History of Florida, Past & Present

Standard

In 1923, Harry Gardner Cutler published a ginormous compendium of Florida biographies, complete with similarly sized title History of Florida: Past and Present, Historical and Biographical.

Three volumes complete the set, and today, it is available via Google Books at this link.

Nancy. I miss her every day.

It’s an interesting and informative resource; in fact, this massive resource is how I met my dear friend Nancy five years ago. Nancy owned an original set of Cutler’s History of Florida; she’d transcribed a biography of one of Emmett’s friends and posted it to a genealogical database. I found the bio and the email link in that database, wrote to her for permission to use the information, we struck up a correspondence, and the rest is history (no pun intended).

History of Florida, Volume 2, includes the biography of Emmett’s brother, Cephas L. Wilson, beginning on page 348. The bio reads much like the man himself: A bit pompous and overblown. See the snippet from the bio, below:

I wonder if Cephas wrote some of the copy for the bio. Snippet is from page 348, lower right hand column. Source: Google Books

The biography includes a lot of interesting family details. For example:

Snippet is from page 349 of History of Florida. Source: Google Books.

The biography goes on to include information about Cephas’ law practice, political aspirations, Emmett and Cephas’ parents, even a lengthy paragraph about Cephas’ marriage to Lula Wiselogel (spelled Wiseloyel in the biography; Lula’s cousin Nannett told me that spelling was not unusual).

But not a word about Cephas’ brother, the U.S. Congressman, even though Emmett had been dead five years by the publication date.

Advertisements

Wise Wiselogels

Standard

Here’s the obituary for Louis Wiselogel, father of Lula Wiselogel Wilson Grether, Emmett’s sister-in-law. I found it while I was looking for something else (naturally)!

Source: St. Andrews Bay News, December 12, 1935, page four, via Florida’s Hidden Treasures.

Lula married Emmett’s older brother, big shot politician and gubernatorial candidate Cephas Love Wilson in 1893.

Lula Wiselogel Wilson. Source: FloridaMemory.com

It was not an easy marriage for Lula; a modest, lovely and unassuming woman, she was in the spotlight as often as her husband Cephas, and suffered the humiliation of his infidelities joked about in the Florida state newspapers.

One Wilson family genealogy mentioned that the gossip about Lula and Cephas was ‘terrible’ during the early 1900s, as she filed for divorce at least once because of Cephas’ caddish ways.

I’m sure Louis Wiselogel took Lula’s side, but I wonder how he counseled her to stick with the marriage, knowing how painful and tough it was on his daughter.

I can also imagine Louis telling Lula, while she had reason to sue for divorce, and no one who knew Lula would have blamed her for leaving, divorce was unheard of for a woman of her social standing. Louis probably told her while this was an untenable situation, she had to make the best decision not just for herself, but also for her family.

Cephas Love Wilson Sr. died on June 25, 1923. About two years later, Lula was remarried to a widower, John D. Grether, of Jacksonville. From all reports, Lula and John Grether were happily married.

What I think is interesting about the obituary is one of the pall bearers — Ira Martin. Ira was Lula’s former son-in-law; her daughter Kathleen’s first husband whom she wed at 15, and divorced by 25.

By 1930, Ira and Kathleen had remarried other people, but Lula and her father apparently remained fond of Ira. Divorce was still considered a big deal in the 1930s, but by this point, it seems Lula and her father wouldn’t have advocated sticking with a no-win situation.

That they understood that some relationships simply don’t work out.

Cephas Love Wilson’s son-in-law, Ira Martin, with Cephas’ grandson, Ira Jr., in 1917. This was taken in front of Cephas’ house, on Jefferson Street. Source: Ancestry.com

And that family isn’t always defined by a marriage license or blood connection.

The Runaway Incident

Standard

 

Friends, I’m happy to report that I’ve hit a treasure-trove of new information on Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., oldest son of Cephas Love Wilson Sr., Emmett’s closest sibling, law partner, and executor of his estate. I’m thrilled with the amount of information I’ve turned up; not only does it shed light on Emmett’s nephew, but interestingly, it informs the personality of Emmett’s brother. That’s important, because Cephas Sr. was a surrogate father to Emmett, at least until Emmett graduated from law school in 1904.

This is a big find because it confirms my understanding of Cephas Sr.’s behavior, in terms of expectations he had for those he wanted to help him build the Wilson family dynasty. And, it confirms my understanding of the power struggles among the Wilson brothers. More on that later.

