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.

 

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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.

 

More St. Michael’s Stories

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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: Ancestry.com

Minnie Kehoe, 1924, passport photo. Source: Ancestry.com

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.

massiveoaks

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.

 

Stories from St. Michael’s

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I’ve been in Pensacola since Sunday night, and it has been nonstop research heaven. It has been a great trip so far; I’ve found a lot of new information, made new friends, and I feel a lot more confident about how this project is coming along.

When you work alone on a project, it is easy to let the isolation get to you. Not many folks up in Maryland know what I’m doing (outside of my university colleagues), nor do they really care about West Florida history from the early 1900s. But, the folks down here do, thank you very much, and everyone I’ve met has been helpful.

Today, I walked all over St. Michael’s Cemetery with my friend Nancy, who has been a tremendous help with the research this week. We were in search of Minnie Kehoe and/or any other Kehoe family members, and friends of Emmett’s who were buried here.

You can't drive in, but the gate opens to allow walk-throughs. Source: ncptt.nps.gov

You can’t drive in, but the gate opens to allow walk-throughs. Source: ncptt.nps.gov

We didn’t have a map, which might have expedited things. But, because we like to walk around in cemeteries and meet the folks there, we struck out to see what we could see.

It was great seeing the individuals I’ve been reading about on a daily basis for almost 30 months straight:

Martin & Kate Sullivan. Martin was a railroad and timber capitalist. Born in Ireland, died in Baltimore, buried here.

Martin & Kate Sullivan. Martin was a railroad and timber capitalist. Born in Ireland, died in Baltimore, buried here. Emmett definitely knew the Sullivans. A son is buried here, too, who was only about 25 years old when he died. Martin and Charles (the son) died only a month apart in 1911.

This is Daniel F. Sullivan, who 'gave Pensacola the First National Bank and the Opera House, according to the Daily Register of Mobile, Alabama. He died in 1884. It isn't stated clearly if he is related to the other Sullivans of the masoleum, but he was also big into timber, and originally from Ireland. They could be related. I haven't determined it yet.

This is Daniel F. Sullivan, who ‘gave Pensacola the First National Bank and the Opera House, according to the Daily Register of Mobile, Alabama. He died in 1884. It isn’t stated clearly if he is related to the other Sullivans of the masoleum, but he was also big into timber, and originally from Ireland. They could be related. I haven’t determined it yet.

As noted, some of the residents are more famous than others; the stones tell interesting stories.

Stephen Russell Mallory was Emmett's grandfather's law partner. Emmett's grandfather was A.E. Maxwell (buried at St. John's only a few rows up from Emmett).

Stephen Russell Mallory was Emmett’s grandfather’s law partner. Emmett’s grandfather was A.E. Maxwell (buried at St. John’s only a few rows up from Emmett).

You can’t see it in this photo but directly to the left of me was a huge rosemary bush. In fact, someone planted rosemary within the Mallory enclosure. I’d like to do that for Emmett’s grave, but you cannot (it will get cut down).

W.A. D'Alemberte, who was the father of one of Emmett's good friends, J. H. D'Alemberte. He was a druggist. There is an interesting story about his life here.

W.A. and Maidee D’Alemberte. W.A. (aka “Willoughby”) was the father of one of Emmett’s good friends, J. H. D’Alemberte. He was a druggist. There is an interesting story about his life here. Emmett was rather close to J.H. (aka “Herron”); he went on vacations with them, hung out with them. Herron was one of Emmett’s good friends. Tragically, Herron committed suicide in the 1930s; the family said it had to do with significant losses in the stock market. Herron is buried in Temple Beth-El Cemetery.

Owen Miner Avery.

Owen Miner Avery. Another prominent Pensacola family, the Averys. Emmett socialized with them often. Owen was a more senior relative.

I’m headed to Chipley this morning to spend time with friends, and then, to Marianna the next day for more research, so, I have to stop here for the moment.

I’ll post more details about the trek through St. Michael’s Cemetery a little later. It was a great trek! I did find Minnie — and a few more interesting folks and stories to share.

It’s great to be back in Pensacola!

You Go, Girl

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In honor of Minnie Kehoe and Minnie Neal, two strong women I’ve uncovered in Emmett Wilson’s biography, I want to see this movie. It is due out in October. The link to the movie trailer is here.

Suffragette. Source: Jezebel.com

Suffragette. Meryl Streep (L); Carey Mulligan (R). Source: Jezebel.com

Of course, no one alive is around to vet the details in this movie that the women who won suffrage endured, but I think Minnie would be pleased.

Does Minnie not resemble Meryl a slight bit?

Does Minnie not resemble Meryl a slight bit? Maybe if she wore a hat.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Emmett was an 11th hour supporter of suffrage. He was the sole member of the Florida congressional delegation to vote in support of suffrage in 1917 — as he was leaving office. He died before the 19th Amendment became law. I think Emmett would be pleased, too.

