Hildur Dahlstrom Beall

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Our next installment on Emmett’s secretaries features Hildur (or Hilda) Dahlstrom Beall (1892-1975). According to my research, Hildur was Emmett’s secretary in some capacity from about 1910 to 1914, but she was primarily Walter Kehoe’s secretary (as he was the one paying her salary, as you’ll see further on in our story).

Hildur was born in August 1892 in Nebraska, the daughter of Swedish immigrants Gustavus and Lida Dahlstrom.

According to the U.S. Census for 1900, the Dahlstroms were living in Saunders, Nebraska, where Gustavus (who was also known as Gus) was a traveling salesman for sewing machines. But it must not have been successful, because an advertisement in the June 28, 1910 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates that he had a successful fruit and lunch business in Pensacola for 10 years:

A want ad in the June, 28, 1910 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates Gus had a successful fruit and lunch business in Pensacola for 10 years when he decided to sell it and move to another state. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Hildur lived with her parents at 1013 E. Jackson, and upon graduation from Pensacola’s public schools, attended Minnie Kehoe’s stenography/business school. Her first job was at Pensacola Office Equipment Company:

Hildur’s first job out of steno school. Source: The Pensacola City Directory, 1909, via Ancestry.com

During this time, Gus had his house, 1013 N. Jackson Street, on the market — and it had been on the market since 1907:

The Dahlstrom house was put on the market in late 1906. Gus had a hard time trying to sell this house, as the listing ran on and off for years between 1906 and 1910.

The Dahlstrom’s house at 1013 E Jackson in Pensacola is still standing — it was built in 1900 — and is charming. I wonder why Gus had such a hard time selling it? Source: GoogleMaps

By 1911, the house still unsold, Gus was ready to move on:

From the December 26, 1911 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Gus’ house sat unsold for five years by this time. Maybe it was because of the price, which didn’t change in the five years it was on the market. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Hildur continued to live at home with her parents until they moved to Texas. She chose to remain in Pensacola working as a stenographer (and a notary) for the law firm of Kehoe and Wilson:

From the Pensacola City Directory, 1911. Source: Ancestry.com 

By 1913, Hildur is living in a boarding house owned by John Gautesen, and is the stenographer for Walter Kehoe, now in solo law practice. And Emmett is in Washington, D.C., as U.S. Congressman. Source: The Pensacola City Directory, 1913 via Ancestry.com

Kehoe’s law office is probably where she met her future husband, Phillip Dane Beall, who was a good friend of both Walter and Emmett, and a bricklayer-turned-prominent lawyer, and secretary to a U.S. District Judge:

Phillip Beall in 1913. Source: Florida State Archive.

Here is where our story gets interesting.

Interesting details to parse in this article! Source: The Pensacola Journal, June 12, 1914.

According to The Pensacola Journal, for June 12, 1914, Hildur (or Hilda) was a ‘stenographer for Congressman Emmett Wilson for several years,’ which is not correct. First, we can prove Hildur wasn’t a resident of Washington, D.C., where Emmett was for the majority of his first term in office: She’s not listed in any of the Washington, D.C. city directories, nor is she named in the Congressional administrative records for Emmett’s first term. Nope. Sure, she worked with Emmett while he was Kehoe’s junior partner in Pensacola, but to hint she was consistently his stenographer, as if this was an ongoing or regular job for her, is incorrect.

For the record, Emmett’s secretary in Washington, D.C. was Jefferson Davis Stephens, which is reflected in both the Congressional administrative records and the Washington, D.C. city directories. It’s possible that Emmett may have hired additional stenographers, but if he did, they would be listed in the Congressional administrative records.

And because Emmett was close friends with Phillip Beale and knew Hildur for a few years, it made sense that he’d attend their wedding.

But what was Hildur doing in Washington? Certainly not to bring him home to her wedding.

A second article in the June 14, 1914 issue of The Pensacola Journal indicates that Emmett made the trip to Pensacola on the same train as Hildur.