First, I’d like to share a very interesting article that I unearthed unexpected the other day — when I was looking for something else, naturally!

Check it out:

Lula was likely scared out of her wits. Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., the baby, was less than a month old. Source: The Chipley Banner, August 25, 1894.

Can you imagine what that must have been like?

Here’s Lula, with a one-month old baby, probably just out for her first drive since she had Cephas Jr. A brand-new mother out with her brand-new baby, probably making calls on friends in Chipley that Saturday afternoon. In fact, Lula, the baby, and Cephas Sr. were on their way to St. Andrews for a week’s vacation. They decided to stop in Chipley for a few days to visit with family, to show off their son.

This was Dr. Wilson’s buggy. Here, Dr. Wilson is posed in front of the Butler house in Chipley, likely on a house call. This is also probably the same buggy that Lula drove when the horse was spooked. Background on this photo: It was a copy given to me by a direct descendant of the Butler family in Chipley; I am not certain who has the original, but there are contemporary prints (large, matted) in existence. I obtained one from a contact in Pensacola, Lucy Gray; I gave that matted print to Emmett’s 99-year-old niece. 

Lula probably put Baby Cephas in a basket, right there in the front, on the floorboard of the buggy. And suddenly — the horse takes off!

The streets of Chipley were not paved in 1894, but they were dirt roads, probably uneven, possibly rutted, especially if she was on or about Main Street, where large wagons and cattle passed through. The short article doesn’t give much attention to the fact that this was a truly dangerous situation, especially with a horse racing through a busy town, over an uneven, hard road. It says, ‘no one hurt,’ but Lula and the baby could have easily been killed.

And I can imagine what this might have been like for Lula: She was probably panicking, her heart racing, calling for help as the horse literally tore down the road. I can also imagine Lula anxiously pulling back on the reins, desperate to slow the horse, while frantically trying to keep the basket steady with her feet. “Dear God,” she must have prayed out loud, “please keep us safe!

We don’t know if Lula was able to stop the buggy herself, or if some of the townsmen chased and eventually overtook the buggy, escorting them back to the Wilson’s house on 6th Street. It seems most likely that a Good Samaritan helped her, though; she would have been frightened out of her wits, maybe unsteady, and appreciative for assistance in case the horse was spooked again on the way home. It also seems likely that the Good Samaritan told the tale among the neighbors once all was back to normal, and word got back around to the editor of The Chipley Banner.

And, in later days and weeks, as she held Cephas Jr. close to her, perhaps rocking him to sleep at the end of the day, Lula would probably reflect back to this moment.

Before I found this article, I have long believed that Lula and Cephas Jr. always had a close relationship; i.e., Cephas Jr. wasn’t a ‘Mama’s boy,’ but he and his mother they shared many interests, and had a good rapport. (Interestingly, I don’t this was the case between Lula and Kathleen Wilson, Cephas Jr.’s younger sister.) Now that I’ve seen this, I wonder if this near-miss helped foster the protective, close relationship Lula always seemed have with Cephas Jr.

I’d love to hear from any of Cephas Jr.’s descendants about this.

===

I’ll continue my report on the new information about Cephas Love Wilson Jr. over the next few days.

 

Spring Cleaning

Standard

On Tuesday, I posted final grades for the spring semester of my classes. Typically, I take the week in between spring and summer semesters to clean out files, finish last minute prep work, and and prepare for the next set of classes.

In addition, I decided to do some Emmett Wilson spring cleaning. I’m going through ALL of the articles, resources, references, images, and notes collected over the past four years. It’s great re-acquainting myself with what I’ve collected.

My organization strategy has been twofold: First, because most of the information about Emmett comes from specific sources, I organized each item by year and title of publication or name of source. Second, I created a timeline for Emmett’s life, and broke it down into four different time periods. In each timeline entry, I note the date, the event, and the location in my files of my source. There’s over 6,000 entries to-date. Booyah!

Reviewing the files also gives me a great sense of relief and control, especially since this has turned out to be a much larger — and incredibly more rewarding! — project than originally anticipated in 2013. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the scope of it.

Another great benefit of going through the files is finding interesting oddball things I saved when I first started Emmett’s project —

This, for example:

D-I_V-O-R-C-E, 1916-style. Source: University of West Florida Archives

Source: University of West Florida Archives

This letter wasn’t written by Emmett or Cephas Wilson; I’m not sure who wrote it; I found it as a loose document in the Blount family archive records at the University of West Florida.

