Chapter 12: Clues in the genealogy


I dug into the Milligan family genealogy right away. With note-taking, it took two days. It’s basically written as a conversation from the author, John Evans Wilson, to his children and descendants.

The introduction to the genealogy, by John Evans Wilson.


This is further down in the introduction; John Evans Wilson gives the reader perspective on family anecdotes and sources of information.


Emmett’s family story is on the second to last page. Here’s what John Evans Wilson said about him:



There’s the notation about Emmett’s drinking, and a clue about what might have brought on the uremia. But what’s interesting is the part about the ‘rich northern lumber man.’

I wondered  if that could have something to do with Jim mentioning Emmett might have been gay? I wasn’t interested in pursuing that angle of the research, because honestly, his sexuality didn’t matter to me. Besides, I doubt I’d be able to prove that. Emmett might not have been gay; however, something about that relationship and Emmett’s drinking seemed to be connected — another mystery to study in this ever-growing biography.

There was something else about the genealogy that struck me — namely the earlier Wilson ancestor’s family names  — namely Graves — which I’d seen before, but was trying to place where. It bothered me enough that I made a note on a yellow Post-it, and stuck it on the frame of my computer monitor to check later.

I couldn’t go any further on the Emmett health diagnosis without a medical record of some sort. Emmett died at Pensacola Hospital on May 29, 1918.

The original Pensacola Hospital.

The original hospital, located at 1010 N 12th Avenue in Pensacola had long ago closed (although it is now a historic building with other businesses in it) and the medical facility moved to Sacred Heart Hospital; I crossed my fingers hoping historic records had not been lost over the decades.

Thanks to a recommendation from the excellent Jacki Wilson (no relation to Emmett’s family), archivist of the Pensacola Historical Society, I reached out to the public information offices at Sacred Heart.

After several days, a very nice gentleman named Mike Burke got back to me by phone.

“The good news is that we do have a record on Emmett Wilson’s admission and stay in Pensacola Hospital in our archives.”

Omg, omg, omg — I don’t know if Mike could tell I was freaking out in a good way 800 miles away through a telephone connection —

“I had to check with our general counsel on whether or not we can release this information to you, even thought it is almost 100 years old. Regardless, we’ll need an OK from a family member to see the record.”

I told him the closest relative I’ve contacted was a great-nephew, since Emmett died unmarried, and had not descendants that I knew of — plus everyone closer related was deceased by now — he agreed that an OK from Jim Milligan plus contact info would suffice.

As soon as I was off the phone with Mike, I got in touch with Jim, who said it was fine that I could see the record. I emailed Jim’s information with the verbal approval back to Mike, crossed my fingers that the Sacred Heart Hospital general counsel would approve my seeing Emmett’s hospital record, and waited.

Next: Emmett’s Hospital Record

Get Me to the Nunnery!


Tomorrow, I have a field trip planned to the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives, and I cannot wait!

Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive, Emmittsburg, Maryland. Source: DOCPA

Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive, Emmittsburg, Maryland. Source: DOCPA

Why is this such a big deal? Well, other than the fact I love Sisters — I grew up in fear and awe of them, in a good way — this is the order that built the first Catholic hospital in Florida, Pensacola Hospital (now Sacred Heart Hospital), in 1915.

Pensacola Hospital, 1915. Source: Pensapedia

Pensacola Hospital, 1915. Source: Pensapedia

Before this hospital was built, there were only small sanitaria and other clinics, and if you became seriously ill, and needed surgery, you had to go out of state for treatment (the closest large hospitals in Mobile or New Orleans). That wasn’t always an option for the everyday guy or gal.

Even Emmett’s own father, Dr. F. C. Wilson, escorted his son Frank to Tuoro Hospital in New Orleans in the early 1900s when he needed a liver operation — Dr. Wilson couldn’t do it, nor would other local physicians, for some reason. The information I have on this did not specify Frank’s liver ailment; but, I do know that it was a risky procedure, in any hospital at that time, and traveling there was even more dangerous in his condition.

Long story short: The nuns brought a high-quality hospital and medical care to Pensacola at a time when it was desperately needed.

The Daughters of Charity cared for EVERYONE, regardless of race, creed, or ability to pay. Their motto was and is, “Service to all.”

By the way, Pensacola Hospital is important in the book’s research: It is where Emmett died on May 29, 1918.

What I hope to see in the archive are photos of the wards, the Sisters nursing patients, the layout of the rooms, the kind of furniture and equipment used, and the like.

Also, I’m interested in the Sisters’ nursing practices with regard to alcoholics and alcoholism itself. These patients were generally treated in a psychiatric ward, unless they were wealthy and/or prominent, and could afford a private room.

I’ll be back with an update in a day or so.


Before I go, did you know that there is an Archivist’s Prayer? The prayer can be found on the Daughters of Charity’s page, written by one of their own, Sister Ann Courtney, at the link below.

An Archivists Prayer
Lord, let us remember that
The trailblazers of yesterday
Are our traditions today
Boxed and labeled and
They leap from our shelves
Our forebears who fashioned
new stories to tell.
Their spirit escapes in new
patterns, new plans
Our web site of findings that
links and expands
To whatever the future is
wanting to give.
Lord, let your Spirit spur us
To tell the pulse of our work.
In our quest for the best.
Written for the Archivists of Congregations of Women Religious by
Sister Ann Courtney, Sisters of Charity of New York
August, 1997