Hildur she was likely dispatched to Washington a few months before her wedding to help Stephens manage Emmett on Capitol Hill.

At this point in 1914, Stephens had his hands completely full. Not only was he the de facto congressman the Third Congressional District while Emmett was, um, indisposed most of the time, he was preparing to graduate Georgetown University Law School. Stephens has big plans which did not necessarily include Emmett (and which we’ll talk about in my next post on Emmett’s secretaries featuring Stephens).

I’m convinced Hildur knew Emmett’s and the Florida Democratic Party’s secret; i.e., that Emmett was a political train wreck about to happen, that the party needed to hold on to that seat by any means necessary, and that she could be trusted to keep her mouth shut, help prop Emmett until he either sobered up or a new candidate was selected.

In any rate, after the wedding, Hildur and Phillip Beall settled down in a house at 1505 E Gadsden in Pensacola, and Hildur apparently did not return to work. She raised two sons, Phillip Jr. and Kirke. Phillip Sr. died in 1964; Huldur in 1975.

I wish I knew if Huldur kept a journal or there exists any correspondence from her time working with Emmett Wilson during the early 1900s, and while Emmett was in Congress.

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Emmett’s Secretaries: B.A. Murphy

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When I started tracking down Emmett’s secretaries, I didn’t know what to expect. Mostly I started looking for Emmett’s secretaries because I hit a brick wall with Emmett himself (there’s very little primary information from him). At present, I’ve found as much as I can about and from Emmett’s siblings and their descendants, and I’ve tracked down as many of Emmett’s close friends and their descendants as I can to-date.

Still, I feel like there may be more to find about Emmett’s personal story — so what better source than Emmett’s support staff? The tricky part would be finding them. But if Emmett’s secretarial staff were good, they’d have kept attorney’s day books and office journals. It’s a long shot, but worth it to track these folks down. Where to start? Public records.

Who Was B.A. Murphy?

If you recall from an earlier post, Emmett moved to Pensacola in September 1906, after his disappointing tenure as Nick Van Sant’s law partner in Sterling, Illinois. At this point, Emmett was starting his career over, for the third time in as many years. But because Emmett was well connected, he didn’t have to wait long to find a good job.

Emmett didn’t even apply for the position, yet he got it. Surprise? Source: The Montgomery Advertiser, September 14, 1907, from GenealogyBank.com

This good job came with administrative help. Because Emmett was basically given the job, he’d have been advised about whom to bring along as his top administrative assistant. According to the Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States for 1909, Emmett’s administrative assistant was B.A. Murphy.

Source: Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States, 1909. Published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. Source: Google Books

But to be perfectly candid, when I first saw the secretary’s name, I immediately thought: Youngish fellow, probably didn’t go to college, wearing a dark suit. Despite my best intentions, I dug into the research with dreaded preconceived notions.

And boy, was I ever WRONG!

Meet B.A. Murphy

Youngish fellow? Oh hell no — although — granted, I was initially thrown off with my first information from the obituary/cemetery search:

How many women in 1908 used a male-sounding name? Bertha went by “Bert”. Bert Murphy. Photo by Earth Angel of Find-a-grave.com

 

Rather, this is a portrait of an interesting, ambitious young woman who overcame major social and economic barriers that I take for granted in the 21st century to become a successful, independent woman.

Meet Bertha A. “Bert” Murphy, 1876-1967.

Bertha was lived and was educated in Roberts, Escambia County, Florida public schools. She graduated from high school (probably in Roberts, although I have not officially confirmed that to date), and went right into one of the few available/acceptable job markets for single young women in 1900: Education.

The U.S. Census for 1900 lists Bertha, age 23, as a teacher in Roberts, Escambia County, Florida, and living in her parent’s home along with her siblings Gerald (a log-scaler), Pearl (in school at present, but who would later become a nurse-anesthesiologist), Clifford (a stenographer) and Ruby. Bertha’s father, W.H. Murphy, was a saw mill owner.

