Cephas Jr.’s Declaration of Independence


Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. Source: 1913 Seminole, University of Florida archive. A handsome, younger version of his father.

By 1917, Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., was probably at the end of his rope, in terms of direction, vocation, and personal satisfaction.

He was 22, still living at home.

College hadn’t worked out for him (law school, likely 100 percent financed by his father, Cephas Love Wilson Sr., until Junior decided it really wasn’t for him). He knew what he wanted to do: His talent was in the arts — music, but mostly photography and drawing — but Cephas Sr. either wasn’t encouraging him to become a professional artist, or perhaps he was overly realistic with his oldest child: If Cephas Jr. wanted to make a decent living, drawing cartoons probably wasn’t going to do it for him. Cephas Jr. was playing the piano to accompany the silent movies that were shown at the Dixie Theatre in downtown Marianna every evening. It was job. It better than nothing, but I have a feeling it was something to simply make a living, and his heart wasn’t entirely in it.

The Wilson house, at the corner of Clinton and Jefferson Streets was getting crowded: His sister Kathleen (1898-1981) was married and living in the family home with her husband Ira Martin, and son, Ira Jr. So, when Cephas Jr. would come home from work, wanting to unwind, to think, to draw, or write, or create, he couldn’t. It was loud and busy at the house where he grew up. He was probably feeling less like this was his home in those days.

On April 2, 1917, Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a Declaration of War with Germany.

Four days later, on April 6, Wilson got his Declaration of War.

Two weeks later, on April 20, 1917, Cephas Love Wilson Jr. made his Declaration of Independence:

The Marianna Times-Courier reported that Cephas Jr. went to Jacksonville, Florida, along with several Marianna young men to enlist in the U.S. Army. I often wonder how much of Cephas Jr.’s desire to join the U.S. Army was based in patriotism, or in relief to be away from home. Maybe it was both.

Regardless, Cephas Jr. was finally on his own.

Things began to move fast that summer for Cephas Jr.: He completed basic training within weeks at Ft. Screven, Georgia, then was sent to the Washington, D.C. Barracks, where he was promoted to Corporal, and assigned to 1st Engineers, Company B.

Army Transport List, with Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., en route to France. Source: Ancestry.com

On August 6, 1917, Cephas Jr. was sent to the port at Hoboken, N.J., where he boarded the USS Finland (ID-4543), a troop transport, for Brest, France.

According to the Marianna Times-Courier, when Cephas Jr. arrived at Brest on August 20, he sent his mother a telegram that he had made it safely. His unit remained in Brest for training until about August 30.

I don’t know what Cephas Jr. expected when he enlisted, or what he thought it would be like once he landed in a foreign country — but when he returned to Florida in 1919, when the war was over, he was a completely different man, and he’d earned the respect of his father.

How do I know?

No, I have not found his letters or diaries — I wish — but I found something better! You’ll love it!

Yeah, it’s huge! Not to tease you about it, but it covers a lot of ground, and is deserving of its own post. I’ll have something up about it in the next day or so.


The Puzzler


The next information I have about Emmett’s nephew, Cephas Love Wilson Jr., is dated 1905 — he’s 10 years old — and back in the day, having one’s name printed in newspaper (especially The Pensacola Journal, a paper with a much larger circulation than the Marianna Times-Courier) was a big deal.

CLW Jr. was into puzzles — something I can definitely relate to. For several weeks during 1905, The Pensacola Journal offered a silver dollar to the first person (determined by postmark) who could solve the puzzle each week (a dollar in 1905 is about $27 in 2017).

Ceph Jr.’s first try at the puzzler contests found in The Pensacola Journal. June 4, 1905. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Alas, Ceph Jr. didn’t win the prize. Here were the results of the June 4 contest:

The results of the June 4 puzzler, as reported in The Pensacola Journal, June 11, 1905. Ceph Jr. was a runner-up. (Apologies for the blurry image; you can see the original here.  From ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Ceph Jr. was persistent. I have clips from several of the 1905 edition of The Pensacola Journal where he was listed as a runner-up, and always with the correct answers; always a participant, but never the winner.

Still, I admire and respect the fact he took the time to solve these brain-teasers, all without the benefit of technology, probably always on his own. I can picture Ceph Jr. energetically jumping on the puzzle as soon as his father was finished reading the paper — methodically tracking down the right answers, then rushing off to the Post Office with his sealed envelope, hoping his was the first, hoping to win the silver dollar!

Another ‘also ran’ for Ceph Jr., in the September 17, 1905 edition of The Pensacola Journal. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov


Judge Francis Beauregard Carter


Our next article based on the Smithwick Businessman’s Roundtable of 1907  is on Judge Francis Beauregard Carter.

Judge Francis Beauregard Carter, about 1901. Source: Florida Memory

Judge Carter’s an interesting subject;  I believe he’s worthy of his own biography — I’ll tell you why at the end of this essay.

The two best sources of information on Carter are 1) the archival files at the University of West Florida, specifically, the Beggs & Lane Collection, and 2) The Supreme Court of Florida and Its Predecessor Courts, 1821-1917, published by the University Press of Florida.

My personal copy; excellent resource.