The 19th Amendment.

The 19th Amendment.

 

 

Coveted Artifacts

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Yesterday, a colleague told me that she had seen an actual notary public stamp belonging to Emmett Wilson on a legal document dating from 1905!

She told me it was quite unique; Emmett’s name is part of the official stamp itself. This made me wonder what ever became of the actual stamp device.

Not just anyone could become a Notary Public in 1905: It was a patronage position that only the Governor of Florida could bestow. My colleague told me that the stamps were made by the governor’s own embosser.

I would love to get my hands on Emmett’s Notary Public stamp — if not to possess it, for the chance to examine it.

This was not something you just schlepped around in a briefcase. This model (approximately 110 years old) weighs five pounds. Source: www.etsy.com

The notary public stamp from Emmett’s day was not something you would want to schlep around in a briefcase. This model (approximately 110 years old) weighs five pounds. Source: http://www.etsy.com

Actually, there are several of Emmett’s personal artifacts I’d love to find. For instance:

  • His fountain pen. Emmett indeed used a fountain pen. Back then, a man’s fountain pen was something special. My own grandfather had his father’s fountain pen in fact, and it was common to pass these down in a family. I can’t prove it, but I like to think that Emmett’s was given to him when he graduated from law school back in 1904. Sometimes the pens had initials or names engraved upon them; unless Emmett’s was engraved, it is unlikely I’ll find it.
  • His pocket watch. This one may be close to impossible to find as well. At the end of his life, Emmett was having money problems, and he might have hocked it to pay some bills; there was no mention of it in his will (assets). In fact, he barely had more than the clothes on his back when he died.
  • An Emmett Wilson campaign button. I’ve mentioned this item in previous posts. I’ve had feelers out on this one for awhile.
  • His scrapbooks. Of course.
  • Any books that belonged to him. I know he was a voracious reader and had a fairly good collection (other than law books). I hope to find a vintage book with his name in it one day. He left them to Emmett Wilson Kehoe, the son of his good friend Walter Kehoe. EWK did not have children; they may be floating around somewhere in a vintage book store, or dispersed among nephews and nieces.
  • His wishbone tie pin. If you look very closely in the photo on this page, you’ll notice he has a little golden wishbone tie pin.
    Look closely. A wishbone for good luck!

    Look closely. A wishbone for good luck!

    I’ve seen some of these on Etsy; this little pin has a bit of a story behind it, I’m sure. I believe it was gifted to him by someone close; perhaps the Kehoes, or Lula and Cephas, or one of his sisters. For awhile, I thought a girlfriend would have given this to him — it is possible — but I don’t think likely. Victorian ideals about gift-giving were very much still the norm in small Southern towns around 1913. Unless you were married or engaged, expensive gold jewelry (like a gold tie pin or cufflinks) was not something a woman gave to a man. His good friend Minnie Kehoe might have been able to get away with giving Emmett a gold tie pin like this as a gift, but anyone else outside of family? Probably not.

  • Minnie Neal was the photographer of Emmett's law school graduating class. Ad from the 1905 Stetson Weekly Collegiate, February 15, 1905.

    Minnie Neal was the photographer of Emmett’s law school graduating class. Ad from the 1905 Stetson Weekly Collegiate, February 15, 1905.

    Any photographs from Stetson/Law school graduation. I’ve been lucky to come across some photos in the microfilm, but the best ones I’ve received have been shared with me by relatives and friends of Emmett’s descendants, who I’ve become friends with through the research. I know that the photos were taken, but I have not been able to track down relatives or locate negatives anywhere. The photographer didn’t marry or have children; I’ll try to reach out to descendants of siblings next, as well as to Florida and Georgia libraries and universities (particularly those interested in women leaders/women’s studies of the early 20th century).

This is my wish list of Emmett Wilson artifacts I hope to uncover in the next year.

To Minnie Kehoe and Her Sisters in Suffrage: Thank You

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That's Minnie on my shirt. Excuse the rough look. I ran before I hit the voting booth.

That’s Minnie on my shirt. Excuse the rough look. I ran before I hit the voting booth.

One hundred years ago today, Minnie Kehoe didn’t have the privilege of walking a few blocks down the road to her voting precinct and casting a ballot, as I do today.

And so, in honor of Minnie, and the privilege she worked for, I took Minnie into the voting booth with me.

Without Minnie and her sisters in suffrage, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. Minnie had actually convinced Emmett Wilson, towards the end of his tenure in Congress, to support women’s suffrage.

Emmett was the lone member of the Florida delegation to state publicly he would support the 19th Amendment. Unfortunately, his term was up (and he was out of office) before this was to happen.

So, to Minnie Kehoe and her sisters in suffrage, wherever you are, please know that I do not take my privilege to vote for granted, EVER.

And thank you for helping to make the 19th Amendment possible.

The 19th Amendment. Image Source: The National Archives (www.archives.gov)

The 19th Amendment. Image Source: The National Archives