I have great news!
Emmett’s grand-niece, Elizabeth Meade Howard, has published a book!
Elizabeth is the granddaughter of Katie Wilson Meade. I’ve ordered mine from Amazon, and I cannot wait to read it!
In my last post, we found Cephas Jr. back home in Marianna post recovery from a throat injury he received while he was stationed in France in 1919.
According to the U.S. Census for 1920, Cephas Jr. had moved back in with his parents and had a job as a ‘presser’ in a shop, possibly a laundry business, upon his return to Marianna.
Last year, I wrote about Cephas Jr. and his first marriage to Mamie (or Mary) Gertrude Baker, and the fact that Cephas and Mamie had one daughter, Shirley. Although I haven’t heard from any family members or descendants about Cephas Jr. to date, I have been able to fill in some of the blanks.
After the 1920 Census, my next source of information is an article in The Washington Times, dated February 8, 1922, announcing a marriage license between Cephas Jr. and Mamie Baker.
So — Cephas, as of sometime in 1921, was back in Washington, D.C. How do I guess that?
I wonder how Cephas and Mamie met? Is it possible she was a nurse at Walter Reed, and the two of them met there, fell in love? (Yep, I’m trying to track that down — but it is a distinct possibility, because I’ve found information indicating she was a nurse. Still trying to confirm it, though!) Cephas was in the hospital for a long time. Mamie was from Silver Spring, Maryland (a suburb of D.C.). Walter Reed is not far from the D.C./Maryland state line… I don’t like to speculate. But, it looks like this may have been how they met.
Less than a year later:
The next item found about Cephas Jr. was in the 1925 D.C. City Directory:
I believe Mamie died sometime between 1925 and 1930 — and 1930 was a big year of change for Cephas Jr., because we find him in two different places. First, he’s listed in the 1930 D.C. City Directory, but he doesn’t live in D.C. anymore:
Notice that he’s in Alexandria? That’s because he — and baby Shirley — had likely moved in with Emmett and Cephas Sr.’s sister, Katie Wilson Meade, who lived in Alexandria.
This was only temporary, though, because Cephas and his daughter, Shirley, are also listed in the 1930 U.S. Census as living with his grandparents, the Wiselogels, in Marianna (Cephas Jr.’s mother had remarried, to John Grether, and was now living in Jacksonville).
The rest of the story after 1930 is found here.
For now, this is everything I have about Cephas Love Wilson Jr. I’d love to have a more comprehensive story, especially about whatever happened to Shirley, and if Cephas Jr. had any of his photographs or artwork published anywhere else. If any family members stumble across this information, I’m happy to share what data I’ve gathered.
Want to know why writing Emmett’s book has been taking so long?
I found this during my ‘go back and check databases for updates’ routine. Something I do every other month or so.
The Chronicling America database is huge, which is why one would want to limit the searches to states, or specific newspapers.
It isn’t that I haven’t done an entire sweep of the database this size before, but it can be overwhelming to see thousands of items returned in a large sweep. I’m glad the database is there — and I’m thrilled to have found this extra source of information. Emmett’s uncles and cousins, and his sister, Katie Wilson Meade, lived in Alexandria and were community/church leaders — there’s wonderful new articles to read about Emmett’s family in this paper!
My concern, as always, is missing or overlooking information that’s out there, but information I’d never find because it is misfiled or mislabeled, or has typos. This is one of the reasons I do regular checks of databases. The effort is completely worth it, but I’d never considered the idea that the newspaper in this particular database would have been filed under the wrong state.
And, of course, this will mean going back into the databases to consider that variable.
Commencing rolling up the sleeves and digging in….
If you’re just now joining us, we’ve been dissecting a letter from Emmett’s brother and law partner, Cephas Love Wilson, addressed to his brother-in-law Emmett Augustus Meade (husband of Katie Wilson Meade), dated January 10, 1910 (here, here, and here). Today, we’re finishing up our analysis of the message itself.
Here’s the last section of Cephas’ letter:
As mentioned in an earlier post about Katie Wilson Meade, two out of three of her children died in infancy: The first child was only 10 days old; the second, 10 months.
Katie’s granddaughter Elizabeth (who I met last year in Charlottesville) did not give a reason for the early deaths. I had the impression from Elizabeth that these were things never spoken about (much like Emmett Wilson’s alcohol addiction, or, the death of Katie’s mother, Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson): Painful memories were kept quiet, or, best forgotten. However, Elizabeth reminded me that Katie and Emmett Meade were first cousins, and that might have been a factor with at least one of the infant’s deaths.
For all that this was a large family fairly spread out across West Florida, and up the East Coast, they were tightly knit. I have several documented examples where Katie’s father, and the Wilson siblings, would drop anything and everything if one of their own’s lives was despaired of; Cephas’ comment in the letter is not just a pleasantry.
