Chapter 58: An Interview with Cephas


Outside the Law Office of Cephas L. Wilson
Courthouse Square
Marianna, Florida
August 3, 1902

Cephas Love Wilson, Jr.; about 1899. Source: State Archives of Florida.

You want to know about my kid brother? Well…let me think…

Before Emmett moved in with us this summer, I didn’t see him that often except for the occasional visit; Chipley is about 20 miles down the road, and I travel about the state on the legal circuit.  And I’m 14 years older than Emmett, so we weren’t that close growing up. But Emmett has good friends here. Lula is fond of him; she sees him as a younger, more trustworthy and moral version of me. She wishes I had more of Emmett’s qualities.

But then, if I were more like Emmett, I tell her, I’d probably still be single.


The Wilsons lived in Toledo Settlement, Punta Gorda, British Honduras (now Belize). They emigrated from the Port of New Orleans to Belize City; then traveled by ox cart down to Punta Gorda. There were few roads; this was not an easy move for this family. Source:

My earliest memory of Emmett? It was when he and Julian were born, in Belize. It was hot and uncomfortable then; a miserable, intemperate environment. The insects were huge. Father was always off busy, treating someone, either a Caribe or a member of our community. Mother had a particularly hard time; she’d been through a lot, before the move to Central America, and while she had family members and friends with her, it was no grand plantation or grand house, as she had been used to as a girl. Mother was a strong woman; had strong character and definite opinions. But cheerful, positive.

Emmett and Julian were born one day before Mother’s birthday. She called the twins her birthday present. She and Emmett were particularly close; he looked like her, but more to the point, he is also a lot like Grandfather Maxwell. People have said Emmett is definitely cut from the same cloth as Grandfather. They are very much alike in terms of mannerisms, behavior, looks, even. Grandfather is more social, though; more comfortable around people, especially women. Emmett, well, he’s still young. He’s more of a loner; keeps to the same small set of friends. Emmett just needs to be introduced to more prominent, more popular people. The right people.

While Emmett and I have not been close growing up, I have gotten to know him better in recent years, especially since he has been clerking for me the past summer.

Source: The Chipley Banner, May 1902.

I know Emmett enjoys listening to political discussions and he is interested in becoming a judge one day; he’s thoughtful, analytical. I see a lot of potential in him.

He’s told me that he is interested in studying law, that he wants to be a judge like Grandfather. Emmett would probably be a good judge one day: He respects, even likes and appreciates the law, and finds it comfortable where others would find it frustrating and confusing now and again. Not so, Emmett. The more challenging the precedent or the legal problem, the more energized he becomes.

I also know that Emmett wants to be something else, something bigger than he is at this moment, and somewhere else other than Chipley. I can understand that. I was like that too, when I was 17 and clerking for Judge W.O. Butler in Chipley.

For years, I’ve watched Emmett sit on the periphery of discussion circles on Father’s front porch, or in the parlor, or even here, in Marianna, when Lula and I would host family gatherings. Emmett likes to sit off to the side, almost by himself, just listening. He never says much, but then, he was never asked to jump into the conversation — not that I think his point of view wouldn’t have been seriously considered. Emmett never just randomly jumps into anything, even into conversation.

With Emmett, you have to understand, it isn’t about the text with him, it’s the subtext. When he does speak, it is well thought-out, not a ventilation of emotion or charged speech, or unprepared.

I think one day he might become a very good lawyer; especially, if he could master public speaking. But, he’s awkward and uncomfortable speaking before a group; even a very small one made up of those who know him well. He’d rather not draw attention to himself. I’ve told him that if he, indeed, wishes to become a judge like Grandfather, he’d have to overcome the fear of public speaking, and find a way to be effective, even if he feels terrified on the inside. A poor public speaker will never make it to the bench, even if he is excellent with the law. He’d have to master that fear at the get-go; an audience cannot see that you are afraid.

But, with Emmett, it is a little more than fear; Emmett just isn’t interested in things superficial, or social just to be social. If he wants to have a successful political career — which he will need if he wishes to become a judge — he has to get out among society, circulate, do the small talk, perhaps flirt with women single and married (as married women can influence their menfolk), promote himself. Emmett finds all of that false and insincere, which it is, truth be told. But, that is the way it is done, I tell him.

Perhaps with time, and practice, Emmett will become more comfortable speaking in public, in social settings. We can certainly help him that way.