I saved it because during this time Lula Wiselogel Wilson filed divorce papers against her husband, Cephas Wilson, according to a family genealogy. The genealogy did not say why the papers were filed against Cephas, but a quote in the genealogy from Berta Daniel Wilson (no relation to Emmett Wilson, but a neighbor of Dr. Francis C. Wilson family in Chipley) was interviewed about it and was quoted in the genealogy saying that Lula had filed the papers and, “…the gossip was terrible at the time.”

For what it is worth: Lula never went through with the divorce, but knowing that Lula was a force to be reckoned with, she probably could prove items #3 and #4!

 

Dissecting the Message, Part III

Standard

We continue to dissect Cephas Love Wilson’s letter to Emmett Augustus Meade, dated January 6, 1910:

snippet three.png

“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.

elizabeths_sister_lucy

Lucy Brockenbrough Maxwell Meade, Emmett Wilson’s aunt. Source: Katie’s granddaughter.

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).

Everard_Katie_Emmett_Meade

Everard Wilson Meade at his graduation from the University of Virginia, with his mother Katie Wilson Meade and father, Emmett Meade. Everard’s wife took this photo. Charlottesville, Virginia, about 1930.

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.

Dissecting the Message, Part II

Standard

Picking up where we left off in our last post:

lettercut2

Cephas’ letter to Emmett Meade (Cephas’ brother-in-law) also mentioned a woman named ‘Jeanet.’ She was not married to Jhon Burton; she never married, in fact.

Jeanet Love McKinnon (1880-1940) was a member of the Wilson family by marriage; she was the sister of Mary Catherine (“May”) McKinnon Wilson, the wife of Francis Childria Wilson, Jr., of Pensacola, Florida. According to the U.S. Census:

  • In 1910, she was a stenographer in a law office — possibly her father Daniel Love McKinnon’s law office.
  • In 1920, she was a stenographer in an ‘office’ — unspecified.
  • In 1930, she was a cashier in a Marianna insurance office.
jeanet-visit_1914

Source: The Pensacola Journal, March 1914.

Jeanet went back and forth between Marianna and Pensacola regularly to visit her sister May; there’s several articles in The Pensacola Journal from 1900 through 1922 (the last year in the ChroniclingAmerica.gov database) that mention Jeanet’s comings and goings.

She died at age 60, on October 1, 1940 in Dothan, Alabama. The death report lists Jeanet’s residence as Marianna at the time of her death, and that she was stenographer.  I have not been able to locate her in the U.S. Census for 1940 to confirm, which is a little unusual given the lateness in the year of her death (most census data gathering took place in the first quarter of the year).

It is likely Jeanet was living with siblings in Marianna, and was perhaps visiting friends or other family members in Dothan when she died.


“…to prove how unaccustomed I am to such stuff…”

This is an interesting comment.

Cephas was not an alcoholic, although there were several active alcoholic family members, some of whom lived with Cephas and his family periodically. Cephas kept alcohol in his home (he entertained important people regularly at dinner, for instance, and was known to serve wine at least). Champagne was a special drink for special occasions.

I know from other sources that Cephas was not considered an alcoholic; the point he made in the letter that he kept the bottle for several weeks — just in case — is not something an alcoholic would do.

lula

Lula Wiselogel Wilson. Source: FloridaMemory.com

Also interesting is how unaccustomed he is to opening the bottle — I can see him struggling to extricate the cork, and as the cork shoots out with a loud POP, the foam of the wine erupts out of the bottle, onto the carpet and onto Dood’s expensive dress —

“Dood.”

That’s the family name for Lula Wiselogel Wilson. Cephas knew Lula from the time he moved to Chipley when he was 17 years old, newly repatriated after living in British Honduras with his family since the early 1870s. Lula’s family was wealthy, prominent, important, Republican. Cephas’ family was just starting over. Lula was smart, attractive. So was Cephas. The younger children in the Wilson household probably couldn’t say “Lula”, so they called her “Dood” and the name stuck.


I’ll finish with the rest of this section in the next post. Stay tuned!

Dissecting the Message, Part I

Standard

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!

 

firstof letter.png

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.

goldengeese

The Golden Geese by Everard Meade. Source: AbeBooks.com

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.

lettercut2.png

“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.

burton_marriagelicense

The County Judge is BA Meginnis, who was a classmate of Emmett Wilson’s, when he attended West Florida Seminary.  I don’t recognize the witness names; the Burtons were married in Tallahassee. Source: Ancestry.com

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!