Roberts, Florida is in the blue oval; a bit of a schlep to Pensacola back in the day of dirt roads and horse-drawn wagons. Source: University of South Florida

Bertha was probably thankful she lived at home with her family, as public school teachers in Florida earned (on average) $5-10 a month in 1900, but Bertha had bigger plans for herself. She was smart and ambitious; there were bigger fish to fry in Pensacola, and that’s where we find her next, in 1906.

Bertha is a notary public and a stenographer, working in the law offices of Maxwell and Reeves. Source: The Pensacola Journal, October 27, 1906, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Yep — that’s Maxwell and Reeves, as in, Emmett’s uncle, Judge Evelyn C. Maxwell. The same uncle who offered Emmett a job (or, at least a desk) in late September, 1906, when he moved back to Florida after the Illinois experiment. Emmett and Bertha, then, knew each other and worked together. She must have been a pretty damn good stenographer, then, for Maxwell to have (most likely) recommended Emmett offer Bertha a second job as his clerk when Emmett was made assistant district attorney in 1907. Bertha held down that second position as a clerk in the district attorney’s office until 1909.

Additionally, per the Pensacola City Directories, Bertha continued to work as a stenographer for Judge Maxwell until 1910, biding her time, building her experience, making important connections.

B.A. Murphy, in partnership with Minnie Kehoe, running a school!  Source: The Pensacola Journal, June 16, 1912, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

And Bertha was never, ever, what one would call a slacker:

Bertha consistently maintains her notary public bond most of her life She’s definitely self-sufficient. Source: The Pensacola Journal, March 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

and, she dabbled in real estate.

Bertha owes back taxes on property in Pensacola. But I don’t believe she was in trouble. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

Here’s the reason why I don’t believe Bertha was in any kind of financial trouble:

Bertha made a personal $50 cash donation to this cause. Source: The Pensacola Journal, 1911, via chroniclingamerica.gov

If Bertha made a $50 donation towards an important charitable cause (which is something she did for most of her life, by the way), she was able to pay the delinquent taxes on her property  ($50 in 1911 is equivalent to $1,221 today). She was doing quite well for herself, thankyouverymuch.

[Meanwhile, our Emmett was working in Walter Kehoe’s office (he and Walter weren’t law partners yet; rather, Emmett was ‘renting’ or borrowing space in Walter’s office, and had been appointed States’ Attorney in 1911. Emmett appeared to be working hard (and I believe he was), but when I think about how Bertha was literally building her professional foundation brick-by-brick, solid, it feels like Emmett’s foundation was flimsy and ‘temporary,’ based on the fact that pretty much all of his opportunities were given to him. Nothing was ‘given’ to Bertha, really, or to Minnie Kehoe, which is why I admire these two women so much. But I digress.]

Fast forward eight years to May 18, 1919.

Emmett has been dead almost a year.

And Bertha?

Bertha is in the Big Apple. Source: The Pensacola Journal, May 18, 1919, via chroniclingamerica.gov

Bertha eventually moved back to Pensacola between 1924 and 1927, a full-fledged realtor. It’s unclear if she had much success in the lumber business, but she appears to have done well with real-estate. Bertha shows up in the U.S. Censi for 1930, 1935, and 1940 as a realtor, and residing with her mother and siblings at 1906 E. Strong Street.

Here’s the last available census information on Bertha, the 1945 Florida State Census:

Bertha and her siblings in 1945. She’s still a realtor. Brother Gerald is a salesperson and divorced; Pearl is an anesthesiologist, Stella (a sister-in-law; widow of Clifford) keeps house, and Askin (a nephew; son of Clifford) is a clerk. Source: Ancestry.com

That’s all I was able to find about Bertha. She died in 1967, and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Pensacola, along with her siblings.

