Chapter 48: She Wore a White Ribbon


January 12, 2020
Chevy Chase, Maryland

I’ve been thinking deeply about this new article on Emmett’s mother that I located during one of my regular database re-check activities two days ago, and wishing I’d been able to find it at the start of Emmett Wilson’s research project.

But then, the ancient hard-copy newspaper (The Pensacola News from 1891) was unaccessible to everyday researchers because of its frailty, and, it takes time to scan precious pages into a database without destroying the artifact.

Better late than never, though.

Without further ado, here’s what I found:

Source: The Pensacola News, from June 26, 1891, via

If you’ve been following the Emmett Wilson story so far, then you’ll remember a few earlier posts I wrote about the death of Emmett’s mother, and its impact on Emmett and his family. Also, this news item supports/confirms much of the first-person narrative of Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson’s death as told by Emmett’s older sister, Katie Wilson Meade.

With the info from those earlier posts in mind, I’d like to focus on several new things that enlighten our understanding of Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson.

In 2016, I wrote about Katie Wilson Meade’s reflections on the death of her mother, that she had stopped by the drug store for a soft drink. The Pensacola News article from 1891 confirms this, stating the ‘drink threw her into convulsions….’ 

The soda isn’t identified, but it most likely was a fountain version of Coca-Cola or something similar, and it wouldn’t have been bottled, but mixed by a soda jerk behind a counter. [Coca-Cola wasn’t bottled until 1894, at the Biedenharn Candy Company in Vicksburg, Mississippi.] Was there something wrong with Elizabeth’s drink? We don’t know, because there isn’t any information that the drink was the problem. Or, that anyone examined the components of the soda.

…which caused a hemorrhage of the brain.’ A brain hemorrhage is also known as a stroke. Could the drink have caused the stroke? Maybe; but another explanation could be that Elizabeth had undiagnosed high blood pressure. Katie makes no mention of problems with her mother’s health leading up to this event, but Elizabeth herself may have brushed off the symptoms (headache, stiff neck, numbness, and so forth), or perhaps had no symptoms. We know it came on suddenly, without warning, as the paper reported that Elizabeth appeared to be ‘in perfect health’ leading up to the stroke.

The Horns’ residence was Katherine and Richard Carey Horne‘s home, which was located over their business, adjacent to the drug store. [Katherine and Richard’s daughter, Mary Baltzell Horne, was a lifelong friend of Emmett Wilson; Mary would later wed Emmett’s best friend, Paul Carter in 1912.]

This section indicates that all Wilson children, except Max, were present at their mother’s death. Imagine Emmett and his twin brother Julian, bewildered eight-year-olds, holding their mother’s warm but lifeless hand, perhaps thinking ‘she might wake up,’ and yet everyone is saying goodbye. No one was prepared for this; no one knew how to handle it. Perhaps the young fellows were told to ‘be men’ now since their father would need them. Oy.

One final item of note from the article is this:

Elizabeth was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. That means she went to meetings; she read the literature about the problems of booze on individuals and families; she wore a white ribbon in support of abstinence from alcohol.


I found out that members of the WCTU also had a White Ribbon Recruit ceremony, where members would bring their babies to dedicate them to the cause of temperance. At the ceremony, the parent-sponsors would pledge to help their children lead a life free of alcohol; a white ribbon was also tied around the baby’s wrist at the ceremony. I wonder if Elizabeth brought any of her children to such a ceremony, and if she took that pledge to help her children live sober lives.


Elizabeth Wilson may not have drank alcohol, but the men in her family did. That’s a fact; also, there is documentation that alcohol was a problem (for at least) the Wilson side of the family. Was booze a problem for the Maxwells? I’m not sure; but a letter from A.E. Maxwell’s son, Judge Evelyn C. Maxwell to a historian relates the story about how A.E. Maxwell loved toddies and during the Civil War regularly carried his own private trunk of sugar (a rare commodity) wherever he went to ensure he had his favorite drink whenever possible.

