Chapter 25: We began a new life

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Page six of Katie Wilson Meade’s narrative continues from the trip out of the jungle back to civilization. This section picks up from the last sentence of page five in the previous post.

The men walked along side of the wagon, so when the oxen got stubborn the men yelled and lashed them with long raw-hide whips — But nothing doing! They wouldn’t move!

At last, a native worker made great balls of mud and pushed it up their noses and they struggles so hard they pulled us out!

We went from Punta Gorda to Belize that way. We boarded a ship in Belize, going up a rickety ladder hung over the side. It was a sailing vessel going to New Orleans.

The trip took about a week. It was here that I saw my first train, as it huffed and puffed into the station, the steam coming out from both sides and black smoke out of the smoke-stack. It was a fearsome sight to a child raised up to this time in a jungle.

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My mother’s father gave her about 60 acres of land about half-way between Pensacola and Tallahassee, and we built a new house on it and began a new life. Father practiced medicine in the little town and for forty or fifty miles in the surrounding country. He was available day and night, from a baby case to small-pox to yellow fever. He would off a man’s leg one day and pull his tooth the next!!

A much beloved “family doctor,” whose chief interest in his life were his patients and his family of ten children — eight boys and two girls. A brave man and a Christian gentleman.

P.S.

Occasional reference to the ‘Big’ boys in this story means the five older boys who were born before either of the girls. My sister, Eudora, was four years older than I; then came a pair of twin boys, and last, my youngest brother, Walker. All these married in due course of time, except Emmett Wilson, the Congressman.

There are so many nieces and nephews scattered around in Florida I cannot tell the names, nor where they live.

When I was born the natives working on the Plantation came in to see the ‘picayune bambino’ and from that day to this I was called “Pic;” all the folks in Florida still use that nick-name — in Miami, where I visit each year the friends of Eloise (my niece) call me “Aunt “Pic”. I don’t mind; it reminds me of the old days of long ago.

In the Spring our parents took us all on a little trip to the Sapodilla Keys (Islands), not many miles from the coast of British Honduras where only natives lived. We ran around half clothed and played with the natives and loved every minute of it.

The steamer “City of Dallas,” a ship of the Macheca Line, which ran between the US from 1868 to 1900. This is the ship that carried Emmett and his family back to the U.S. in 1884. Source: http://onewal.com/jpmacheca/mships.html

The “City of Dallas” was a 915 ton steamer that ran regularly between the Port of New Orleans, Belize, and other Carribbean destination, according to the website. The ship’s master at the time the Wilsons boarded for their trip back to the United States was Reed.

Information about the “City of Dallas” from Macheca Fleet.

Katie mentions climbing aboard the steamer by way of a ‘rickety ladder,’ perhaps a rope ladder tossed over the side. Katie and Emmett’s mother, Elizabeth Wilson, was about three months pregnant with Walker Wilson in June, 1884, the date of their departure [Walker Wilson was born December, 1884 in Chipley, Florida]. Poor Elizabeth — I hope she didn’t suffer seasickness in addition to morning sickness simultaneously during the week-long voyage between Belize and New Orleans.

Manifest of the passengers on the City of Dallas, June 1884. The Wilsons only had a few trunks of possessions and clothing to take back to the United States, not much more than they had brought with them on the original trip to British Honduras back in 1875. Source: NARA, via Ancestry.com

From New Orleans, Katie said the family took the train to Chipley — it is possible they would not have had to pay for the fare, because Elizabeth’s father, Augustus Emmett Maxwell, in addition to his important political connections, had railroad connections — he was once president of the Pensacola & Montgomery Railroad, and family members could travel free or at a significantly reduced rate. But, it is more likely Maxwell paid for the railroad trip because there are several family sources that state the Wilsons’ sugar plantation investment was not successful (despite Katie’s description of a box of gold British coins in an earlier post).