I would love to find a photo of Bertha, or read one of her letters or journals — and I would love to find out if she had ever written anything in a journal or letter about her experiences working with Emmett.

 

Secretarial Musings

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I often wonder what kind of employee or boss Emmett was?

Was he considerate and competent? Quiet and hardworking?

A lunch-stealing backstabbing jerk, perhaps?

An excellent source of information on Emmett-as-colleague would be the office records — a desk calendar, case files, or even an office journal. I don’t doubt that Emmett kept records such as these himself. Unfortunately, Emmett’s office records do not exist anymore.

But what if one of his secretaries kept those records?

And what if they exist?

Tracking down office secretaries were with not much to go on was a real challenge — but guess what? I’ve identified five secretaries who either worked with Emmett directly, or as part of Emmett’s law practice!

Here’s the list of secretaries who worked with Emmett while he was a lawyer, district attorney, state’s attorney, and U.S. Congressman:

Bertha A (Bert) Murphy — 1905-08 — Maxwell & Wilson, Clerk for Asst. U.S. Attorney

Minnie Kehoe — 1906-1908 — Kehoe & Smithwick

Nellie Mills — 1914-1915 — Stenographer at the San Carlos Hotel (Emmett lived there on and off between 1914-1915 when Congress was out of session, et cetera)

Jefferson Davis Stephens — 1913-1917 — U.S. Congress

Hilda Dahlstrom Beall — 1910-1914 — Kehoe & Wilson; U.S. Congress (temporary)

Alas, this is not yet a complete list: I haven’t yet identified the secretary for Judge Daniel J. Jones (Emmett was Jones’ clerk in 1902), the secretary for Cephas’ office (Emmett was a junior partner at Wilson & Wilson between 1904 and 1905), or the secretary for Van Sant and Wilson (1905-1906).

It is possible that Emmett might have been the secretary for Jones’ or Cephas’ law offices while he was just starting out, but I don’t think so.

Nicholas Van Sant. Source: Ancestry.com

I know Emmett did clerical work for Judge Jones, but it wasn’t consistent, and Emmett didn’t know shorthand.  He had little experience as a law clerk, and Judge Jones has a busy and thriving practice in Washington County, Florida. In fact, it was after a six-month stint at Jones’ office that Emmett was sent to Pensacola to take stenography courses at Meux’s Business College.

And while Cephas loved and supported his brother, he was not fool enough to trust his established law firm records to a younger sibling with an inconsistent work and academic record, who was just starting out.

I’ll introduce the secretaries over the next several posts.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to dig around for information on who may have been the secretaries for Judge Jones and Cephas Wilson between 1900 and 1905. I have a few leads on the Van Sant & Wilson secretary that I want to explore. (Spoiler Alert: One of the secretaries DID keep a journal! And yeah — I have a copy of it!)

John Smithwick: A Kind-of Renaissance Guy

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John Harris Smithwick. Source: Find-a-grave.com

As promised, I’m following up on the earlier post about the folks at the Smithwick luncheon.

I’ll start with information about the host, John H. Smithwick: Farmer, attorney, U.S. congressman, accused check kiter, and survivor of the Knickerbocker theater disaster.

When the 1907 article was published, Smithwick was Walter Kehoe’s law partner. We know from Smithwick’s official biography he was born in Georgia in 1872; was graduated from Reinhardt Normal College in 1895, then attended law school at Cumberland University. He was graduated in 1897; admitted to the Georgia bar in 1898, then moved to Pensacola the same year as Emmett, in 1906.

