Percy’s Funeral

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On March 10, 1918, Emmett’s older brother Percy Brockenbrough Wilson died of tuberculosis.

Percy’s death, as reported in The Chipley Banner, March 1918.

 

Percy’s death, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1918, Vol 70, No. 14, page 1025. Source: Google Books

Percy was only 46 years old, a well-respected and admired community physician.

 

The quote on the headstone says: “We knew no sorrow, knew no grief, till that bright face was missed.” Source: Findagrave.com

Percy’s funeral was held one hundred years ago today, March 12, 1918, in Sneads, Florida. It was likely well attended by most of Percy’s family, although I wonder about Emmett’s attendance. If I could find a copy of the obituary from any of the Jackson County, Florida archives, it would tell us who was at the funeral. But according to the holdings records of the Library of Congress, and the holdings records for institutions that have archived Jackson County, Florida newspapers, a copy for this particular date doesn’t exist. (Percy’s descendants apparently don’t have a copy of the local obituary either — at least, not one known to them at this point. At least we have two obituary sources that provide some information — that’s better than nothing!)

Emmett was in end-stage alcoholism only weeks away from death, and mostly shunned by his siblings. Several articles from The Pensacola Journal mention Emmett’s presence at different local activities, so we know he was ambulatory and getting around, but may not have been in any condition to attend the funeral.

I tend to think family members may have simply asked Emmett to stay away.

And Emmett, who himself shunned family dramatics, who himself probably didn’t want to face his family members anymore, would have complied.

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Circle of Family: Walker Wilson

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Our last sibling essay in Emmett Wilson’s family story focuses on the youngest son, Walker Wilson.

Walker Wilson, about 6 years old, December 1890.

Walker Wilson, about 6 years old, December 1890.

Walker was born in Chipley, Florida in 1884, six months after his family emigrated back to the U.S. from Belize, when Emmett was two years old.

I have a few clips from the Chipley newspapers from the late 1890s about Emmett and Walker out on camping/fishing trips to St. Andrews during the summers.

Emmett and Walker often spent the first two weeks in August together, accompanied by family and friends, on these outings, every year.

From The Chipley Banner, July 1899. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Some outings probably less traumatic than this one. From The Chipley Banner, July 1899. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Given that there was only two years difference between Emmett and Walker, they were probably close while they were children and teenagers, but after Emmett started college at West Florida Seminary, they spent little time together. In 1899, when Emmett was in-between semesters at WFS, he was working as a telegrapher and railroad station manager and Walker was still in grade school while doing occasional odd jobs around Chipley (clerical work, and railroad depot jobs).

By 1902, Walker was a telegraph operator at the railroad station in Chipley, following in the footsteps of several older brothers, and working his way up to the position, just as Emmett and Julian.

The telegraph operator's job was important -- and dangerous at times. Source: The Chipley Banner, July 1902

The telegraph operator’s job was important — and dangerous at times. Source: The Chipley Banner, July 1902

This was unusual, I thought: Walker, 19, is still in grade school as of January 1903. Source: The Chipley Banner, February 1903.

This was unusual, I thought: Walker, 19, is still in grade school as of January 1903. Source: The Chipley Banner, February 1903.

I’ve been in touch with Walker’s grandson, Jim, who was kind enough to share an extensive family genealogy document with me — it’s wonderful — and it was written by Walker’s son, John Evans Wilson, in 1990.

The genealogy includes this interesting comment:

I wonder if, perhaps, Walker resented having to pay for Emmett's higher education, because Emmett was the only Wilson sibling in school while Walker was still living at home and under his father's authority. Source: John Evans Wilson Genealogy, 1990.

I wonder if Walker resented having to pay for Emmett’s higher education. Emmett was the only Wilson sibling in school while Walker was still living at home and under his father’s authority; Walker never went further than eighth grade. Source: John Evans Wilson Genealogy, 1990.