Could that be indicative of a drinking problem for Elizabeth’s father? Maybe.

Did Elizabeth understand that some of the men in her life were using alcohol as a means to escape discomfort, unease in their lives? Did she understand that drinking to avoid the demons in people lives was futile, because everyone has a demon of some sort on their backs, and drinking only made it worse?

Did Elizabeth see and understand Emmett’s demon before anyone else ever did, and she was, in fact, modeling how to live with that demon, not run from it, but to own it, because acknowledging it was the first step to being free of it?

And perhaps, this is the main reason why Emmett never really got over the loss of his mother during his brief life?

I wish we knew for sure.


I Love You, George A. Smathers Libraries


Friends, today I made a random check of historic newspaper databases, and I found a set that has been recently added to the University of Florida George A. Smathers Library Archive.

This one:

The Daily News. Pensacola's -other- daily newspaper not published by Frank Mayes. Source: University of Florida Smathers Library

The Daily News. Pensacola’s -other- daily newspaper not published by Frank Mayes. Source: University of Florida Smathers Library

A totally new-to-me source that I haven’t seen either in microfilm or in hard copy to date. I knew this publication existed, but I figured known copies were non-existent! You have no idea how thrilling this is to find it!

There’s a few things that are important about this publication:

  • Frank Mayes was not the editor/publisher. Mayes ran The Pensacola Journal, the morning paper, which was considered the stronger of the two newspapers. Whatever Mayes thought was wonderful, the editor of The Daily News took a more objective, critical view of the issue.
  • The Daily News would eventually become the Pensacola Daily News, which would be run by Emmett’s college roommate (from Stetson University) and close friend, William Bloxham Crawford.
  • The limited editions of this paper fill in an information hole. The Smathers Archive only has the years 1899 through 1903 of this paper — but that’s fine. Emmett went to visit his grandfather and family members during this period (so, perhaps he is mentioned in the paper). More importantly, Emmett lived in Pensacola for six months from September 1901 to February 1902, when he was enrolled in shorthand courses at Meax’s Business College.
Source: The Chipley Banner, February 15, 1902

Source: The Chipley Banner, February 15, 1902

Emmett’s prominent Pensacola family —  he was the grandson of Augustus Emmett Maxwell, and the nephew of Judge Evelyn C. Maxwell — meant it was likely his activities would be mentioned somewhere in the paper.

Let’s hope for interesting and/or boring clips! Anything will be most welcome!



A Study of Notoriety

An example of the Tersely Told column, April 26, 1914. Source: The Pensacola Journal, in Chronicling

An example of the Tersely Told column, April 26, 1914. Source: The Pensacola Journal, in Chronicling

In the early 1900s, if you got your name in the newspaper, it was a big deal. It indicated prominence in your community. If you think about it, the community news blurb columns were a sort-of equivalent to our Facebook.

In Pensacola, these columns were mostly found in the Society section of the paper, with little headings over each news blurb; if you were a businessman or the items were often filed under a column titled, “Tersely Told.’ Mostly, these were about prominent individuals’ comings and goings, and what they were doing that day, much like what you see on Facebook, when friends post where they are at a certain moment, who they are with, what they are doing, and the like.

How it worked at The Pensacola Journal (morning paper) and The Pensacola News (evening paper) was that you (or your secretary) would call the item in to the editor’s desk. These columns often were filler, so there never was a guarantee that whatever you called in to include would get selected. But, if you were considered a hot property among the locals, you could be sure that your item would run in the paper.

F.C. Brent. Source:

F.C. Brent. Source:

Who were the key people of Pensacola in the early 1900s? If you were a member of the families Blount, Knowles, Brent, Avery, Maxwell, you would be certain of automatic coverage, at least in the society pages. No need to have to call up the society page editor to sell yourself for the treasured copy space.