Finally, the handwritten comment in the margin of the original letter is wonderful and poignant:
I believe “Jerisey” was a beloved family dog, who stays mostly with Cephas, and in his office (and not in the family home). Maybe Jerisey was not always allowed in the house; sleeping on either the front or back porch most of the time.
This side note gives us a more human or accessible understanding of Cephas. When I first ‘met’ Cephas in this research, I thought he was a bit of a dog himself, i.e., the way he seemed to glom off of Emmett Wilson’s successful congressional career, and the damning article about him stepping out on Lula while he was attending a conference.
Over the past four years, my impression of Cephas has changed: He wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes. He let his ego get in the way of a lot of things in his life — we all do that, though. It is neither fair nor accurate to expect. And now, I what’s not to like about a man who truly cares about his siblings, who opened his doors (and his wallet) to help his family anytime he was asked?
What’s not to like about a man who allows a beloved pet to hang out with him in his office on a regular basis?
I’d love to find a photo of “Jerisey.”
We continue to dissect Cephas Love Wilson’s letter to Emmett Augustus Meade, dated January 6, 1910:
“Uncle Meade” was The Reverend Everard Meade, O.D., “Gentleman, Soldier, Man of God.” He was the rector of the historic Pohick Episcopal Church in Lorton, Virginia (about 30 miles south of Washington, D.C.), which was established in 1732. Uncle Meade’s wife was Lucy Brockenbrough Maxwell Meade.
Uncle Meade was not always a minister; he started out as a teacher and the owner of a school in Pensacola in 1868, when Augustus Emmett Maxwell and his family (wife Julia, daughters Lucy [Emmett’s Aunt], Elizabeth [Emmett’s Mother], and youngest son Simeon) returned to the family home, “Oakfields,” after the Civil War.
Emmett’s father, Francis C. Wilson, was also living in Pensacola, and apprenticing with a local established physician. The backstory of this part of Emmett’s family history is in an earlier post, by the way.
The Maxwells were devout Episcopalians, as were the Wilsons, at least up until the death of Lucy’s sister, Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson in 1891 in Chipley.
The current pastor at the Episcopal Church in Chipley told me that there wasn’t a congregation there until the 1920’s, and parishoners either attended services in Marianna (20 miles away), or Eufala, Alabama. Dr. Wilson was not Episcopalian; but he and Elizabeth raised their family in her faith.
Dr. Wilson remarried in 1893 in Chipley. His second wife (Catherine “Kate” Langley Jordan Wilson) was the daughter of the local Baptist minister. Kate was devout and strictly temperance; she was a regular at the Baptist Church, but it is not clear if Dr. Wilson attended church with her. We do know that once Dr. Wilson remarried in 1893, his two daughters (Emmett’s sisters), Katie and Dora, moved in with Cephas (who now lived Marianna with his wife, Lula, and had a successful law practice). Emmett’s sisters attended St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Marianna regularly; Katie would marry Emmett Augustus Meade at St. Luke’s in 1902.
Dood and the ‘Break’ Stunts
Cephas’ description of Lula Wiselogel Wilson doing ‘break’ stunts is wonderful, and quite different than the impression I’ve had of her over the past four years — mostly, she’s come across as serious, thoughtful, kind, musically talented, creative, and long-suffering [given that she had to put up with Cephas’ infidelities, which were publicly known and at least once reported on in West Florida newspapers].
The idea of Lula as someone who would pull ‘stunts’ seems out of character for Lula, but then, the tone of this letter from Cephas is joking. I think this letter was Cephas’ attempt at jollity and relief, as Katie and Emmett Meade had lost several babies in a span of only five years. I’m certain that Katie and Emmett Meade were overjoyed with their new son, but also probably terrified that something might happen to him, as it had with their two other infant sons. This was confirmed in an interview I had with Everard Meade’s daughter, Elizabeth, who told me that Katie Meade would hover over her son for most of his childhood, and stay closely connected to him all his life (sometimes to the chagrin of Elizabeth’s mother).
Another interesting detail from Cephas’ letter is that Lula drank alcohol — at least occasionally. And, like Cephas, she wasn’t used to champagne.
Also, the gathering at Cephas’ house on January 3, 1910 with Jeanet McKinnon and Jhon Burton doesn’t appears to have been planned, but a spontaneous celebration of Katie and Emmett Meade’s new baby. Jeanet McKinnon and Jhon Burton happened to be at the Wilson’s home on Lafayette Street for dinner on the day Cephas received word about the birth of his new nephew.
One final thing to note is the fifth line of this blurb, where the party attendees talk about their hopes for the baby’s future. Cephas, naturally, wishes the baby to be a successful lawyer.