Kehoe & Smithwick, located at 306 Brent Building, Pensacola. Source: 1907 Pensacola City Directory, from Ancestry.com

Smithwick and Kehoe remained partners through 1907; the next year, however, Smithwick and Kehoe separated amicably:

Smithwick is partners with T.F. West. Source: 1908 Pensacola City Director, Ancestry.com

and,

Kehoe in single practice. Source: 1908 Pensacola City Directory, Ancestry.com

By 1910, Smithwick has changed vocation:

Source: 1910 Pensacola City Directory, Ancestry.com

Although Smithwick appears to have stepped away from his legal profession, he maintained his important connections with The Pensacola Journal’s editor, Frank Mayes. Mayes was considered a political kingmaker in West Florida politics. On April 27, 1913, The Pensacola Journal’s editor, Frank Mayes, wrote a feature about traveling through Santa Rosa County with Smithwick, and visiting his farm:

Source: The Pensacola Journal, April 27, 1913, http://www.chroniclingamerica.gov

Mayes ran another feature on Smithwick’s farm, in the  May 17, 1914 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Although Smithwick expanded into farming, he was listed in the Pensacola City Directory with a business in naval stores; his residence as 206 W. Lloyd (a house still standing).

When Emmett gave notice that he was retiring from congress in April 1915, his two friends, Smithwick and Walter Kehoe (along with two other) ran for the Third District Congressional Seat in the June primary.

Sample 1916 primary ballot, as it appeared in The Pensacola Journal. Source: Chroniclingamerica.gov

Kehoe won the primary, then the general election. He served a rather undistinguished one term, then lost his bid for reelection in the 1918 primary runoff against Smithwick. There were no hard feelings though:

Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

One thing of note — Walter voted against suffrage at the same time his talented sisters, Fannie and Minnie Kehoe, were two of the prominent women leading the suffrage movement in Florida. (I can imagine how uncomfortable it was when Walter came home from Washington, to face his sisters at Sunday dinners and social events.)

Smithwick’s tenure in office was also undistinguished — until he left office.

Source: Wicked Capitol Hill: An Unruly History of Behaving Badly by Robert S. Pohl. Source: Amazon.com

And:

Source: Richmond Times, May 15, 1947. Genealogybank.com

Smithwick claimed he was innocent until the day he died.

===

The most interesting story I found about Smithwick was that he was a survivor of the Knickerbocker Theatre disaster in Washington, D.C., January 28, 1922.

In an interview he gave to Associated Press reporters, Smithwick recalled in great detail the how the ceiling of the theatre caved in under the heavy snow that had accumulated on the roof, and that he’d climbed out of the rubble, and walked home, without his hat or coat. He had several cuts and bruises, and likely a concussion. Smithwick said he didn’t realize how badly he was injured, until he arrived at home and family members called in a doctor immediately upon observing his condition.

Interesting fellow, John Smithwick.

===

There are a few excellent articles on Knickerbocker Theatre disaster:

  • Kevin Ambrose’s excellent article 95 years after the disaster, including stories of those who helped rescue theatre patrons, and those who tragically lost their lives.
  • A historical essay about the Knickerbocker disaster on the blog, The Dead Bell.
  • The Knickerbocker tragedy, via the excellent Ghosts of DC blog, and
  • John Smithwick’s interview, with great details, published by the Associated Press (below), via the New York Times.

Source: New York Times, January 1922.

Election Judgment

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I’m a little behind filing my report on working as an Election Judge at my precinct’s polling station. Apologies for that; one (of two) outcomes of the day that I didn’t expect was to develop a major cold, which I’m sure was exacerbated by interacting with literally hundreds of neighbors who live in my precinct.

Rollingwood Elementary School, my voting precinct. Source: Moderncapitaldc.com

Rollingwood Elementary School, my voting precinct. Source: Moderncapitaldc.com

I wish I had taken photos of the polling station setup, the crowd, and the election judges in action to share, but the Board of Elections expressly forbade election judges from using cell phones or other technology at any time they were on duty — including lunch breaks. The chief judges were allowed cell phones; they had to communicate with the Board of Elections offices from time to time and to deal with emergency situations, such as when one of the three electronic poll books stopped working right at 6:57 a.m. — three minutes before the polls opened. I was one of the three judges running the poll books — and there was a long line out the door. Thankfully, we were able to get the third poll book up and running within the hour.