I see a lot of myself in my younger brother: Ambition. Intelligence. Good looks. Good connections.

But Emmett has something I didn’t have at his age: An opportunity to go to college. I’ve always wanted to go to University; it sends a message of prestige and position, and it is the best way to make lifelong professional connections, if you do it correctly. In my view, if Emmett could make friends with the son of Florida’s secretary of state, that would be more than ample return on the family’s investment in his education. But Emmett doesn’t consider that suitable.

Emmett has something else I don’t have: Integrity. He’s the most honest person I know, and while that’s laudable, it can be a liability in a political career, especially if you take it to heart, as Emmett does. He’ll have to learn how to manage that sometime, else I think it could destroy him from the inside out.

Augustus Maxwell Wilson, oldest son of Dr. F.C. and Elizabeth Wilson. Source: Florida

I make it no secret that I wish to be the Governor of Florida. My friends know it. My family, too. I know I can’t get there by myself; a family dynasty, like that of my Grandfather’s family, the Maxwells, is the key. I once thought Max would be an asset in building up the Wilson dynasty, linked as we are to the Maxwells…but Max is unstable. He’s become a bit of a laughingstock, and while he is a state representative this term, I’ve had to be careful, almost to distance myself from him. But I can’t do that; he’s my brother, and to do so sends the message of divisiveness in our own house.

But with Emmett…if he is given the proper opportunity, the proper guidance and grooming…yes. I see great potential with Emmett. That’s why I’m willing to invest in him — time and funds. I see in Emmett a chance to build a partner, a team. A dynasty.

Emmett’s ambitious. I see it in him. That, I believe, will be the key to helping him get over his fear of public speaking.

He once told me that he wants to be like Grandfather — a former U.S. Congressman, State Supreme Court Justice. I think Emmett has the capacity for both, in time.

There are other things to work on, but if I encourage his ambition, show him what heights he could rise to if he let me help him — we’d help each other. He’ll achieve his goal; I’ll achieve mine. The Wilsons will be a political dynasty, a continuation of the Maxwell political dynasty. It is all possible.

And we can make it happen.

Filling in Blanks About Cephas Love Wilson Jr.


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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

Medium, Message, Context


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.

letterheadCephas’ 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.


Not Marianna’s Elvis in 1910, but Ceph did have Elvis’ hair. Source:

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:

  • In 1910, Cephas was a lawyer, a state senator, a president of a bank, a business owner, and up for consideration to run for Governor of Florida all at the same time.
  • And, in 1910, Cephas’ net worth was close to or equivalent to a self-made millionaire today. Cephas didn’t have a lot of down time, and when he did, it was probably taken in his office.

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!


An Update on Cephas, Jr.


In case you are just tuning in, I’m trying to locate the Wilson family Bible. I’m betting that it is in the hands of the descendants of Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. (1894-1985). I haven’t found the descendant…yet.

But I’ve found something else: The Jackson County enlistment record for soldiers and sailors during World War I. (Thanks, Cindy Sloan!)

Source: Jackson County (Florida) Genealogical Society

Source: Jackson County (Florida) Genealogical Society

Here’s a close-up of the information on that page:

Cephas Jr.'s enlistment information.

Cephas Jr.’s enlistment information.

Here is the information on the other side of the page:

This information appears to be current as of the end of World War I, because Ceph Jr. was in D.C. until around the late 1920s.

This information appears to be current as of the end of World War I, because Ceph Jr. was in D.C. until the late 1920s.

Isn’t that a great find?

I still haven’t found Cephas Jr., by the way.
However, this afternoon, I found a great database, the National Cemetery Administration’s Nationwide Gravesite Locator, which is run by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
I figured that since Cephas Jr. was a veteran, and, that Louise’s headstone reads “Wife of Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., USA”, that Ceph would be there, too.
So, I put Cephas Love Wilson’s name in the search engine, and it turned up a Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., but not the one I need (the Cephas I’m looking for was born in 1894).

Arlington National Cemetery's search engine. It's nice. Check it out. Source:

Arlington National Cemetery’s search engine. It’s nice. Check it out. Source:

This tells me that Cephas Love Wilson Jr. might not have been buried with his wife, Louise Hughes Wilson (who is buried in the Jacksonville National Cemetery).