Jeanet McKinnon says she hopes the baby is ‘as nice as his father’ and ‘as sweet as his mother.’ I’m sure Cephas was ‘nice’ to Jeanet; she was related to him by marriage (her sister May was married to Cephas’ older brother Frank Jr. in Pensacola), but Jeanet didn’t know Cephas that well.
And Lula “…hoped that whatever he was, he would be the best.” That comment is exactly in keeping with Lula’s character. Lula was the kind of woman who would never push her expectations on anyone — not her children (Cephas Jr., Kathleen), not her husband, not Emmett (who saw Lula as a surrogate mother from time to time).
Lula was also the kind of woman who hoped her family members were prominent and successful, but she also knew that real happiness was more about inner fulfillment and happiness, because Lula didn’t seem to have either while she was married to Cephas.
We’ll finish up with the analysis of this letter in the next post.
In the last post, we took a close look at a letter written by Cephas Love Wilson to his brother-in-law, Emmett Augustus Meade in January, 1910. Today, we’ll do what I think is the fun part of corresponding research — dissecting the text of the letter! I’ll take a few sections out and examine them with you.
Let’s get started!
I thought the punctuation style was a little unusual — it looks like a half-emoticon through my 20th-century lens, but I’ve seen this style on other letters, too. Without knowing that this was OK, it would appear to be a typo.
Cephas received a message from Emmett Meade, sent on January 3rd, that Everard Wilson Meade was born on January 2nd. The Meades were not wealthy, and so would not have telephoned this to Cephas. Likely, Emmett Meade (who worked for the railroad at this time) sent a telegram. Cephas was probably not the only one who received a telegram: Likely, Dr. Wilson would have received word in Chipley, as would have Emmett Wilson, in Pensacola, also by telegram. Two of the Wilson siblings (Julian and Walker) were living with Cephas in Marianna at this time; Dora was married and living a few blocks away in Marianna as well.
The safe delivery of Everard was a big deal: This would the fourth and last child of Emmett and Katie Meade. They had lost three infant sons over the past eight years, none of whom lived to see their second birthday. Everyone was anxious about Katie and the new baby, who would grow up to be an advertising executive and an author.
The comment about the U.S. Supreme Court is interesting, and totally in line with the way Cephas thought: Cephas never had a general goal in his life; he aimed for the top prize, always.
Elizabeth (Katie’s granddaughter) told me that she never thought her father, Everard Meade, was interested in the law, despite the exposure he had from the numerous uncles and cousins who were lawyers and judges.
Cephas, himself, would not have entertained the idea of becoming the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He had thrown his hat into the Florida Governor’s race at least twice, and his political star was definitely on the rise in 1910 — his big lifetime dream was to live in the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee. But it couldn’t hurt to encourage big dreams in his brand new nephew; the Wilsons were all about politics.
“Jeanet and Jhon Burton.” That’s misleading; these two were not married, and they wouldn’t ever marry each other. They might have been courting at this point; if they were, it didn’t last.
Here, Cephas is talking about Jeanet MacKinnon, a longtime friend of the family who never married, and a man named Jhon Wilton Thomas Burton. (That’s not a typo, by the way: His first name is spelled Jhon; click here to see his tombstone in Marianna. Unusual, isn’t it?)
The story with Jeanet is that many family and friends were keen about matchmaking for her — at least, that is how it appears. I always had a feeling that our Emmett was even put out as a consideration, but of course, Emmett never intended to marry.
I’m sure Emmett knew Jeanet from childhood. Emmett was Jeanet’s escort at Katie and Emmett Meade’s wedding in 1902. If there had been a chance for Emmett and Jeanet to get together, there was always ample opportunity; but, things didn’t work out between Jeanet and our Emmett.
In 1910, Jhon was living with his brother Massey R. Burton’s family; he was the manager of the telephone exchange. Knowing this, it is possible that Jhon received a phone call from Emmett Meade all the way from Alexandria, Virginia to Marianna, Florida — but it would have cost about $60 in 1910 dollars — and still would have been prohibitive for the Meades.
He was about 30 when he was married on January 12, 1916 to Mary Florence Willard. In 1920 Census, he and Florence are living with her mother, and brother, in the Burton house, in Marianna. He is a bookkeeper for a store; she is a bookkeeper for a bank — perhaps Cephas’ bank.
In 1930, the U.S. Census reports Jhon to be divorced, but interestingly, still living with his mother- and brother-in-law (Pearl Willard, Stewart Willard). He is listed as a grocer. This makes me wonder who filed for divorce — it seems as if Florence’s mother would not have tolerated living with the son-in-law if he were the one who petitioned for divorce.
