Celebrity Sightings, 1908


Source: The Pensacola Journal, March 3, 1908. From ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The date?   March 3, 1908, the day after Mardi Gras.
The place?  The private dining room in the The Osceola Club, Pensacola, Florida
The occasion/connection? Good question. This is another oddball jigsaw puzzle in the life of Emmett Wilson that I like to work out.

Not to sound disparaging of anyone sitting around that dinner table at The Osecola Club, but if I had to rank the attendees in terms of celebrity, it would be as follows:

  • Foster
  • Crawford
  • Harris
  • Wilson

The connection between Emmett and William Bloxham (“Billy”) Crawford is immediately obvious. Emmett and Billy were college friends, roommates and classmates at West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University) and at Stetson University’s law school.

You may recall from an earlier post that Billy Crawford was also the business manager at the Stetson University student newspaper, The Stetson Weekly Collegiate. (Undoubtedly, Billy was the one who frequently supplied news bits about his roommate, Emmett, to the student paper during their tenure at Stetson.)

“He failed utterly.” This is something Crawford would have published about Emmett for fun! Source: The Stetson Weekly Collegiate, Dec. 5, 1903.

Because Crawford was in the publishing business, it would make sense that he would meet, wine, and dine other professional and prominent writers who visited Pensacola. Crawford was prominent, not only in local social and professional circles, but also in political circles, as the son of H. Clay Crawford, Florida’s Secretary of State from 1902 to 1929. Young Billy had three things Emmett coveted all his life: Connections, access, and entree. True, Emmett hung out with Billy because it improved his ‘face value’ in Pensacola society, but it was also true that Emmett and Billy were honest-to-God friends.

Maximilian Foster. Passport photo from 1918, via Ancestry.com

Maximillian Foster was a big deal, a ‘get’ as one would say in the journalism world. He was a well-known playwright and author, whose articles appeared regularly in many popular national magazines, including the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, and Everybody’s magazines. (You can read past copies of these magazines in Google Books, by the way.) One of his most well-known books, “Rich Man, Poor Man”, not to be confused with a different book of the same name, published in 1969 by Irwin Shaw, was eventually made into a (silent) movie. (You can read the book via Google Books at the link above. It’s a quick read; an early 20th Century version of chick lit. But I digress.)

Evelyn Harris. Source: Find-a-grave.com

Evelyn Harris was a son of the author Joel Chandler Harris, of Uncle Remus fame. On March 3, 1908, Evelyn was a marketing and advertising executive with the Southern Bell Telephone company in Atlanta.

Evelyn Harris did not have a distinguished literary career as did his father, although he wrote a booklet titled, “A Little Story about my mother, Esther LaRose Harris” in 1949. (It is in the archive at Georgia State University and Agnes Scott College.) The story behind that 65-page booklet is that Harris wrote it for his grand nieces and nephews — he and his wife Annie Louise Hawkins Harris never had children.

As facilitator of this fancy men’s dinner, I could see Billy Crawford putting Foster and Joel Chandler Harris’ son together; the senior Harris had recently launched a popular magazine, Uncle Remus’ Home Magazine, and perhaps Evelyn Harris shared interesting anecdotes about his father’s career. Alas, it would have been unlikely that Joel Chandler Harris himself would have attended this dinner: He was in poor health due to acute nephritis and complications from cirrhosis — alcoholism. He died exactly four months later, on July 3, 1908.

The date on the article about the dinner is important. The day before, March 2, 1908, Emmett was a gentleman-in-waiting in Pensacola’s Mardi Gras court. This was a huge society coup for the women mostly, but in truth, anyone who was invited to serve in the royal court of, basically, the most important social event of the year had made it, socially and politically. By now, Emmett’s political and social star was on the rise.

But the dinner article doesn’t state when the event took place. Likely it wasn’t on March 2; Emmett would have been too busy in the day-and-night-long social activities to attend a fancy dinner with a famous playwright and author.

Based on other news items about Foster and Harris in The Pensacola Journal, we can guestimate when the men were actually in town, and the date that the fancy dinner probably took place. I’d say it was likely held on March 1:

Foster is in Pensacola as of January 19. The Rev. Whaley was pastor of Christ Episcopal Church, which was Emmett’s church. Foster was on a lengthy visit in Pensacola.

Evelyn Harris is in Pensacola as of March 1 — because he didn’t work for himself, as Foster did per se, likely he wasn’t in Pensacola on a lengthy visit. Perhaps the dinner took place on March 1 or March 2. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov.



Grits the Dog


The Internet says today is National Puppy Day, and with that, I give you a little story about a dog in Emmett’s life, named Grits.

‘Grits’ the dog. Source: The Stetson Collegiate, January 1903

While Emmett attended Stetson University from 1902 to 1904, it turns out that he had group ownership of a yellow Labrador Retriever/pit bull terrier mix. The dog was similar to the one in the photo, below.