The polls opened promptly at 7 a.m. — I remember looking up at the clock. The next time I looked up at the clock (when the line had finally dispersed), it was 9:15 a.m. No kidding. I checked the number of Voter Access Cards I issued at that point — 402.

The chief judges had a giant bag of these lozenges going around the room. Thank goodness.

The chief judges had a giant bag of these lozenges going around the room. Thank goodness.

One of the chief judges came around offering throat lozenges. I took several. My spiel consisted of the following 402 times:

  1. Good morning. May I have your first and last name?
  2. Would you confirm your address?
  3. Would you confirm your day and month of birth?

We weren’t allowed to ask for the year, although most would automatically offered it. Maryland does not check voter identification, unless it is specifically noted on the voter’s registration record.

Then, I’d print out the electronic Voter Access Card, and send the voter on his/her way to the ballot table.

Several of my neighbors and friends showed up in my line. Most of them said hello; we visited for a few minutes, but we couldn’t get too chummy: At least twice while I was there poll watchers were hanging out behind me, watching as I checked voters in, and then, an observer from the Board of Elections visited to make sure everything was running smoothly.

After three hours at the poll books, I rotated to the ballot table, where I assembled the paper ballots and folders for the voters. Yeah, Maryland used paper ballots this time, which were presented to voters in legal-sized folders. The spiel went as follows:

  1. Maryland is using a paper ballot this election.
  2. It is two pages, with selections for you to review on both sides.
  3. Fill in the oval completely, no stray marks, or the scanner will not be able to read your choices, and will reject the ballot.
  4. When you’ve made your choices, return the ballot to the folder, and take the folder to the scanner.

I assembled and distributed about 200 ballots for the hour and a half I was at the station.

My last station was the scanner. There were two scanners set up near the exit of the polling station. My job was to stand next to the scanner and instruct the voter how to insert their ballot into the device, and to instruct the voter that if the ballot was rejected, then he or she would have to cast their ballot again (there’s a whole ballot spoiling process, which includes special forms and handling).

The only drama at our precinct was when an Election Judge at the scanner got cursed out by a voter because his ballot was rejected, and he had to redo it.


Personal observations:

This is a program that is entirely citizen-run, citizen-led, and I never understood or fully appreciated that before. One gentleman who accompanied a poll watcher was from the United Kingdom. He asked the chief judges how our political parties appointed the election judges at precincts — and the chief judge said, ‘We don’t. Our election judges are volunteers.’ After the UK visitor left, the chief judge turned to me and said, “it makes your really appreciate what we have here in the U.S.”

I read that about 47 percent of registered voters didn’t vote at all this year. That’s about 90 million voters. I understand that this was a contentious election; to be honest, neither major candidate was my first choice, but I would never just throw away a chance to speak up. Voting is precious. You think Minnie Kehoe would have thrown away a chance to vote? You think Modeste Hargis or Minnie Neal would have thrown it away, too? Hell no.

About three hours after the polls opened, my oldest daughter walked down to the polling station by herself, to look around. She’s 14, and pushing back against me and her dad (as teenagers will), and definitely keeping her distance from us, as she is of the age where it is ‘not cool’ to be seen with your parents. So, when I looked up from the poll books to see her standing in the doorway, a little hesitant, it warmed my heart.

i-voted-stickerI motioned her over to me, and introduced her to the other election judges. We weren’t busy, so I walked her through the voting process, step-by-step. She watched me check a few voters in, and help one or two voters with the scanning device. One of the chief judges gave her an “I Voted” sticker, with a wink and an admonition to be sure to register as soon as she was old enough, because it was important.

Before she left, she thanked me for showing her around because it was interesting — and, under her breath, she told me she was proud of me for working the polls.

Then she ran home.

 

Modeste Hargis, Whistling Pharmacist

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I’m pleased to report that not only have I located Emmett’s doctors (both in Pensacola and Washington, D.C.), but I’ve also located his pharmacist. Pretty damn good History Detective work, huh?