I get the impression that Emmett and Walker’s communication/visitation was sporadic for a few years; although in 1904, when Emmett moved to Marianna to live and work with Cephas (as the junior law partner of Wilson & Wilson), Walker also moved in with Cephas. In case you haven’t been keeping score, Cephas’ household in 1904 included himself, Lula, Ceph Jr., and daughter Kathleen, as well as three of his brothers (Emmett, Julian and Walker). It almost feels like Cephas’ home was the launching pad for his siblings before they struck out on their own.

Walker was visiting his father in Chipley. Source: The Chipley Banner, 1904.

Walker was visiting his father in Chipley. Source: The Chipley Banner, 1904.

In 1905, Emmett wanted to get away from his family and his try his wings, so he moved to Sterling, Illinois. It only lasted six months.

By 1908, Walker would move on to work for the Seaboard Air Line railroad and relocate to Tampa. Walker would spend several years in Tampa, working his way up the ladder.

Walker and his sister Katie Wilson Meade, in front of the Washington Monument, July 4, 1908. Photo was taken by their first cousin, Lizzie Meade.

Walker, on a visit to Washington D.C. with his sister Katie Wilson Meade. Photo was taken by their first cousin, Lizzie Meade, in front of the Washington Monument, July 4, 1908.

I’ll continue with Walker’s story tomorrow.

 

A Lesson in History

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This weekend, I’m working on a small part of the second chapter of Emmett’s story, taking place in December, 1899. Emmett is coming home from college (West Florida Seminary) for Christmas.

I want to describe what the town looked like when he hopped off the L&N train at the Chipley depot (which was pretty much in the same place as the current Amtrak depot today).  What businesses lined the streets of downtown Chipley as he walked home the five blocks from the corner of 7th and Railroad Streets to the family home on 6th Street? Where was his father’s office?

I contacted my friends at the Washington County Historical Society (coincidentally located on the grounds of the old depot, a few hundred feet from the current Amtrak depot). The earliest map of Chipley they have is a Sanborn Fire Insurance map.

Chipley, 1913. Sanborn Fire Insurance map. Souce: UFDC

Chipley, 1913. Sanborn Fire Insurance map. Souce: UFDC

So, how do I figure out what was there on the day Emmett got off the train, when there’s no official city map from that year?

I cobble them together myself.

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Rough sketch of 1898 downtown Chipley

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A map of Chipley 2015 from Google Maps on the upper left, and a printout of the 1913 Sanborn map, for comparison.

The rough maps are neither to scale, nor precise. I gleaned the information about what was where from reading all that microfilm of The Chipley Banner over the past two years. Ideally, I’d cross-check this information with tax records, but for my purposes, I only need a general idea of Dr. F.C. Wilson’s office location, and the distance it took to walk from Dr. Wilson’s office, to the depot, to the Wilson home.

When I see my friends in Chipley week after next, I’ll show them what I’ve done, and have one or two of the historical society staff check it out for me. I’ve been in touch with a few of the local history buffs who I’ve consulted about this little side project, and they would like to create a map like this for the museum. The thing is, all of these folks are volunteers. The museum is open only one day a week (Fridays). Who has time to do this?

My suggestion: This would be a great project for a senior high school class. It could be a year-long or semester-long project, and would involve the students exploring original documents in the local archives (not just using Google), using mapping software to chart the businesses, creating a historical resource that folks like myself would love to consult!

Not only that, I’ve learned that many of the families I read about in the 1899 editions of The Chipley Banner are still in Washington County, and in Chipley itself, so this project would appeal to some folks on a personal level. I think this is a great way to get young people involved in history, to learn how one actually conducts research, and to show them how their research efforts have immediate practical application.

And…they’d get academic credit for it, with maybe a mention in the local media. Win-win!

Love and the Lot(tery)

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On Valentine’s Day, I found an interesting article in the 1894 edition of The Chipley Banner, Emmett’s hometown paper. (He was 12 years old at the time; I don’t think this would have caught his eye.)

I call this one, "All the Single Ladies." Source: The Chipley Banner, 1894.

I call this one, “All the Single Ladies.” Source: The Chipley Banner, 1894.

Mr. J.A. Lot gives ‘notice’ to ‘all and singular’ young ladies of the United States that he is ready to settle down! Whoa!

