The Sporting Emmett

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In celebration of Opening Day, we’ll take a look at Emmett Wilson through the lens of his pastimes: Sports.

Emmett appears to have been both athletic and a sports fan. He owned and rode a bicycle to and from classes while attending Stetson University Law School in 1903.

“He failed utterly.” So, Emmett was an average rider. Source: Stetson Weekly Collegiate, Dec. 5, 1903.

He attended a wide variety of sporting events with his friends, including the very first NASCAR race (before NASCAR existed) at Ormond Beach, Florida.

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

He loved to go fishing (enjoying not only the thrill of the catch, but also the solitude and quiet away from his hectic political life), and went on annual trips without fail, always during the first two weeks in August to St. Andrews Florida.

Emmett on the steamer Manteo, August 1908. Source: The Pensacola Journal

He played both football and baseball while at West Florida Seminary (photo below).

Kicker? Tight End? Wide Receiver? It’s impossible to know his position, but Emmett’s on the far left, first row. West Florida Seminary, now Florida State University. 1899-1900. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/152050

But he seemed to prefer baseball, as he played not only for West Florida Seminary, but also for the local Chipley baseball team, and on occasion in pick-up games at Stetson University (juniors versus seniors, for instance).

Emmett, back row, far left. Source: The Argo, 1900-1901, Florida State University Archives.

It is interesting to compare Emmett with his peers in the group photos. Notice that Emmett sits on the end in both photos. In the football photo, he’s a bit separated from the group. This is a relaxed group; Emmett seems at ease here, sitting cross legged on the bottom step, his hands resting on his knees, but he isn’t sprawled like most of the boys on the bottom step.

Notice also how Emmett poses in the baseball photograph. He stares intently at the camera whereas several of his teammates are bored looking away, at ease. The two fellows in suits were the managers.

Maybe the photo was take right after a game and the boys are tired, as they seem a big disheveled, worn out, but Emmett doesn’t look tired or disheveled. Emmett, and the boy sitting next to him were the team substitutes, not regular players.

Emmett seems to be scowling, maybe smirking, at the camera. Notice Emmett’s body language compared to the other boys: He’s tense, as he sits perched on the edge of the bench, shoulders hunched, hands gripping his knees. I wish there were more details about this picture, and when it was taken. (Unfortunately that information doesn’t exist.)

Although Emmett may not have been the most valuable player on the West Florida Seminary team, he was certainly not a bench warmer on the Chipley town team.

Emmett played on the Chipley team on and off before attending West Florida Seminary, as his work schedule would allow. (In 1899, when Emmett was 15, he was already an expert telegrapher, and managing small railroad depots on the P&A line of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.)

Emmett was likely one of the boys who couldn’t make the game. Source: The Chipley Banner, June 10, 1899.

After graduating from Stetson in 1904, there aren’t any more articles about Emmett playing for either the Chipley team or the Marianna team (he moved to Marianna after graduation to form a law partnership with his brother, Cephas). We know Emmett attended games and exhibitions; he probably also played a few games here and there, as did Cephas, who played the occasional exhibition baseball game in Marianna.

Cephas L. Wilson as baseball player for the Fats vs. Leans game, complaining about Lula. Go figure. Cephas was on the “Fats” team. Source: Marianna Times-Courier, July 18, 1912,

It is likely Emmett attended this game in Marianna. There were several important Florida politicians on both the the Fats team and the Leans team. Emmett had just returned home from the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, and was taking a break in preparation for the general election in November; it is reasonable to believe these heavy hitters in Florida politics, all in one place on a hot, summer day, would want to talk to Emmett after the game.

 

 

 

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Recipient Most Likely

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The quest to locate the Wilson family Bible continues. Here’s what I’ve determined so far:

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Emmett’s father, Dr. F.C. Wilson, remarried about 18 months after the death of wife Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson. The new mizzus, Kate Langley Jordan Wilson entered the scene. She was a decent person; had no desire to erase the memory of the first Mrs. Wilson, but, clearly, she was now the family matriarch. She had her own family Bible, which she would want on display in the parlor.