He’s also not at Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington has its own database, by the way. And yeah, I looked there, as well as for Cephas Jr.’s first wife, Mary/Mamie. Nothing.
The trek to locate the descendants of this Wilson family branch continues!

Look Closely


Remember this post from a few weeks ago?

In search of Cephas Love Wilson's house, on Jefferson Street, in Marianna, Florida.

In search of Cephas Love Wilson’s house, on Jefferson Street, in Marianna, Florida.

Well, I’ve found a partial photo of that house! Take a look:

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

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

In the background is the front porch of the Cephas Love Wilson house, complete with Doric column, shutters on the windows, and wooden swing!

It’s accurate, too, if you recall the graphic of the house from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Marianna.

Notice the porch on the front of the house. Ira and his son, Ira Jr., are posed at the lower right hand of this diagram.

Notice the porch on the front of the house. Ira and his son, Ira Jr., are posed at the lower right hand of this diagram.

Isn’t that great detail? I’m so thrilled!

Of course, I’d love to have more photos and detailed information about this house, as it does figure prominently in the first few years of Emmett’s career, but I’m thrilled with this most recent find!


Ceph’s House


St. Luke's Episcopal Church, where Cephas was a member. Emmett certainly attended services here. The actual church they attended burned down in the 1940s, but was rebuilt.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where Cephas was a member. Emmett certainly attended services here. The actual church they attended burned down in the 1940s, but was rebuilt.

During the last research visit to Florida, I spent the day in Marianna, visiting Emmett’s old haunts; including: The Jackson County Courthouse, Cephas’ law office (now the law office of Elizabeth M. Simpson), St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery.

One place I’d hoped to see was Cephas Love Wilson’s home, which was located on the corner of Jefferson and Clinton Streets. Emmett lived with Cephas and his family from 1900 to 1905, as did their sisters Dora and Katie.

Unfortunately, the house is long gone, and today, there’s a bank on the property. However, there’s a majestic oak tree still there, which is at least 125 years old. If only the oak could talk!

The bank now on the site of what was Cephas Love Wilson's home. Note the huge oak tree in front, which is at least 125 years old.

The bank now on the site of what was Cephas Love Wilson’s home. Note the huge oak tree in front, to the right, which is at least 125 years old.

I spent that day with the excellent Sue Tindel of the Jackson County Circuit Clerk’s office. She knows the history of this town and was a wonderful source of information. I asked about photos of the old Wilson house. She didn’t know if any of the photos still exist anywhere. It’s possible, but I haven’t found them yet.

My approach to this project has been that when you encounter a dead end, look for a workaround. So, while I may not have an actual photograph of the Cephas Love Wilson home just yet, I did find a general diagram of the house and property! Check it out:

Cephas' house, which was located at the corner of Jefferson and Clinton, in Marianna, Florida. Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1913, from the University of Florida archives.

Cephas’ house, which was located at the corner of Jefferson and Clinton, in Marianna, Florida. Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1913, from the University of Florida archives.

If you haven’t studied the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, you should. These are GREAT information sources. You can find most of these online, free of charge, at different libraries and the Library of Congress. Mine were found online courtesy of the University of Florida.

Anyway, so, in 1913, we see that Ceph’s house was fairly large. There was an interesting porch on the front, and, two outbuildings, one of which was probably a carriage house. I don’t know that they had indoor plumbing in 1913 at the house. Cephas was wealthy, though, and enjoyed his creature comforts. This may still have been an outhouse, although he would have installed plumbing when it became available.

Here’s the property in 1922:

A different orientation of the house, still facing the high school, in 1922. Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, from the University of Florida archive

A different orientation of the house, still facing the high school, in 1922. Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, from the University of Florida archive.

As you can see, there is now one outbuilding, in the uppermost right hand corner of the property.

Key to the Sanborn maps.

Key to the Sanborn maps.

The key to the maps indicate that the yellow structures are frame. Where you have a “1” indicates the number of stories, the “x” indicates a shingle roof. So, in the 1922 map, the building in the upper right corner is a single-story, shingle roof structure — probably a garage. Cephas had automobiles as early as 1907.

In the 1913 map, the two structures in the back of the main house, according to the key, were one-story buildings with shingle roofs. The main house was also one-story, with a shingle roof. What’s interesting is that in the very back of the main house, there’s a slate or tin roof, indicated by the ‘o’ in the image.