But if you aspired to prominence, as did Emmett when he first moved to Pensacola in 1906, and were unknown, it was all about contacting the editors on your own; selling yourself, making yourself into prominence, using whatever connections you could to get your name in print.

Justice Evelyn Croom Maxwell. VIP in bar and bench circles. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Justice Evelyn Croom Maxwell. VIP in bar and bench circles. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

In 1906, Emmett had already had two big start-overs in his life to overcome; the pressure was on him now to make good, not screw up royally. People who could make a difference for Emmett, such as Frank Mayes (the editor, publisher, and Democratic party kingmaker) were watching.

Oh, he didn’t have to try as hard as, say someone who was completely new to Pensacola; after all, Emmett was the grandson and nephew of two of the Maxwell family members. But he was still an unknown. Emmett would have to contact the papers, tell the editors what he was doing, and hope that information about his doings would be included in the news.

I wonder if Emmett felt uncomfortable doing this; that he felt this was akin to prostituting himself in some way, to selling his soul a little bit at a time?

In reviewing the statistics on Emmett’s press coverage in the Pensacola papers, there were less than 20 during the years 1906-07.

In 1908, Emmett’s name appeared more often in the society section of the paper; he was now attending important events, and his comings and goings were now being reported regularly. There were 42 society-news mentions in the papers; still, his name was spelled correctly only nine times during that period.

As Emmett’s popularity (and prominence) increased, his name was mentioned several times a week — and now, more often than not spelled correctly, especially leading up to and during his campaign years (1911- 1912). Rest assured, editor Frank Mayes had a lot to do with this — Mayes wanted a close association with President Woodrow Wilson, and he knew he could do this if he got Emmett into Wilson’s administration.

Frank L. Mayes of The Pensacola Journal. Champion grudge holder.

Frank L. Mayes of The Pensacola Journal. Champion grudge holder.

Emmett was elected by a landslide — an amazing thing in 1912, given the fact he had little political experience (every job he held that was public service was given to him via connections — he’d never run for office before), and his age. It was all Frank Mayes’ doing, everyone knew. Despite the fact that Emmett was a good public speaker, and a fairly good lawyer, he was unknown and new to the profession. If Emmett had been incompetent, Mayes wouldn’t have been able to cover that up so well.

Emmett was finally prominent. His family was proud of him; his friends knew how hard Emmett worked to get there — and, they knew how stressful it was on him, as he was drinking more than ever to cope. I wonder if this was related to the fact that he had to compromise his beliefs and political views to get what he wanted — that he was still selling himself, so to speak, to Mayes as well as the Democratic party officials?

In September 1914, when Emmett was in his second term as a U.S. Congressman, Emmett stood up for himself against Mayes — it was only once — and that would prove to be Emmett’s undoing. He failed to nominate a close associate and political friend of Frank Mayes to the coveted postmaster position in Pensacola. Mayes felt slighted by Emmett, and Mayes was the kind of guy who took slights personally.

The next day, a front-page article about Emmett and his disloyalty to his friends appeared, written by the postmaster runner-up Chipley Jones.

October 14, 1914. The Pensacola Journal. Source: Chronicling

October 14, 1914. The Pensacola Journal. Much of the letter Jones wrote for The Pensacola Journal appears to have been a collaboration with Mayes. It would not do for Mayes to blast Emmett in an editorial, since Mayes was the one who had to sell Emmett as a candidate to the Democratic state party in the first place. Source: Chronicling

Emmett had two more years left in his term, but Frank Mayes was done with him. In fact, Emmett’s name rarely appears in the paper anymore, except for articles that are negative about his service. He’s simply referred to as ‘the Congressman from the Third District.’ No name.

Mayes must have known the appearance of indifference would bother Emmett more than anything else. And it did. For the two years remaining of Emmett’s term in office, there’s less than 25 mentions of his name in The Pensacola Journal — and Emmett’s name isn’t always spelled correctly, just as when Emmett was fighting his way out of obscurity.

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:

Passport photo of Fred Fee. Source:

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.