Source: Dogbreedinfo.com

Grits was the mascot and house pet of the residents of East Hall.

More on East Hall and their mascot, “Grits.” Source: The Stetson Collegiate, April 1903.

East Hall housed between 12-15 men enrolled in Stetson’s law school. Apparently, it wasn’t uncommon for the dorm residents to adopt a dog or cat. It doesn’t look like “Grits” belonged specifically to Emmett, or to any one of the residents, but would likely have been left behind when the students left campus for summer vacation.

Emmett’s dorm, East Hall, is in the upper right hand corner. Hamilton is right below it. Source: Stetson University Archives

Emmett only spent that one semester (Spring 1902) as a resident of East Hall; he spent the remainder of his time living in an off-campus boarding house on Rich Avenue, and commuting (either on his bicycle or walking the three or four blocks) to his daily classes. I doubt that Emmett’s landlady would have allowed Emmett a dog while at the boarding house on Rich Avenue.

It isn’t clear if Emmett had pets growing up, but it seems likely he had dogs, as he would go hunting and fishing with his brothers. While he was living with Cephas in Marianna, there was definitely a family dog in residence.

There’s something about realizing Emmett liked dogs and had pets that appeals to me. So much of the research into his story has revealed a lot of sadness and disconnection from important personal relationships in his short life. Thinking about Emmett spending time with a beloved dog, enjoying time spent with a companion pet, is comforting.

The Earls of East Hall, Part IV


The final installment/study of Emmett and his junior-year college roommates at Stetson features John N. Worley, of St. Augustine, and Fred Fee, of Fort Pierce, Florida.

According to the East Hall essay, Worley was the master of tall tales.

Worley and Fee are mentioned in the red box. Source: Stetson University Archives.

Worley and Fee are mentioned in the red box. Source: Stetson University Archives.

He was enrolled in the Liberal Arts program; and, according to the 18th Catalog of Stetson University, had no specific classification, but was taking electives at the University.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found much about Worley beyond a few articles in the Stetson University student newspaper. He mostly led a quiet life as a student on campus; he was Emmett’s dorm mate again in 1904 during their senior year.

I think life was hard for Worley and his family: Five family members (including an infant) died in 1918, likely victims of the influenza pandemic. There is very little additional information about him, other than the fact that his vocation was, first, as an engineer in the early 1920s, then, from the mid-20s onward, as a plumber in St. Augustine.

I don’t believe Emmett would have seen him on any regular basis; it appears that Emmett didn’t travel to St. Augustine during his lifetime.

Passport photo of Fred Fee. Source: Ancestry.com

Passport photo of Fred Fee. Source: Ancestry.com

Fred Fee was born in Kansas in 1880, and attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Stetson with both an A.B. in 1904, and an LL.B. in 1905. While he was at Stetson, he was a member of the Phi Kappa Delta fraternity, and he wrote articles for college publications.

Fee set up his law practice in Fort Pierce. In 1906, he was elected Judge of St. Lucie County; later, he served as mayor of Ft. Pierce. He has an interesting family, with deep roots in St. Lucie County: I found an obituary for his oldest daughter, F. Mary Fee, which goes into detail about her family’s life. You can read it for yourself at this link.

A youthful CHB Floyd. Unfortunately, he died at the end of the influenza pandemic, in Florida, about 1920.

A youthful CHB Floyd. Unfortunately, he died at the end of the influenza pandemic, in Florida, about 1920.

A side note: Fee was the law partner of Apalachicola’s poet laureate and entertaining journalist-lawyer, Charles Henry Bourke Floyd. Floyd died in 1920, at the end of the influenza epidemic.

“Harry” Floyd, if you recall, wrote regular syndicated humorous and critical essays about Florida politicians and lawyers for several state newspapers. In one of his essays, Floyd specifically dogged both Gov. Napoleon Broward and Emmett about the fact that they were still unmarried (despite being besieged by women) and leading important, prominent lives. In 1912, people liked their governors and political leaders to be married, to appear ‘settled down,’ to conform to general society standards. Broward and Emmett were bucking tradition.

Floyd made much of this in one particular column that ran in 1912, in The Pensacola News, as he put the question, plainly, to both Broward and Emmett about their still-unmarried state:

“What’s wrong with you?”

I admit I didn’t dig really deep into each of the Earl’s lives; I would have liked to do it, and maybe I will, after I finish Emmett’s story.  Emmett spent a lot of time with these guys during what I consider some of the best years of his short life.

My idea was to get a general idea of Emmett’s friends, what they were like, what they did, where they were from, activities, sports, habits, and the like. People with similar habits and likes/dislikes tend to hang out together; and, until I get my hands on Emmett’s scrapbooks, I have to extrapolate what he must have been like via the college bios of his roommates.

It’s not a perfect approach to this research project, but it does give me an idea how to frame the chapter about Emmett’s time at Stetson.