I’ll have more on the doctors in another post, but I thought I’d introduce you to the pharmacist first, because she’s REMARKABLE.

 

Meet Modeste Hargis. The first (and youngest) woman pharmacist in Pensacola.

Modeste Hargis, about 1900. Source: womenofhistoricpcola

Modeste Hargis, about 1900. Source: womenofhistoricpcola

Modeste was born August 1875 in Pensacola, the daughter of Dr. Robert Bell Smith Hargis. She had four sisters and two older brothers, Robert and John, who also were physicians.

Modeste decided early that she wanted a medical career, too.  According to a feature about Modeste in a 1909 issue of The Pensacola Journal, she accompanied her father every day on house calls and appointments, and he taught her everything he knew. She couldn’t have had a better teacher, either — Dr. Hargis was not only a yellow fever expert, he, along with Dr. J.C. Whiting, established the Pensacola Hospital in 1868. He was well respected, well known, and considered one of the top physicians in West Florida. It is quite likely that Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, at least knew of Dr. Hargis, if he didn’t actually practice with him on occasion.

Modeste was interested in pharmacy, and Dr. Hargis encouraged and supported his daughter’s plans, even though it was still highly unusual for a young woman to enter a profession dominated by men.

In the 1909 article, Modeste said:

“I simply loved anything connected with medicine and after my father’s health failed, I commenced the study of pharmacy though I did not know then it would ever be the means of my support.”

Modeste’s turning point came in 1893, at 18, when she passed the state pharmacy examination and was the youngest (and only) female pharmacist in Florida.

Source: American Druggist & Pharmaceutical Record, Vol. 26, September 14, 1893.

Source: American Druggist & Pharmaceutical Record, Vol. 26, September 14, 1893.

And less than three months later, Modeste’s father died. It is unclear what was the cause of Dr. Hargis’ death, but he died at home, at 109 E. Romana Street. Modeste’s quote gives us a clue that he was likely ill for a long time, and so his death was not unexpected.

It is not clear when Modeste opened her first pharmacy. However, records from the Pensacola City Directory for 1898 (the earliest one available for now) indicate that she was on her own:

Pensacola City Directory for 1898. Source: Ancestry.com

Pensacola City Directory for 1898. J. Whiting Hargis was one of Modeste’s older brothers. Source: Ancestry.com

Just for kicks, I looked at Google Earth to see if the original house or buildings are still at 107-109 E. Romana. Alas, no — only a few modern box-shaped offices and an empty lot.

The Hargis Pharmacy moved around a few times: In 1911, it was located at 8 E. Government Street — the location of Emmett’s office — in the American National Bank Building. I can imagine Emmett stepping out of the office, taking the elevator down to the first floor, to pick up a bottle of Bromo-Seltzer, and his brand of pomade (which I have not been able to figure out yet, but give me time). He could also pick up a bottle of beer or wine there too! Did you know the Hargis Pharmacy also made and bottled beer and wine? It’s true. Pharmacies could do that back then.

Source: Mr.Bottles.com

A variety of bottles (contents unknown) bearing the Hargis Pharmacy embossment. Source: Mr.Bottles.com

By 1916, The Hargis Pharmacy had moved down the street from 8 E. Government, to 203-205 S. Palafox. Still, only a few blocks’ stroll for Emmett, should he need to pick up toiletries, or whatnot.

Pensacola City Directory for 1916. Modeste's pharmacy delivered, too! Source: Ancestry.com

Pensacola City Directory for 1916. Modeste’s pharmacy delivered, too! 203 S. Palafox, by the way, is still standing. Source: Ancestry.com

Not surprisingly, Modeste was a friend of Minnie Kehoe’s, and, a supporter of women’s suffrage. Both were successful women business owners, too. I can well imagine those two getting together and having quite interesting conversations.

