Secretarial Musings

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I often wonder what kind of employee or boss Emmett was?

Was he considerate and competent? Quiet and hardworking?

A lunch-stealing backstabbing jerk, perhaps?

An excellent source of information on Emmett-as-colleague would be the office records — a desk calendar, case files, or even an office journal. I don’t doubt that Emmett kept records such as these himself. Unfortunately, Emmett’s office records do not exist anymore.

But what if one of his secretaries kept those records?

And what if they exist?

Tracking down office secretaries were with not much to go on was a real challenge — but guess what? I’ve identified five secretaries who either worked with Emmett directly, or as part of Emmett’s law practice!

Here’s the list of secretaries who worked with Emmett while he was a lawyer, district attorney, state’s attorney, and U.S. Congressman:

Bertha A (Bert) Murphy — 1905-08 — Maxwell & Wilson, Clerk for Asst. U.S. Attorney

Minnie Kehoe — 1906-1908 — Kehoe & Smithwick

Nellie Mills — 1914-1915 — Stenographer at the San Carlos Hotel (Emmett lived there on and off between 1914-1915 when Congress was out of session, et cetera)

Jefferson Davis Stephens — 1913-1917 — U.S. Congress

Hilda Dahlstrom Beall — 1910-1914 — Kehoe & Wilson; U.S. Congress (temporary)

Alas, this is not yet a complete list: I haven’t yet identified the secretary for Judge Daniel J. Jones (Emmett was Jones’ clerk in 1902), the secretary for Cephas’ office (Emmett was a junior partner at Wilson & Wilson between 1904 and 1905), or the secretary for Van Sant and Wilson (1905-1906).

It is possible that Emmett might have been the secretary for Jones’ or Cephas’ law offices while he was just starting out, but I don’t think so.

Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

I know Emmett did clerical work for Judge Jones, but it wasn’t consistent, and Emmett didn’t know shorthand.  He had little experience as a law clerk, and Judge Jones has a busy and thriving practice in Washington County, Florida. In fact, it was after a six-month stint at Jones’ office that Emmett was sent to Pensacola to take stenography courses at Meux’s Business College.

And while Cephas loved and supported his brother, he was not fool enough to trust his established law firm records to a younger sibling with an inconsistent work and academic record, who was just starting out.

I’ll introduce the secretaries over the next several posts.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to dig around for information on who may have been the secretaries for Judge Jones and Cephas Wilson between 1900 and 1905. I have a few leads on the Van Sant & Wilson secretary that I want to explore. (Spoiler Alert: One of the secretaries DID keep a journal! And yeah — I have a copy of it!)

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133 and Holding

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Today is Emmett Wilson’s 133rd birthday!

I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with something clever, that does not feel contrived, to honor this auspicious day.

Most of the reason for the lack of inspiration is the residual mental crispiness of burnout from all the writing this past week. Yesterday, I wrote an 18-page ‘false start.’

Anne Lamott talks about ‘false starts’ as part of the natural development of the story in the writing process. But they can be frustrating. We get an idea, we go with it, and after getting it all down on paper, we realize that out of all of that text, only one, maybe two lines, are ‘gold.’ The rest is crap.

But the little bit of ‘gold’ that came out of my 18 pages of crap is pretty good, if I say so myself.  God, grant me the strength to endure this L-O-N-G this process.


I digress. The topic is, Emmett Wilson, Birthday Boy.

I am in search of way to celebrate this man’s natal day. After all, had he not been born, I would not be sitting here, 133 years later, on a quest to tell his story.

A cake, perhaps? Not with 133 candles, though. I’m sure that would be in violation of some local fire code here in Maryland.

Maybe one with a heartfelt, perhaps humorous message.

Did Emmett's family and friends consider this approach? Source: Sheknows.com

Did Emmett’s family and friends consider this approach?
Source: Sheknows.com

Or this? Source: Buzzfeed.com

Or this? Source: Buzzfeed.com

Probably not. Source: marinerfan.buzznet.com

Emmett wouldn’t get this one. What he missed out on by not living to 133 in the 20th century! Source: marinerfan.buzznet.com

OK. A message cake is a bad idea. What about a card?

Not applicable, is it? He didn't own a car, anyway. Source: someecards.com

Not applicable, is it? He didn’t own a car, anyway. Source: someecards.com

Wonder what he'd think of e-cards anyway? Source: someecards.com

Wonder what he’d think of e-cards? Source: someecards.com

I doubt he'd care about his horoscope. Source: desiglitters.com

I doubt he’d care about his horoscope. Source: desiglitters.com

What about a retrospective? What was he doing 100 years ago today, when he turned 33?

Well…it turns out it might not have been such a great day for him. This is what was going on the week of his birthday:

He was home from Washington, D.C, in between congressional sessions, in Pensacola, but not at home, per se. He had to move into the San Carlos Hotel. Now, you may think that’s not such a bad thing; it was a great place to stay, one of the best on the Gulf Coast. But, it wasn’t home.

Jefferson Davis Stephens' campaign photo. He ran for Emmett's seat while still serving as Emmett's private secretary. I wonder if that was awkward for them in the office. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1908

Jefferson Davis Stephens’ campaign photo. He ran for Emmett’s seat while still serving as Emmett’s private secretary. I wonder if that was awkward for them in the office. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1908

Emmett’s ‘home’ had always been with his friends, the Kehoe’s.

And in 1915, J. Walter Kehoe, Emmett’s ‘best friend,’ had decided to run for Emmett’s office. To avoid any conflict of interest, Emmett had to move out of his ‘home’ for the duration of the campaign.

To make it more awkward, Emmett’s own private secretary, Jefferson Davis Stephens, was also running for his office.

The election was eight months away.

That had to be weird. And in moving to the San Carlos away from what was his ‘home,’ Emmett had worked so hard to become a member of the political inner circle — and he made it — only to be ousted in less than three years, and effectively branded an outsider.

Also, he’d almost died several months earlier from kidney failure, related to cirrhosis. The kidney damage was permanent, and his doctors had told him, by now, you have maybe five years tops, if you take care of yourself — which he didn’t. So, you know he wasn’t feeling good at this point in his life.

He might have had a birthday celebration, and his friends may have come together to honor him. I hope so. I hate thinking he had this sad life, but he made some poor choices, and so, had to live with the consequences.


Here’s what I’m going to do to honor his birthday this year.

Blessed Sacrament, Washington, DC

Blessed Sacrament, Washington, DC

At 11 am this morning, at my parish in Washington, DC, there will be a Mass said for the repose of the soul of Emmett Wilson. I know. He wasn’t Catholic, but that doesn’t matter in my faith. We believe we should pray for the souls of everyone.

I have to admit here (and don’t tell Pope Francis or my pastor), but I really don’t believe in Purgatory. My personal thought is that it is mostly a Catholic invention to scare a lot of kids into being good, and not because being good is the right thing to do.

But, like a lot of things in life, I may be wrong. Who knows if there is such a thing? What if there is?

Whatever. It can’t hurt. A Mass is a good gift. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Happy Birthday, Emmett!

Surprised? Pope Frank isn't in town yet, but this is in the vestibule. I have to say that it is rather realistic, especially since the vestibule is a little dark. I jumped when I saw it, thinking it the real thing. Then, I recovered quickly and snapped this for the fun of it.

P.S. Surprised? Pope Frank isn’t in town yet, but this is in the Blessed Sacrament vestibule. It is rather realistic cardboard Pope, especially since the vestibule is a little dark. I jumped when I saw it, thinking this was the Real Deal! LOL. Yeah, I have middle-aged eyes. But, I recovered quickly and snapped this for the fun of it.