Filling in Blanks About Cephas Love Wilson Jr.

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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.

From The Washington Times, February 8, 1922. Source: GenealogyBank.com

So — Cephas, as of sometime in 1921,  was back in Washington, D.C. How do I guess that?

The 1922 D.C. City Directory, in which data was collected in 1921 for this to be published in early 1922. Ceph Jr. is working at a pharmacy, and lives on K Street. Source: Ancesrty.com

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:

Birth of daughter Shirley, January 23, 1923, in The Washington Evening Star. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The next item found about Cephas Jr. was in the 1925 D.C. City Directory:

Cephas Jr. is now a salesman, living in an apartment at 1725 17th St. NW. Source: Ancestry.com

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:

He’s a mechanic — makes sense, since he was with the 1st Engineers during World War I. But, it isn’t his true vocation. Source: ancestry.com

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).

Ceph Jr. and daughter, Shirley, living in Marianna as of the date of this census, April 2, 1930. Source: Ancestry.com

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.

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A Major Grain of Salt

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Source: Weknowmemes.com

Source: Weknowmemes.com

That item I posted in yesterday’s update had some errors. I realized that after I posted it. After spending three years with this family and its records, I like being able to spot errors and confirm the information via my collection of vetted sources. Yay, research!

But the errors…does that make the source invalid?

I think that The History of Florida: Past and Present is still a useful source of information, as long as you don’t rely just on the word of this tome as the Gospel truth. (I know a lot of folks who will look something up in Wikipedia, and nothing else, and voila, feel they are accurately informed.) The History of Florida: Past and Present, is a pretty good starting point for information; you just have to read it with a major grain of salt in your back pocket somewhere, and be sure to fact check the information.

Also: We have to remember that Harry Gardner Cutler was culling all of his data the old-fashioned way (which was not the old-fashioned way in 1923), by interviews, correspondence, and checking other sources that might not have been complete or accurate. He might have been under a deadline to get this massive tome out, especially the second volume. We don’t know what kind of a researcher he was, either.

One thing I do know, is that Cutler was a prolific writer. He published dozens of historical reference books, so, it seems that he may have outsourced a lot of the hands-on research to assistants who may not have been as careful with the data.

Even though some of the info in Cutler’s work makes me question its validity, it is not worthless: The incorrect information give you some clues as to where to look next in research. For instance, if a name is misspelled, it may be that when Cutler was collecting his information, the respondent or interviewee was referring to the individual via a nickname. Cutler, not knowing any better, wrote that down instead of the formal name.

Anyway, here’s another look at yesterday’s item, with my annotations:

It's officially Wiselogel. Source: Interview with Nannett Wiselogel Jordan.

It’s officially Wiselogel. Source: Interview with Nannett Wiselogel Jordan.

This item made me contact one of the Wiselogel descendants, who has become a much treasured friend (we met via this research project — thanks, Emmett!), Nannett Wiselogel Jordan, who told me that, indeed, ‘Wiseloyel’ was an old spelling of their family name. This isn’t an error, but, the official spelling was “Wiselogel.” While it is also correct that there is a large branch of this family in Michigan, the Louis Wiselogels moved to Florida from Illinois. Lula was born in Chicago.

Next:

She actually went by "Mamie." Also, she was born in the District of Columbia. Source: U.S. Census

She actually went by “Mamie.” Also, she was born in the District of Columbia. Source: U.S. Census

Ceph Jr.’s wife went by “Mamie,” although her official name may have been Mary. I’m in the process of confirming this, but I lean towards “Mamie,” because that is on the official marriage license and records from D.C. government archives. Mary’s birth record says she was born in D.C., too; although, her family may have moved to Maryland later. This might have been confusing for Cutler, and I can understand that, as I live 1500 feet over the DC/Maryland state line. I can see DC from my house. I think perhaps that “Mamie/Mary’s” family lived in suburban DC, also known as Maryland, and that’s why it says “Maryland” in Cutler’s record.  (Yeah, OK. Nit-picky. But trust me, this makes a difference, especially during voting season. There’s a reason why DC is denied statehood all the time, but that’s a topic for some other blog.)

This last item, though, was simply wrong:

Kathleen's husband was Ira H. Martin. The son was Ira H., Jr. Source: U.S. Census, Florida State Census, Florida Marriages.

Kathleen’s husband was Ira H. Martin. The son was Ira H., Jr. Source: U.S. Census, Florida State Census, Florida Marriages.

I can imagine Cutler (or, one of the research assistants who didn’t know any better) interviewing the Wilsons, and they, perhaps, pronounced “Ira” as “Arr-ah”, and then, Cutler wrote, “R.” This, to me, sounds as if it the information was gathered by interview, and not by official documents. There’s a big difference between “Ira” and the letter “R.”