Carter was born on August 12, 1861, and educated in Marianna’s public schools. According to Manley, et al., Carter began his professional life doing something other than law; he was a printer. It stands to reason that Carter likely worked at one of the two newspapers in Marianna during that time: The Marianna Patriot, or The Marianna Courier, (the paper later became the Marianna Times-Courier).

Carter got his start in law in the early 1880s when Benjamin Sullivan Liddon, an up-and-coming Marianna attorney, needed help getting his new law practice off the ground. Carter was known locally as a smart, diligent, hardworking young man, and Liddon recognized Carter as a diamond-in-the-rough. Liddon invited Carter to read law with him; as a result, the professional relationship flourished, and Carter was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1882. Soon after, Liddon and Carter formed a law partnership in Marianna.

Carter married Margaret Dickson in 1885; they had eight children.

Margaret and Francis B. Carter. Undated. Source: Florida Memory

Carter served as Mayor of Marianna, and was active in the Democratic party political scene; a presidential elector in 1896 (cast his ballot for “The Great Commoner,” William Jennings Bryan). Emmett’s brother, Cephas L. Wilson, who was Mayor of Marianna in 1897, encouraged Carter’s nomination to Governor William D. Bloxham to the Florida Supreme Court.

Carter served as a Florida Supreme Court Justice from 1897 to 1905.  He was widely respected, and had a reputation as the most studious man on the court. Manley writes that Carter considered running for governor but his wife was not fond of Tallahassee; instead, he accepted the judgeship of the First Circuit Court in Pensacola.

This is where our story picks up from the Smithwick luncheon: Carter has been in Pensacola for almost two years and has established his practice and reconnected with his old law partner, Benjamin Liddon, now also living in Pensacola.

A private party for certain members of The Pensacola Bar.
Source: The Pensacola Journal, February 20, 1907,

What’s interesting is that everyone at this luncheon has been living in Pensacola for less than two years. Emmett and the Crawford brothers are less than three years out of law school — they’re the kids at the adult table. Carter likely knew Emmett since he was a boy, living and working with big brother Cephas as his junior partner in Marianna.

I don’t have a transcript or notes about what was discussed at this luncheon, but three of the folks at the table eventually run for — and serve as — U.S. Congressman for the Third District of Florida. The decision to run for office, at least what I know of Emmett Wilson, was not something done on the fly.

Everyone at this table had political aspirations in 1907 — I just wonder what groundwork for the future campaigns was probably laid in between the salads and the main course at this ‘delightfully informal luncheon’?


Judge Carter eventually stepped down to return to private practice. He became a partner in the firm Blount, Blount & Carter as a partner, he remained active in Democratic politics for the rest of his life. (Manley, et al., 337). Judge Carter died January 9, 1937, and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Marianna.

Source: Find-a-grave.com

When I mentioned at the start that I think he’s worthy of his own biography, it is because of something I found in one of the archival boxes when I was at the University of West Florida over a year ago; namely, an essay titled, “The Legend of the Blue Spring.”

Unfortunately, I did not think to read it or copy it  (as I was in search of Emmett Wilson-specific items when I was on campus). But when I find examples of creative writing in what is otherwise a stuffy-appearing box of legal records and letters, it makes me wonder what kind of guy Carter really was underneath the surface. It makes me want to know more about the person, and what else we can learn from his story.

Was Carter a closet poet? A novelist? Maybe he used a pen name?

Like I said — Carter is worthy of his own biography.

Manley, W.W., et al. and Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, The Supreme Court of Florida and Its Predecessor Courts, 1821-1917, University Press of Florida, 1997

Working the Media


Emmett’s grand niece Elizabeth alerted me to another Cephas find the other day.

All but one photo I have of Cephas features him in a bowtie. Nice detail of his watch chain. Also, I note the strong resemblance between Cephas and Emmett.

Every photo I have of Cephas features him in a bowtie. Emmett preferred neckties. Source: Katie’s granddaughter.

The clip was a reprint in another Florida state paper; the type does not look like the style used by the Marianna Times-Union between 1900-1918 (based on my reading of all available hard copy). I'd estimate the date of this article around 1902, based on the issue in the article.

The clip was a reprint in another Florida state paper; the type does not look like the style used by the Marianna Times-Courier between 1900-1918 (based on my reading of all available hard copy). I’d estimate the date of this article around 1902, based on the issue in the article. Source: Katie’s granddaughter.

One immediate takeaway from this piece was interesting — Ceph described as gossipy. Honestly, I don’t find that surprising. Cephas knew the value of the media in building one’s political career, as did Emmett.  Both Ceph and Emmett were ambitious, so they would make sure to befriend the press, taking advantage of every opportunity to see their name in print.

In her message to me with the clips, Elizabeth added: “Every time I think I’ve hit the bottom of the family papers, more emerge (still a big box in the shed).”

That’s excellent! You know I’m always willing and able to drive the two hours just to root around in boxes, and catalog or scan documents. Just say the word!

Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

In other Emmett Wilson book news, I’m outlining the next chapter, which is about Emmett’s move to Sterling, Illinois, to work as law partner to Nicholas Van Sant.

This was a big move for our hero; he did this thinking it was permanent, tinged with an attitude of slight arrogance and hubris, particularly in the eyes of Cephas. It was supposed to be a permanent move, but it didn’t work out that way.

It would turn out to be one of the most teachable, humbling moments of Emmett’s career.

Circle of Family: Lula Wilson Grether

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.