Did Mr. Suave and Sophisticated get a ‘Lot’ of responses to this ‘romantic’ proposal? Did he expect to win the ‘Lot(tery)’ equivalent of single women storming his farm, beating on the door, pleading with him to marry them?

I’m pretty sure that ‘storm of single women’ didn’t really happen. We’d have read about it in the Banner if it had.

I shared this with friends who belong to a Washington County, Florida genealogy group. After they stopped laughing at it, one of the researchers said she thought knew the descendants of the person who placed the notice, but she couldn’t be certain, because the J.A. Lot she knew spelled his name a bit differently (Lott). But, the gentleman she had in mind married someone in Washington County in 1894, so it was possible that J.A. met the help-meet of his dreams via an advertisement in The Chipley Banner.

I wonder, if he married one of the respondents, if the lady was his first, second, or 15th choice? I wonder how many responses he received anyway: It was not inexpensive to have a photograph made back then, especially to send to a complete stranger.

I suppose if the matrimonial pickings were pretty slim in rural Florida, this might be a good way to meet your mate. J.A. must have felt that he had no other choice but to look outside his community, so I wonder why he chose The Chipley Banner (and not another paper, such as The Pensacola Journal), which had a larger circulation, and there was less of a chance that the reader actually knew J.A. Lot(t), and perhaps would be willing to cast her lot (pun intended) with this fellow.

At least J.A. Lot was forthcoming and honest about what he was looking for: An unsalaried farm hand with benefits.

New Impressions From Old Film

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For the past two weeks, the focus has been on reading back issues of The Chipley Banner from 1893-1904, and getting details about the gaps of information during Emmett’s boyhood. I finished the reels and they are on their way back to the University of West Florida.

There wasn’t much there specifically about Emmett, but there was quite a lot about his family, including his father’s remarriage to a local widow with two daughters, as well as major life changes going on around him (mostly his siblings’ marriages, deaths of children, serious illnesses, new jobs in other cities).

It is fortunate to have Emmett’s hometown paper available for research. Chipley was a town of about 400 in 1893, with two newspapers — the Banner and the Verdict — both of which published once a week. The papers reported, in detail, everyone’s comings and goings. The Chipley Banner was into everyone’s business, which, thankfully, has been a great way for me to “get to know” the locals, even more than 100 years later. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find The Chipley Verdict on microfilm or hard copy to date).

Chipley, Florida, 1906. Image source: www.Cityofchipley.com

Chipley, Florida, 1908. Image source: http://www.Cityofchipley.com

Speaking of getting to know people, The Chipley Banner has been a great source of information on Louis Wiselogel, the father of Emmett’s sister-in-law, Lula Wiselogel Wilson.

Louis was an outsider, a transplant from Illinois who moved to Florida to take advantage of mild weather and good business opportunities. He was a Republican in the midst of Democrats; a successful businessman and farmer in an economically depressed community. But, Louis Wiselogel made it his business to be a loyal, hardworking, dedicated member of the Chipley community, and that is what people noticed — and wrote — about him in the paper.

True, Wiselogel’s politics made him a minority in the community, but he was always portrayed as a decent, hardworking neighbor. He was a ‘can do’ guy, someone you could rely upon, and someone who saw everything as an opportunity. One article in The Chipley Banner praising Wiselogel asked why couldn’t Florida’s own native sons be as successful?

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Kate Langley Jordan Wilson

Then, one can also observe the indirect personality profiles in the articles; for example, that of Kate Langley Jordan Wilson, Emmett’s stepmother. I feel certain that the Wilson children liked her and respected her; she was never an ‘evil stepmother.’ But from what I’ve read about her, it seems that she held herself apart from the Wilson children: She neither set out to replace their deceased mother in any way, nor did she go out of her way to become very close to them.

For instance, every time the paper mentioned Emmett or one of his siblings in Chipley for a visit, Kate was never mentioned as part of that visit. On occasion Emmett’s grandfather A.E. Maxwell would visit Chipley, and he was always referred to as Dr. Wilson’s father-in-law (that is, in the present tense, at the time the article was written), and that he was visiting Dr. Wilson, period, with no mention of the current Mrs. Wilson.