(This reminds me of my old Algebra teacher at MSU, who used to pronounce the letter “R” in quadratic formulas as “Arr-ah.” That used to drive me nuts.)

New Impressions From Old Film

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For the past two weeks, the focus has been on reading back issues of The Chipley Banner from 1893-1904, and getting details about the gaps of information during Emmett’s boyhood. I finished the reels and they are on their way back to the University of West Florida.

There wasn’t much there specifically about Emmett, but there was quite a lot about his family, including his father’s remarriage to a local widow with two daughters, as well as major life changes going on around him (mostly his siblings’ marriages, deaths of children, serious illnesses, new jobs in other cities).

It is fortunate to have Emmett’s hometown paper available for research. Chipley was a town of about 400 in 1893, with two newspapers — the Banner and the Verdict — both of which published once a week. The papers reported, in detail, everyone’s comings and goings. The Chipley Banner was into everyone’s business, which, thankfully, has been a great way for me to “get to know” the locals, even more than 100 years later. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find The Chipley Verdict on microfilm or hard copy to date).

Chipley, Florida, 1906. Image source: www.Cityofchipley.com

Chipley, Florida, 1908. Image source: http://www.Cityofchipley.com

Speaking of getting to know people, The Chipley Banner has been a great source of information on Louis Wiselogel, the father of Emmett’s sister-in-law, Lula Wiselogel Wilson.

Louis was an outsider, a transplant from Illinois who moved to Florida to take advantage of mild weather and good business opportunities. He was a Republican in the midst of Democrats; a successful businessman and farmer in an economically depressed community. But, Louis Wiselogel made it his business to be a loyal, hardworking, dedicated member of the Chipley community, and that is what people noticed — and wrote — about him in the paper.

True, Wiselogel’s politics made him a minority in the community, but he was always portrayed as a decent, hardworking neighbor. He was a ‘can do’ guy, someone you could rely upon, and someone who saw everything as an opportunity. One article in The Chipley Banner praising Wiselogel asked why couldn’t Florida’s own native sons be as successful?

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Then, one can also observe the indirect personality profiles in the articles; for example, that of Kate Langley Jordan Wilson, Emmett’s stepmother. I feel certain that the Wilson children liked her and respected her; she was never an ‘evil stepmother.’ But from what I’ve read about her, it seems that she held herself apart from the Wilson children: She neither set out to replace their deceased mother in any way, nor did she go out of her way to become very close to them.

For instance, every time the paper mentioned Emmett or one of his siblings in Chipley for a visit, Kate was never mentioned as part of that visit. On occasion Emmett’s grandfather A.E. Maxwell would visit Chipley, and he was always referred to as Dr. Wilson’s father-in-law (that is, in the present tense, at the time the article was written), and that he was visiting Dr. Wilson, period, with no mention of the current Mrs. Wilson.

We know that death doesn’t end relationships established by marriage; however, the way the news items appeared seemed (to me) almost dismissive of the second Mrs. Wilson — but the second Mrs. Wilson didn’t seemed too bothered by it.

Just an observation from a 111-year distance.

One final impression that has struck me as I read the film, was that Emmett’s progress in school, on the job, and in college, all seemed to be very hard won for him. His progress from high school, to college, then to law school wasn’t as straight of a line or as uneventful as I had originally thought. At one point, it appears that he had to start over completely, as in: Move back home, save up, and try again.

When Emmett moved back home, interestingly, all the other Wilson siblings were already gone (except for the youngest son), and that must have been tough on Emmett, as he was moonlighting to earn money to get on his own once again. Emmett was smart, and he was capable, but I don’t think I’d call him ‘brilliant.’

Hard-working? Yes. Dedicated and persistent? Definitely. But brilliant? No. Sorry, Emmett.

It was hard to write that, by the way.


Today I made contact with the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, and the next time I’m in Tallahassee, it will definitely be on my list of must-see places.

Source: Florida Historic Capitol Museum

Source: Florida Historic Capitol Museum

About four years ago, they had had an extensive exhibit on campaign memorabilia. I contacted the museum; the museum put me in touch with the collector himself!

Unfortunately, he didn’t have anything in his collection about someone as obscure as Emmett Wilson (or, Cephas Wilson), but I enjoyed talking with someone who likes talking about Florida history from that era.

Somewhere out there is an “Emmett Wilson Club” button. Somewhere out there are Emmett’s scrapbooks. The search continues!


I thought I’d share something odd I found in the microfilm this week.

Taken out of context, it would seem that Chipleyites were preparing to wage war on something? Source: The Chipley Banner, 1904

Taken out of context, it would seem that Chipleyites were preparing to wage war on something. Source: The Chipley Banner, 1904

At first glance, I thought: “You can actually purchase a battle axe? This is one fully stocked general store!”