Even though he was not president of the railroad in 1884, it is likely Maxwell paid the fare for the family because of the financial problems reported at this point in other Wilson family genealogies. Source: Herringshaw’s Encyclopedia, page 626

Here’s another clue that the Wilson family’s finances were in bad shape: Katie said that Augustus Emmett Maxwell gave his daughter, Elizabeth, 60 acres between Pensacola and Tallahassee. We now know that property was in Chipley, Washington County, Florida, and today it is located outside the city limits, on Orange Hill Highway. I wrote about it in an earlier post, here, which explains why I thought Maxwell gave the property to his daughter (and not Dr. Wilson).

Dr. Frank and Elizabeth Wilson’s original home on Orange Hill Road, about 1890. The property was given to Elizabeth by her father, Judge Augustus Emmett Maxwell, around 1884-1885, and not Dr. Wilson. Source: Elizabeth Meade Howard.

The mystery of who “Aunt Pic” was was finally solved with this page of Katie’s narrative. I’d seen the reference to ‘Pic’ here and there in the genealogies, but I wasn’t sure if that was a reference to Katie, Dora, or even Lula Wiselogel Wilson (Cephas’ wife, and Katie’s sister-in-law), or if it referred to another Wilson relative.

“Eloise”, mentioned in the narrative, was Eloise Smith, the daughter of Dora and W.E.B Smith.

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There’s one more page of Katie’s narrative; stay tuned.

 

 

New Information; New Questions

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Last week, I mentioned that Katie Wilson Meade’s granddaughter shared a seven-page narrative that Katie wrote about her (and Emmett’s) childhood when they lived in Belize.

Katie, Emmett, and Julian were the only Wilson children born in Belize. They emigrated back to the U.S. in 1884. Emmett and Julian were two years old; Katie was about 6 or 7 years old.

Emmett mentioned in an interview in 1913 that when the family moved back to the U.S., the family lived there for about eight or nine years. The decision to move back to the U.S. was based on several reasons, one of which was that his father had been part-owner of an unsuccessful sugar plantation.

The steamer "City of Dallas," a ship of the Macheca Line, which ran between the US from 1868 to 1900. This is the ship that carried Emmett and his family back to the U.S. in 1884. Source: http://onewal.com/jpmacheca/mships.html

The steamer “City of Dallas,” a ship of the Macheca Line, which ran between the US from 1868 to 1900. This is the ship that carried Emmett and his family back to the U.S. in 1884. Source: http://onewal.com/jpmacheca/mships.html

They cut their losses, and moved back to Florida. Essentially, they were starting all over again.

What I just discovered (in reading the narrative) was that when the Wilsons moved back home, Emmett’s grandfather, Augustus Emmett Maxwell, gave Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson 60 acres in Washington County, Florida.

He didn’t give the property to his son-in-law, Dr. Wilson, but to his daughter, Elizabeth. Interesting.

Why did Judge Maxwell do that? I’m not sure. I know the Judge liked his son-in-law very much, and there was no bad blood between them. Perhaps it had something to do with taxes (as in, Dr. Wilson may have owed back taxes to the government for some reason).

I know that when the Wilsons moved back to the U.S., they had little more than the clothing and household belongings packed in their steamer trunks. I’m sure Maxwell also wanted to help his daughter and her family. But why put the 60 acres in his daughter’s name?

With new information comes a new mystery!

Another question: Where was this acreage, exactly? I’m not sure of that either. But, I know approximately where it was, based on the 1885 Census of Florida.

1885 Census of Washington County, Florida. Source: NARA

It was somewhere in District 2 of Washington County. Source: NARA

Last year I tracked down this same census page, and sent out a query to folks in Washington County who might know about where the Wilson property was located. Ideally, I’d have looked at the 1890 Census to confirm names and locations — but, the 1890 for Florida doesn’t exist.

I went up to the 1900 Census (the Wilson family had since moved into Chipley), and checked some of the names on the 1885 Census — perhaps some of the families in the area where the Wilsons lived were still there — but I didn’t find anything.

Since I did that last check, I’ve become friends with Chipley area descendants whose names are the same as those on this census — perhaps they are relatives — and posed this question. Hopefully, they’ll know something about where the location of the property Judge Maxwell gave his daughter is today.


I head out to Charlottesville tomorrow morning for a visit with Katie’s granddaughter! Wish me luck!