We know that death doesn’t end relationships established by marriage; however, the way the news items appeared seemed (to me) almost dismissive of the second Mrs. Wilson — but the second Mrs. Wilson didn’t seemed too bothered by it.

Just an observation from a 111-year distance.

One final impression that has struck me as I read the film, was that Emmett’s progress in school, on the job, and in college, all seemed to be very hard won for him. His progress from high school, to college, then to law school wasn’t as straight of a line or as uneventful as I had originally thought. At one point, it appears that he had to start over completely, as in: Move back home, save up, and try again.

When Emmett moved back home, interestingly, all the other Wilson siblings were already gone (except for the youngest son), and that must have been tough on Emmett, as he was moonlighting to earn money to get on his own once again. Emmett was smart, and he was capable, but I don’t think I’d call him ‘brilliant.’

Hard-working? Yes. Dedicated and persistent? Definitely. But brilliant? No. Sorry, Emmett.

It was hard to write that, by the way.


Today I made contact with the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, and the next time I’m in Tallahassee, it will definitely be on my list of must-see places.

Source: Florida Historic Capitol Museum

Source: Florida Historic Capitol Museum

About four years ago, they had had an extensive exhibit on campaign memorabilia. I contacted the museum; the museum put me in touch with the collector himself!

Unfortunately, he didn’t have anything in his collection about someone as obscure as Emmett Wilson (or, Cephas Wilson), but I enjoyed talking with someone who likes talking about Florida history from that era.

Somewhere out there is an “Emmett Wilson Club” button. Somewhere out there are Emmett’s scrapbooks. The search continues!


I thought I’d share something odd I found in the microfilm this week.

Taken out of context, it would seem that Chipleyites were preparing to wage war on something? Source: The Chipley Banner, 1904

Taken out of context, it would seem that Chipleyites were preparing to wage war on something. Source: The Chipley Banner, 1904

At first glance, I thought: “You can actually purchase a battle axe? This is one fully stocked general store!”

A little more research revealed that the ‘Battle Axe’ was the name brand of a shoe that was made in Virginia, and was so tough, the manufacturer dared you to chop them open per the advertisement: “They stand dissection and inspection!”

An ad for the Battle Axe shoe. Source: theredrivermuseum.org

An ad for the Battle Axe shoe. Source: theredrivermuseum.org

The shoes were made at the Stephen Putney Shoe Company in Richmond, Virginia. I’d love to see a pair of these shoes; surely if they could stand being hacked open, they would have withstood the passage of 111 years?


Finally. Good news!

Hooray! The Escambia Courthouse Archives has reopened!

Hooray! The Escambia Courthouse Archives has reopened!

The Escambia County Courthouse archive is open again, thank goodness! It was closed last April after a major storm swept through Pensacola; I was worried that the records were damaged, but I have been assured everything is fine.

This means I can plan the next research trip to Florida! Too bad I can’t do it this week; we’re having the coldest weather of the winter here in D.C.  Brr!

Stay warm, wherever you are!

The Poet Laureate of Jackson County

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Last night as I was trolling through the 1895 microfilm of The Chipley Banner, I discovered that Emmett’s brother, the Hon. Cephas L. Wilson, Esq., had not only a legal license, but a poetic license.

Truth.

Chipley vs. Call, a poem by the Hon. Cephas L. Wilson, Esq. Originally composed in 1890.  Wonder why the editor held it back five years? Source: The Chipley Banner, 1895

Chipley vs. Call, a poem by the Hon. Cephas L. Wilson, Esq. Originally composed in 1890. It does sort-of fit the tune to “Turkey in the Straw.” Source: The Chipley Banner, 1895

Here’s more info about the poem from the same issue:

I'm curious why Ceph's poem was not published in 1890, when it was fresh from the Bard's pen. Source:  The Chipley Banner, 1895.

I’m curious why Ceph’s poem was not published in 1890, when it was fresh from the Bard’s pen. Source: The Chipley Banner, 1895.