Modeste’s house at 611 N. Barcelona is still standing, too:

611 North Barcelona, Pensacola, Florida. Source: Trulia.com

611 North Barcelona, Pensacola, Florida. Source: Trulia.com

Modeste spent most of her life as a pharmacist. It is unclear when she sold or retired from business. In 1934, at age 54, she was likely retired at that point, because she is simply listed in the Pensacola City Directory at home.

But she wasn’t idle.

Zora Neale Hurston. Source: Library of Congress

Zora Neale Hurston. Could Modeste have known her? it’s possible! Source: Library of Congress

Modeste signed on with the Federal Writers Project of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) for the state of Florida. She co-wrote a series of articles that appeared in a variety of publications, including the Florida Historical Quarterly. Interesting — she was probably a colleague of Zora Neale Hurston!

Modeste’s most prolific year was 1939, according to Wordcat.org. She had NINE articles on a variety of topics, including Don Francesco Moreno, and an intensive study of Greek culture in Pensacola.

By 1942, Modeste was out of retirement and the director of the WPA Writer's Department in Pensacola. From the 1942 Pensacola City Directory. Source: Ancestry.com

By 1942, Modeste was out of retirement and the director of the WPA Writer’s Department in Pensacola. From the 1942 Pensacola City Directory. Source: Ancestry.com

Modeste lived with her sister Palmire in the 1940s. Palmire died in 1946; Modeste died in 1948.


That’s a pretty decent sketch of Modeste for now; but there’s still a lot I don’t know about her. I wanted to search in the Library of Congress’ database this afternoon, but it is offline for annual maintenance until August 1.

One reason I want to dig around and discover more about Modeste was this interesting comment by the interviewer in the 1909 article: She was described as a violinist, and a ‘genius in the art of whistling.’

She must have been good at it too, because in 1927, Modeste had her own radio program about whistling!

Source: The Greensboro (N.C.) Record; February 21, 1927.

I wonder what was included in her show! Did she do all the whistling? Source: The Greensboro (N.C.) Record; February 21, 1927.

Emmett definitely had some interesting friends in his life, and which says a lot about Emmett. Getting to know his friends and what they were like helps fill in the blanks about his personal life somewhat — at least until I get my hands on his scrapbooks.

 

Thanks, Minnie Kehoe!

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It’s primary day in Maryland!

Fresh from the polls!

Fresh from exercising my rights of suffrage!

When I went to vote this morning, I had Minnie Kehoe on my mind. When I exited the polls, I said out loud, “Thanks, Minnie!”

Minnie was a trailblazer for professional women. She knew she had to keep her cool even in the face of cads, whereas I would have just told them where to go.

Minnie was a trailblazer for professional women. She knew she had to keep her cool even in the face of cads, whereas I would have just told them where to go.

The polling clerk (a man) looked at me and smiled.

I’m sure he didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Maybe his name is Minnie. Haha!

It went very smoothly — no long lines, everyone was pleasant and courteous. The only odd thing about the voting was that we had paper ballots. This is a first in all the years I’ve been voting here in Maryland. I asked the polling clerk about it, and he said, “some people wanted it that way.”  No chance of hanging chads, though. It was all fill-in-the-circle.

There was an electronic scanner at the exit door, in which I had to insert the legal-paper-sized ballot. It sucked the document with my selections into its large, black plastic maw, and then, a patriotic screen popped up, saying, “Thank you for voting!”

As I exited, the polling clerk I called “Minnie” told me not to forget my sticker.

On the way out, I filled out a little survey praising my suffrage experience, and then, decided to volunteer as an election judge at my polling place come November. I’ve never done it before, and my name was the first on the list. I figured the experience would be interesting.

The schools are closed on primary days in my county because many of the public schools serve as polling places. I tried to entice my kids to come along for the civics lesson. No luck. I even said, “there will be stickers,” hoping to at least get my youngest to come along, but no luck.