A little more research revealed that the ‘Battle Axe’ was the name brand of a shoe that was made in Virginia, and was so tough, the manufacturer dared you to chop them open per the advertisement: “They stand dissection and inspection!”

An ad for the Battle Axe shoe. Source: theredrivermuseum.org

An ad for the Battle Axe shoe. Source: theredrivermuseum.org

The shoes were made at the Stephen Putney Shoe Company in Richmond, Virginia. I’d love to see a pair of these shoes; surely if they could stand being hacked open, they would have withstood the passage of 111 years?


Finally. Good news!

Hooray! The Escambia Courthouse Archives has reopened!

Hooray! The Escambia Courthouse Archives has reopened!

The Escambia County Courthouse archive is open again, thank goodness! It was closed last April after a major storm swept through Pensacola; I was worried that the records were damaged, but I have been assured everything is fine.

This means I can plan the next research trip to Florida! Too bad I can’t do it this week; we’re having the coldest weather of the winter here in D.C.  Brr!

Stay warm, wherever you are!

Circle of Family: Lula Wilson Grether

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Lula Wiselogel Wilson. Source: FloridaMemory.com

Lula Wilson, poet & musician

The more I dig into Emmett’s family, the more incredible back stories I find about those who loved him best.

For instance, his sister-in-law, Lula, was a poet and musician. She had a song published in 1928, which was similar to having a tune go viral via social media today.

Lula was talented, tactful, thoughtful, tough. I imagine some of that remarkable expressive creativity was the result of living with her husband (Emmett’s older brother), Cephas Love Wilson. She had to create her own Eden, since life with Ceph could be Hell on Earth.

Lula was born in 1873, in Chicago, Illinois, to Louis and Margaret McArdle Wiselogel. Wiselogel moved his family to Chipley, Florida, in the mid-1870s to take advantage of business opportunities (he was a successful blacksmith and wagon-builder).

Lula met Cephas in Chipley, where they were married. Later, they moved to Marianna, where Cephas’ career as a lawyer, judge, state senator and politician took off. Lula and Cephas had two children, Cephas Jr. and Kathleen.

Being married to Cephas was not easy; for starters, this was a man with a large legal practice spread across several counties in West Florida, so he was away from home for days or weeks at a time, especially when the Legislature was in session in Tallahassee. Speaking of Tallahassee, Cephas had his eye on the governor’s mansion. The higher he climbed politically, the more time he spent out and about, away from home. Therefore, Lula was, in effect, a single parent for long periods.

The Florida governor's mansion, 1912. This building was torn down in 1955 because it was structurally unsound and rebuilt on the same site. Source: www.floridagovernorsmansion.com

The Florida governor’s mansion, 1912, also known as “Ceph’s Dream House.” This building was torn down in 1955 because it was structurally unsound. The current mansion was rebuilt on the same site. Source: http://www.floridagovernorsmansion.com

Speaking of getting around, Cephas had a reputation for courting women despite still being married. One state editor who was not impressed with the Hon. Cephas Love Wilson, Esq., wrote a feature item about how Ceph was about to board a train home to Marianna, but at the last minute, snuck off to a young woman’s house — someone he’d only met a few days earlier — for romance. The Marianna Times-Courier didn’t pick up the exchange, but the Pensacola Evening News did, and the Wilsons subscribed to both.

He loves the women. Source: Pensacola Evening News, August 12, 1912.

He loves the women. Source: Pensacola Evening News, August 12, 1912.

I can imagine what dinner was like at the Wilson house the next day after the article came out: Lula handed Ceph the afternoon edition of the Pensacola Evening News, opened right to the story. Lula then handed him a cup of coffee — but did she hand him the scalding hot coffee or drop it right in his lap? Oops.

I doubt the article was news to Lula. She wasn’t stupid. Also, this was probably not the first time Ceph did some extracurricular schlorting in his district; other married men probably did the same thing. But outing Cephas’ activities in the papers for all the world to see, and the resulting public humiliation Lula must have endured, was probably the last straw. She took matters into her own hands, and (according to family records) filed for divorce.

This would be a problem for gubernatorial wannabe Cephas, and an even bigger problem for Emmett, especially if it was filed at the same time state Democratic Party execs decided to back their obscure dark horse candidate, Emmett Wilson, as U.S. Congressman. If word got out about the divorce in the Wilson family, the sins of one brother could easily be visited on the other, especially since Emmett was young, unknown, and had problems staying sober.

Interestingly, Lula didn’t go through with the divorce. I’m not sure if someone talked her out of it; I know it must have been a tough, yet necessary decision.

Although everyone in West Florida who knew the Wilsons would have agreed that Lula had reason to file for divorce, common sense told her that she would have the most to lose if she went through with it. A divorce would negatively impact her daughter Kathleen’s standing in society and future marriage prospects. Also, financially, Lula would be on her own, and likely, without custody of her children. I don’t think the idea of being self-sufficient bothered Lula, but she was sensitive to what others may say to her elderly parents about the situation, or how her teenage children would be affected, and she was protective of them.