The Wilson family Bible, which Elizabeth was the keeper of, was not discarded, but given to one of the older children, who would hold it dear, appreciate it for what it was — a treasured family relic.

Family records were kept in this book; it was also precious from a legal standpoint, as birth certificates were not necessarily issued by states, nor kept on a regular basis, until after the turn of the century. One example from as recently as the 1940s, was when Katie Wilson Meade took her family Bible to obtain a delayed birth certificate for son Everard Wilson Meade, so that he could join the Navy in World War II.

Everard's delayed birth certificate. If you look midway in the document, there's reference to a family Bible as proof of his birth. Source: Ancestry.com

Everard’s delayed birth certificate. If you look midway in the document, there’s reference to a family Bible as proof of his birth. Source: Ancestry.com

When Elizabeth died in 1891, there were several young children in the house. They would not have been given this precious relic. So, that would have eliminated Walker (six years old); Emmett and Julian (eight years old); Katie (12 years old). I’ve confirmed this with family descendants from these four Wilson children.

Turning now to the older children, here’s what I’ve determined, based on research to date:

  • Eudora, the oldest daughter: Dora was 16 when her mother died, and in my view, she would have been an obvious choice to be given her Mother’s Bible, had there not been older siblings already married and settled down. Dora’s grandson has shared with me that while Dora did not receive the Wilson Bible, she did receive the Maxwell Bible. This makes sense: Elizabeth would have been given her family’s Bible by her father, Augustus Emmett Maxwell. Perhaps Dora was given a choice: The Wilson Bible or the Maxwell Bible, and she knew that her mother held the Maxwell Bible especially dear.
  • Maxwell, the oldest son: When Elizabeth died, Max was part of a traveling band, on the road a lot, and generally considered unsettled. He was not yet married. It seems unlikely this precious book would be in his possession.
  • Cephas, the second son: In 1891, Cephas was still living at home but working with W.O. Butler as his law clerk and apprentice. In 1893, eighteen months later, Cephas was a newly minted lawyer establishing a practice in Marianna. He also married Lula May Wiselogel in 1893, three months before Dr. Wilson married Kate Langley Jordan Wilson. Although I have not been able to prove it yet (because I have not located any of Ceph’s descendants yet), it makes absolute sense (to me) that Dr. Wilson would have given the Wilson family Bible to Cephas as a wedding gift, and, symbolically, as a way of carrying on the Wilson family standard.
  • Percy, the third son: When Dr. Wilson remarried, Percy was in transition — he was an apprentice with a local physician, and, preparing to go away to medical school in Mobile. Percy was an unmarried teenager at this time, too. It seems unlikely that Percy would have been given the Wilson family Bible.

The next two sons in the family, Meade and Frank Jr., were teenagers, unmarried, and living at the Wilson home when Dr. Wilson remarried. They were also working with the Louisville & Nashville railroad in various capacities (luggage manager, conductor, and the like). Neither of these boys were home consistently, as they were assigned to different depots along the railroad line now and then. It would seem that Frank Jr., as Dr. Wilson’s namesake, would be the obvious next candidate to have been given the Wilson family Bible, but the timing was off.

It’s true that Frank Jr. could have been given the Wilson family Bible later, after he settled down, married, and had his own family. But, I’ve been in contact with Frank Jr.’s descendants, and they don’t have the Bible.

One other clue that makes me think that Cephas received the Wilson family Bible was a notation I found in Katie Wilson Meade’s correspondence on the recent trip to Charlottesville:

Katie mentioned in a document from the 1930s that she copied a list of the births, marriages, and deaths recorded verbatim from the Wilson family Bible, and she stated that directly on the list. So, Katie did not have the actual Bible. Katie’s granddaughter confirmed that with me.

Katie was in close, regular contact with a few of her siblings and their spouses at that point, though: Frank Jr., Julian, and Lula Wiselogel Wilson, the widow of Cephas. Based on communication I saw between Lula, Cephas, and Katie Wilson Meade while I was in Charlottesville, I believe that Cephas was the recipient of his mother’s Bible.

 

Now, to track down Ceph’s descendants! Wish me luck!