I wonder why Ceph’s oeuvre was held back five years — perhaps the editor was waiting for Ceph to gain a little more prominence so that his verses would hit their target with more significance?

Perhaps Wilkinson Call was wanting a “Battle of the Political Poets” to held in the weekly newspapers, since Calliope was now whispering in the ears of both men? I haven’t found any poetic responses published by Call just yet.

Good poetry is hard to write. Also, not everyone can relate to poetry as it is often intended. I’m curious why Cephas resorted to poetry to criticize a political foe. I applaud Ceph’s effort, but he could have made a better impression with a more serious op/ed piece. Cephas makes several damaging claims against Call in the poem. Personally, I would take those claims more seriously if they were presented in a more formal style.

You know, Cephas long had images of grandeur and prominence. Cephas may not have considered himself a poet, as his typical written product included writs, torts, and subpoenas. It would be a stretch to classify a legal opinion as poetic free verse.

Come ye single ladies and listen to my lays, I'm Cephas the Bard, the loosener of stays.

Come ye single ladies and listen to my lays, I’m Cephas the Bard, the loosener of stays.

Still, Ceph had an ego the size of the Florida governor’s mansion. I wonder if, as he penned this verse, he considered himself the next Bard of Marianna.

Perhaps, he thought, as he worked diligently on the rhyme and meter, there’s a market out there for this! Perhaps, he thought, this was the beginning of his career as a true Renaissance man! He could imagine himself in tights (the ladies would like that), his poetry set to music, as he wandered about the Marianna town square on Saturday nights, offering culture to the masses, as only Cephas could do.

Perhaps Cephas asked Lula if she thought his poem was ballad-worthy. Might his dear Lula, his musically talented wife, do him the honor of setting his words to music?

And Lula probably said, “Yeah, I can see this being sung to the tune of ‘Turkey in the Straw.’ You being the turkey, of course.”


I don’t know about you, but I run hot and cold with poetry: I either like it or I don’t. I have two favorite poets: Rainer Maria Rilke and Miller Williams.

Clearly, Ceph is no Rilke or Williams. But as I critique Ceph’s poetic effort, I am reminded of a quote from Williams:

“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.”

There’s a good story behind why Ceph went after Call via a poem. I’d love to discover it. If and when I do, you can be sure I’ll share it here.

Falling into place

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Good news: The story architecture is roughed in. My colleagues have gotten used to the new wallpaper, and more than a few have commented favorably.

 

wallwork3The story architecture adventure has turned out to be a good teaching tool. Students who visit my office see that I practice what I teach.

My adult learners all want instant gratification, and that extends to their writing. They want to get the process down, boom, and move on with their lives. I understand that. A lot of the work in writing is also about discovery when you develop this structure, and you can’t hurry that part of the creative process — because it is a process. For example, in doing the story architecture wallpaper, a very subtle yet important relationship between two characters in Emmett’s story suddenly became crystal clear, and more important than I’d previously realized. I never would have seen this relationship otherwise.

Also, the more you can organize and structure your data, the less onerous the writing.

One adult learner mentioned that writing, to him, seems formulaic. While some writing does seem to follow a pattern, the underlying goal in communication (especially written communication) is to inform. A good message/essay/story follows an orderly, logical sequence. Does that make it formulaic, though?

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Last week I mentioned reading The Chipley Banner microfilm for 1893-1899. That’s what I’ve been doing in between classes and story architecture. Emmett was a boy during most of this time span; no mention of him yet, but I’m only up to 1895.

But, yesterday, I found this:

A piece of the puzzle falls into place. Source: The Chipley Banner, 1895.

A piece of the puzzle falls into place. Source: The Chipley Banner, 1895.

This fills a research hole I had back in October when I was trying to track down where Emmett’s older brother Percy went to medical school. His record said he went to the Medical College of Alabama (which now is a part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham). But at the time Percy attended, the school was in Mobile. I had figured the campus was up around Tuscaloosa, or, near the Wilson family home in Greene County, Alabama (where Percy and Emmett’s father’s family resided).

More later! Stay tuned!