The fact Lula withdrew her divorce petition was not a sign of weakness. Deciding to stick it out with someone who didn’t respect her in order to protect her loved ones required an incredibly strong character. She didn’t like it, but she didn’t dwell on it, either. Instead, Lula got busy.

Lula channeled her energies into several major community and public services. One example: Lula established and organized the Marianna chapter of the American Red Cross in 1917 (although The Pensacola Journal erroneously credited that to Cephas). The successful Marianna chapter was the model for the Pensacola chapter, as Lula was invited to lead the setup in Escambia County later that year.

WWI Red Cross volunteers in Florida rolling bandages. Very likely Lula was instrumental in setting up this group. Source: State Archives of Florida

WWI Red Cross volunteers in Florida rolling bandages. Very likely Lula was instrumental in setting up this group. Source: State Archives of Florida

Lula found her happiness and fulfillment in doing good for others.

And Cephas? He doggedly pursued his dream: Cephas told reporters for years that the one thing he truly wanted in his life was to be Governor of Florida. He ran for the office twice, but withdrew before the first primary for either race. The public reason he gave both times was that his business and family were his first priorities, and the race was distracting. I kinda doubt that, because Ceph was a master politician. He could have handled being governor. Hell, he could have handled being congressman. What I think happened was that his extracurricular personal life was an addiction of sorts that got in the way of his professional life. Similar to what happened with Emmett and alcohol.

Lula remained married to Cephas until he died in June, 1923. She remarried about two years later. She found happiness. I hope she found love. I think she did; she was now channeling her energy into music and poetry, which resulted in her getting her song published. Nowhere is there a mention of her first married name.

"Chipola River" by Mrs. Lulu (Lula) May Grether. Source: Floridasheetmusic.com

“Chipola River” by Mrs. Lulu (Lula) May Grether. Source: Floridasheetmusic.com

Well done, Lula.

Taboo Topics & Thanksgiving Gatherings

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Big family, many dogs, lots of off-topic issues, you can be certain.

Big family, many dogs, lots of off-topic issues, you can be certain.

Do you have any off-limit topics in family gatherings?

Sure you do!

We all do! And when you have a big family (like I do), you know there are several key topics you just don’t discuss, unless you want to have a meltdown on a holiday.

I’ve been a witness to (although, not a participant in) a few Thanksgiving rumbles. I purposely stay out of hot button discussions to ensure my holiday visits never turn into ‘guilt trips.’ Also, I’m not a good fighter: I’m afraid I’ll say something really hurtful, and you can’t take words back once they are out. I don’t like to be uncomfortable around my family.

Yesterday, after everyone was sated post-holiday feast, I found this interesting article from The Onion . Of course, it is a joke, but I think there may be something to this. Check it out.

Family Powerpoint Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner. A worthwhile idea. Source: www.theonion.com

Family Powerpoint Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner. A worthwhile idea. Source: http://www.theonion.com

The taboo topics in our family center around politics, religion, and Ole Miss versus Mississippi State. Of course, you know my leanings, but it would not be gracious to gloat, especially since my MIL (one I love dearly) is an Ole Miss alum. Alas. Snicker.

Imagine what Emmett Wilson’s family Thanksgiving taboo topics list may have included (if they constructed such a list):

  • Cephas’ latest extramarital affair, including any of the names of the women, local or long distance.
  • Lula’s filing for divorce from Cephas (unusual back in the day)
  • Emmett’s latest drinking spree
  • Max’s most recent business failure
  • Dr. Wilson’s illness/heart trouble which forces his retirement

Politics would not have been off-topic, as all of the Wilson men were active in the Florida Democratic Party. But Lula’s family were staunch Republicans (her family was well respected in the community, too). I can imagine her having to endure the Wilson men putting down anyone who was a Republican at the dinner table with a tad bit of resignation.

And then, the wine would start to flow, and I’m sure the talk would become highly charged. Hopefully, vases weren’t often hurled and fistfights were kept to a minimum, but you know how it can be with large families.

I wonder how Emmett — and his family — handled the heated discussion? I sense that everyone was extremely decorous at the table, and either swallowed their resentment (and snappy comebacks) along with the dry corn bread dressing, only to let the bad feelings simmer for days or weeks at a time. I’m only speculating, of course, but from what I’ve learned in the research, it seems that Emmett and his family kept a lot of their true feelings to themselves until it was too late to repair damaged feelings and relationships.

Knowing this about Emmett’s family makes me appreciate being charitable to others whose opinion differs from my own; it makes me appreciate having healthy relationships with others, even if they are Ole Miss fans. 🙂