In the 1940 Census, Pearl is living with her daughter Florence and her husband, in Pensacola. Florence remarried sometime between the 1920 and the 1940 U.S. Census; Jhon has also remarried to Mary Lena Burton. Jhon appears to be a salesman for a snuff company (the handwriting on the U.S. Census looks like it is “Snuff Co.”), and he had an 11-year-old son named George. Mary Lena is 21 years younger than Jhon; it looks as if they were married around 1928 or 1929.
I honestly didn’t plan to do this much work into the Burton story, but the line in Cephas’ letter that says how Jhon Burton is like a member of the family intrigues me. If Jhon is that close to Cephas, I wonder if Cephas handled his divorce? Did Cephas think of Jhon as a younger brother? He was about Emmett Wilson’s age.
I’ll take a break here, because the analysis on this one little piece is running long for this post. Tomorrow or the next day, I hope to finish with information about Jeanet MacKinnon, and the rest of the highlighted points from this portion of the letter.
I’m always surprised by how much information one can glean from a single document, if you examine it closely!
As promised in the last post, I’ll now walk you through the process I use to review artifacts that inform my research on Emmett Wilson.
Here’s a document I received from Emmett’s grand niece, Elizabeth, who is the granddaughter of Katie Wilson Meade.
Elizabeth’s original note with this document said that it wasn’t about Emmett Wilson, and so, she wasn’t sure if I would need or want to have it, but she knew Cephas was important in telling Emmett’s story.
Elizabeth was correct — Cephas was a HUGE influence on Emmett, and of all his siblings, was closest to Emmett, as the relationship weathered several ups and devastating downs all through Emmett’s life. So, this document is valuable for background information. Of all the Wilson family members, Cephas was Emmett’s mentor. He stood by Emmett, guided him, counseled him as long as Emmett would take constructive advice.
Examining the Medium
I examine artifacts through three lenses: Medium, Message, and Context. Today, we’ll examine the medium; i.e., the document itself.
The first thing I notice is that Cephas wrote a personal letter to his brother-in-law, Emmett Augustus Meade of Alexandria, Virginia, on his office letterhead.
Cephas’ information on the letterhead tells us a lot, too, even though it is sparse. There’s not much detail because Cephas Wilson didn’t need that much detail for identification in West Florida back in the day. I imagine my historic research colleague Sue Tindel would agree with me if I said that in 1910, a stranger could cross the city limits of Marianna and say the words, “Cephas Wilson” out loud, and any bystander would immediately know who the stranger was talking about, and where that stranger could find Cephas.
It would be akin to saying “Elvis” out loud, anywhere in the United States. Most folks would say, “Elvis? He’s in Memphis.” (I’m not saying that Cephas was Marianna’s “Elvis” in 1910, but you get the idea.)
The personal letter to his brother-in-law, Emmett Augustus Meade, is typewritten. There’s samples of Cephas’ handwriting on the letter. His handwriting is neither illegible nor difficult to read, but more significant to me is that Cephas wrote this personal letter to his brother-in-law in his office. Not at home.
This gives me a clue that Cephas spent, probably, most of his time at work, and perhaps an 80-hour work week was normal for him. I don’t know that Cephas was a workaholic, but it is possible. Consider:
So, we have Cephas writing personal letters in his office. Truthfully, I can understand why he’d have done that: His house was busy, not large, but full, with children and relatives temporarily living with him and Lula. I doubt seriously if Cephas was able to steal a quiet moment away from the noise and hubbub of his surroundings except for his office.
Another thing about typewriting a letter as opposed to handwriting a letter — I find it easier to type a letter these days because my thoughts move so much faster, and the words flow smoother if I use a keyboard as opposed to a pen and paper. Yeah, I still carry around the old school notebook and pen, and I do write in an old school journal. But my handwriting isn’t very good, because I’m used to writing fast, and it is frustrating trying to capture my thoughts with slow and sloppy penmanship. With all that Cephas had going on in his life, I feel as if that is also why he’d write personal letters on a typewriter.
The typewriter, by the way, was on Cephas’ secretary’s desk, which would also explain a little why Cephas used professional stationery instead of a plain piece of paper, or personal stationery: Cephas’ letterhead was probably the most convenient paper on hand when he sat down at his secretary’s desk to write the letter.
Below is an example of professional correspondence written by Cephas in 1908. It is a short letter in which Cephas wastes no time; he gets right to the point. Note the margins and line spacing, compared to the personal letter at the top of this post.
I usually examine the back of the document too, but an image of the back was not included in the scan Elizabeth sent. Also, I like to go over the document in a bright light and with a magnifying glass. I look for things like fingerprints or other subtle marks on the front or back of the document.
This is just a short analysis of what I do in the ‘medium’ analysis of a document. In my next post, I’ll walk through the message of Cephas’ letter to Emmett Meade. That’s a more intense, line-by-line dissection; so, stay tuned!