playthings of the wealthy. In 1903, an $850 car costs about $22,970 in today’s dollars. That’s out of the price range for your typical family of four back then, when their average annual income was approximately $500.

The Fordmobile of 1903, $850. Source: www.adbranch.com

The Fordmobile of 1903, $850. Source: http://www.adbranch.com

The first person to own a car in Emmett's family was -- of course -- Cephas Love Wilson, bank president, judge, mayor of Marianna, and state senator. According to the Florida Secretary of State's archive, Cephas bought one if the first cars in Jackson County, Florida, between 1903-05. Cephas' first car was a Buick. Image Source: www.buick.com.

The first person to own a car in Emmett’s family was — of course — Cephas Love Wilson, bank president, judge, mayor of Marianna, and state senator. According to the Florida Secretary of State’s archive, Cephas bought one if the first cars in Jackson County, Florida, around 1909. Cephas’ first car was a Buick. Image Source: http://www.buick.com.

1903 Winton. An earlier model (1898) cost $1000. The 1904 model pricetag was $1500. Source: earlyamericanautomobiles.com

1903 Winton, only $2600. An earlier model (1898) cost $1000. Source: earlyamericanautomobiles.com

Back to the Ormond Beach race. This was a big deal, because it was considered the first unofficial Automobile Club of America (later, AAA) race — the first NASCAR before it was ever NASCAR!

The reason why it wasn’t official is told, below:

Source: The Auto, Vol. 8, 1903. Google Books

Source: The Auto, Vol. 8, 1903. Google Books

So, what did Emmett and his friends witness?

A land-speed record set by Alexander Winton, in his bright red “Bullet.” Winton set a record for a straightaway run down the beach: One mile in 52.5 seconds. Also, Oscar Hedstrom raced his Indian-brand motorcycle.

Source: The Automotor Journal, May 2, 1903. Google Books

Source: The Automotor Journal, May 2, 1903. Google Books

H.T. Thomas driving the "Pirate" along Ormond Beach at the races, March 26-28, 1903. Emmett and his friends would have seen this. Source: The Automotor Journal. Google Books

H.T. Thomas driving the “Pirate” along Ormond Beach at the races, March 26-28, 1903. Emmett and his friends would have seen this. Source: The Automotor Journal. Google Books

The thing about this race is that it wasn’t promoted very widely (despite the big bucks of Henry Flagler, Winton, and W.J. Morgan backing it). About 3,000 attended the race over three days, but there weren’t many reporters there. Ransom Olds (father of the Oldsmobile, and owner of the ‘Pirate’) wasn’t happy with the low press turnout; when the race was repeated in 1904, he made certain that the national press knew about the races at Ormond Beach.

But the boys of East Hall at Stetson University heard about the race. They had no idea that this was to be a historic event; they likely were thrilled with the idea of speed, riskiness, the adventure, all in a brand new invention that only a few years earlier was the stuff of dreams. Imagine what that must have been like, to be Emmett and his friends, to witness this thing?

Did Emmett and his friends get these guys’ autographs? I hope so, but perhaps the crowds prohibited it — it was reported that about 3,000 were on hand for the races over the three-day weekend in March.

Perhaps they brought their pocket Kodak cameras with them and took photos of the events. Emmett liked photography; perhaps he took snapshots and placed them in his scrapbooks.

A snapshot of the races at the beach, from 1907. Source: The Motor Way magazine, from Google Books.

A snapshot of the races at Ormond Beach, from 1907. The 1903 race might have looked like this, too. Source: The Motor Way magazine, from Google Books.

Emmett’s adventures in Ormond Beach on this historic weekend are featured in the second chapter of the book — which is coming along nicely.

 

The Earls of East Hall, Part III

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Emmett's dorm, East Hall, is in the upper right hand corner. Hamilton is right below it. Source: Stetson University Archives

Emmett’s dorm, East Hall, is in the upper right hand corner. Hamilton is right below it. Source: Stetson University Archives

Continuing our study of Emmett’s junior year dorm mates at Stetson University, we now come to Emmett’s name on the list:

The "Earls of East Hall": Anthony, Carter, Fulgham, Pelot, Calmes, "Happy" Merryday, Wilson, DeCottes, "Berry" Sturgeon, Worley, and Fee. Emmett is noted as the authority on "Hamilton Hall," which was a cottage women's dormitory. Source: Stetson University Archives

The “Earls of East Hall”: Anthony, Carter, Fulgham, Pelot, Calmes, “Happy” Merryday, Wilson, DeCottes, “Berry” Sturgeon, Worley, and Fee. Emmett is noted as the authority on “Hamilton Hall,” which was a cottage women’s dormitory. Source: Stetson University Archives

Hamilton Hall, or, Hamilton House, was a women’s cottage dorm. Here’s what the 1902 Stetson University bulletin said about the dorm:

Hamilton House. From the 1902 Stetson University bulletin. Source: Stetson University Archives

Hamilton House. From the 1902 Stetson University bulletin. Source: Stetson University Archives

Some ‘club’ where you have to provide your own cot.

Emmett’s dorm, East House, had what they deemed ‘substantial furniture’ provided already; they were two to a room (as opposed to three for this dorm) and, East Hall cost less that $10 a month.

The student newspaper was gossipy and into everyone’s business, especially the love lives of SU coeds. So, I tracked down the women who were in this dorm during the time Emmett was said to be the dorm’s ‘expert,’ to see if anyone stood out in particular, or was from his home town.