See the 'o' at the top of the yellow image?

See the ‘o’ at the top of the yellow image?

That was probably where the kitchen was located in the house.

The dashed lines indicate a frame partition. Also, according to the 1913 map, there was a four-foot water pipe in the center of Clinton street; in the 1922 map, the pipe running down the center of Clinton (the dashed line in the image up above) was now six-feet in diameter. So, it is possible that Ceph’s house had indoor plumbing all along.

There’s a lot of useful information to glean from the Sanborn maps about Ceph’s house, but I wish I could find an actual photograph of his home. Perhaps one will turn up as the digging continues (hint hint).

More St. Michael’s Stories


Right now, I’m in Chipley, Florida, staying with my excellent and gracious friend Pam and her family, in a historic old home where Emmett and his family members had certainly visited from time to time. There’s a photo of Emmett’s father, Dr. Wilson, posed in front of this house in 1911 displayed prominently in the hall.

Dr Wilson at Butler house

I’m here to catch up with my friends, visit a graveyard, see old downtown Chipley again. Tomorrow, I’m off to Marianna to continue the information dig on Emmett.

But for now, I’m playing catch-up. As promised, I wanted to share some of the findings from St. Michael’s Cemetery.

My main purpose for the visit was to track down Minnie Kehoe,

Minnie Kehoe, 1924, passport photo. Source:

Minnie Kehoe, 1924, passport photo. Source:

the sister of J. Walter Kehoe, one of the first female attorneys in West Florida, a successful businesswoman who owned and ran her own stenography school, and a close friend of Emmett’s.

I think that if the stars had been properly aligned, Emmett and Minnie would probably have made an excellent pair. But the differences in age (she was 17 years older than Emmett), plus the fact that Emmett was viewed as a family member/younger brother of Kehoe, and the obvious handicap of Emmett’s addiction, made it unlikely.

After much hiking about the cemetery, my friend Nancy found her.

The topmost marker is that of Minnie's parents, Anne and John Kehoe. Minnie's is the bottom marker. The rain has disintegrated much of the engraving on these flat stones.

The topmost marker is that of Minnie’s parents, Anne and John Kehoe. Minnie’s is the bottom marker. The rain has disintegrated much of the engraving on these flat stones.


Minnie Eloise Kehoe. Requiescat in pace.

Minnie Eloise Kehoe. Requiescat in pace.

I admire Minnie tremendously. She was a woman ahead of her time; she was close friends with Emmett; she would have been a great source of information. She never married; she had no children, but it may be possible to obtain a copy of her will to see if she sent her papers or correspondence to an archive. Last year, I sought high and low for any of her papers, journals, correspondence, you name it. Lots of brick walls.

It has been awhile, though; maybe it is time to try again.

After we spent some time with Minnie, we walked around and took in some of the other resident’s markers.

This is a wooden marker. Nancy thought it cypress. Great condition for its age.

This is a wooden marker. Nancy thought it cypress. Great condition for its age.

Another set of interesting graves. Note the small outline of the stone framework. These weren't children's graves.

Another set of interesting graves. Note the small outline of the stone framework. These weren’t children’s graves.

The oak trees are ancient, massive, and mostly healthy in this graveyard. Lots of brown and green acorns on the ground beneath my feet as I walked along.


This oak could easily be 250 years old.


As I was looking at all the acorns on the ground, a small white stone, almost completely covered up, caught my eye. I brushed back the acorns and leaves, and uncovered this:

Charles Will Sutherland. That was all it said.

Charles W Sutherland. Nothing more.

I had to find out whose grave this was, almost completely hidden in the cemetery. What I found was this. And then, when I dug around a little deeper, I found this.

Apparently, the wife and mother who had such tragic losses within such a short time later remarried. She’s not buried near this child’s marker. The father may be close by, but the grave is probably unmarked.

Speaking of unmarked, there was this unusual grave marker within a fence enclosure:

It is a lot of shells embedded within concrete. No other marker or information.

It is a lot of shells embedded within concrete. No other marker or information.



Most unusual. I wonder about the story behind the shell-marked grave? This is obviously a child’s grave. I’m curious about the symbolism, and why the grave was covered in shells this way.

All of this visiting cemeteries makes me realize and appreciate how all of us — everyone — has a story to tell. All of the stories are important.

Even the little ones almost hidden under acorns and oak leaves.