Nothing. Nada. And, Emmett is not mentioned at all in any romantic or social event, or even hinted at in the 1903 newspapers related to these gals, or anyone else.

So what?

Well, I mention all of this because the difference between him and his roommates in all of the society reporting is noticeable. Seriously. I can find a romantic story or tease about every one of his roommates in the 1903 papers, but nothing about him, other than the item from the essay, above. If there was someone special, it would have been reported, because he ran in the top society circle at Stetson, and all of the ‘top names’ got press, if you see what I mean. So, it isn’t certain what they meant by ‘expert.’ Maybe it was a lot of wishful thinking on Emmett’s part, and that was the point.

Whatever ‘expert’ meant in the article, if Emmett was interested on one or more of the women in Hamilton Hall, it wasn’t serious.

  • George A. DeCottes. Source: Find-a-grave.com

    George “Anonymous” DeCottes. He was hardly that. Source: Find-a-grave.com

    George Augustus DeCottes.

Of all of the individuals in the Earls of East Hall project, DeCottes was a character; his friends called him “Anonymous”, but he was hardly that. DeCottes liked to argue for arguing’s sake. That could be considered an asset, especially if you are going to be a lawyer.

He came from a prosperous, well known family; he was clearly a leader on campus, and was also the captain of Stetson’s football team in 1902-03. I have an article that describes how Emmett, Paul Carter and DeCottes took a road trip to Daytona to see automobile races at Ormond Beach.  I can see why Emmett hung out with DeCottes — he had a magnetism about him, and people paid attention when DeCottes was in the room.

There was quite a bit of information about DeCottes across several archives, and with good reason: He was county solicitor for Orange County, city attorney for Sanford, and involved in several local civic organizations. After graduation, it does not seem that Emmett and DeCottes saw each other in the courtroom, or otherwise: Sanford was quite a distance from Emmett’s practice in Marianna and Pensacola.

What stands out about DeCottes in this side research project was his persistence. He refused to let ‘no’ be the last word for anything that he truly wanted. Here’s one example:

When the local military board said he couldn't join up, DeCottes goes to Washington D.C. and joins anyway. In your face, Sanford recruitment chumps. Source: Genealogybank.Com

When the local military board said he couldn’t join up, DeCottes goes to Washington D.C. and joins anyway. In your face, Sanford recruitment board chumps. Source: Genealogybank.Com

  • Berry Sturgeon as a child. Source: Ancestry.com

    Berry Sturgeon as a child. Source: Ancestry.com

    Berry Albert Sturgeon. Berry was a Latin-Scientific curriculum major at Stetson in 1903, an interesting cross-curriculum program. He was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania.

I was unsure how he made it all the way down to DeLand to attend Stetson, except I found a mention in an old Delta Upsilon fraternity magazine, Pennsylvania Chapter, stating that Sturgeon’s health wasn’t good, and he was in Florida — likely, he was in Florida to recuperate from whatever was ailing him — and attending Stetson University.

Interestingly, there’s no indication that he graduated from Stetson; however, he took the bar exam anyway, and passed it in both Pennsylvania and California.

Berry Albert Sturgeon. Source: History of the Bar and Bench of Southern California, 1901. Ancestry.com

Berry Albert Sturgeon. Source: History of the Bar and Bench of Southern California, 1901. Ancestry.com

Something interesting about Berry: He married in 1910 when he was 29 and the young woman was 15. Sure, a lot of women got married young back then, but when you consider we are talking about a mature man, a lawyer, with life and work experience marrying a child just out of middle school (if she finished middle school, by the way), it does seem odd, even for 1910.

It seems that must have dawned on Sturgeon (or someone), because that marriage didn’t last long. The next source on Berry was his World War I registration card, dated September 12, 1918. He’s still an attorney, but now has another wife. Interestingly, she has a different last name than Berry, and, Berry wrote “wife” next to her name, as if he needed to clarify it. This seems really unusual, given the time. Married women took their husband’s name in 1918. Anyway.

The legal practice was gone soon, too. Something big between 1918 and 1924, because there’s a major change in vocation:

By 1924, Berry is listed as a third assistant engineer on a ship called the ‘Victorious,’ which was part of the Tampa Interocean Steamship Company. At the bottom of the ship’s manifest was this:

They had hospitals specific to the disease? Source: New Orleans Passenger Lists; www.Ancestry.com

They had hospitals specific to the disease? Source: New Orleans Passenger Lists; www.Ancestry.com

He moves up the ranks to second assistant engineer in 1927, according to the manifest for the Grace Lines, Inc. (New York Passenger Lists), eventually to first assistant engineer by the time he is 41.

The last record I have of Berry is a Pasadena, Texas death certificate. He is listed as a resident of New York City; perhaps he was visiting or on shore leave. Here is the text from the death certificate:

Cause of death: "Natural causes possibly due to alcoholic poisoning." Source: Ancestry.com

Cause of death: “Natural causes possibly due to alcoholic poisoning.” Source: Ancestry.com`

It seems like Berry left Florida sometime after 1903, and he probably did not stay in touch with Emmett.

Interesting how they have the alcoholism in common.


Stay tuned for the last installment of the “Earls of East Hall,” featuring John Nelson Worley and Fred Free.