In Search of Himself

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Continuing our story about Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. from here:

We next find Cephas Jr. and his father, Cephas Love Wilson Sr., visiting Emmett in Pensacola:

The roster of the San Carlos for May 11, 1911. From The Pensacola Journal, in ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Another clue of what’s going on, as reported on page 3 of the May 11, 1911 issue of The Pensacola Journal, from ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Cephas Jr., age 17, should still be enrolled at Marianna High School, but he appears to be clerking in his father’s law firm. It’s a logical leap — at this point, Cephas Sr. still has dreams of living in the Governor’s mansion, and of building a Wilson-family political dynasty. Cephas Sr. and the Florida Democratic party are in the process of moving potential candidates for U.S. Congress around on their chess board. Emmett is being groomed for a Congressional run; and so, why wouldn’t Cephas Sr. decide to groom his namesake for further Wilson family prominence?

But what were Cephas Jr.’s dreams?

Without any of his actual letters or anecdotes from family members, it is hard to tell, but if we observe his actions as they were written about in contemporary media, we see that he loved music, he loved photography, and he was a gifted artist (much like his mother, Lula). We get the picture (no pun intended).

Here’s why I believe Cephas Jr. was clerking for his father (keep in mind by this point, 1912, Cephas Jr. is 18 years old):

Catalog of the University of Florida, 1912-1913. From Archive.org

Cephas Jr. is a junior in the College of Law at the University of Florida in Gainesville — an upperclassman. So, when did he finish high school?

I don’t doubt Cephas Jr. was intelligent. But it is dubious that he’d go right from high school into advanced academic standing that quickly. There were definitely several strings pulled for Cephas Jr., by his father. Cephas Sr. only wanted the very best for his son, and he knew what it took to get there in 1912 — a law degree. It’s natural he’d want his son and namesake to have similar aspirations, and at least similar professional success.

But law school? I sense that was Cephas Sr’s dream, not his son’s, because otherwise, why wouldn’t Cephas Sr. encourage a vocation in the fine arts?

Cephas Jr.’s definitely there, ready or not. Here’s another source listing Cephas Jr. in the junior law class of The Seminole for 1913. Source: University of Florida archive

Cephas Jr. threw himself into campus social activities, also likely at the encouragement of his father. Source: 1913 Seminole; University of Florida archive.

Source: 1913 Seminole, University of Florida archive

Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. Source: 1913 Seminole, University of Florida archive.

Compare this photo of Cephas Jr. to his father, below. Striking resemblance, isn’t it?

Cephas Love Wilson Sr., about 1910. Striking resemblance between father and son, down to the bow tie.

As I go through the clips, I get the feeling that Cephas Jr. wasn’t happy at The University of Florida. I don’t believe it had anything to do with his intelligence, or ability to do the work: He just didn’t want to be a lawyer. Cephas Jr. was being pushed to do something he wasn’t ready or willing to do — similar to what happened with Uncle Emmett.

Fast forward to April 1913:

Cephas Jr. is home. Is this when he told his father he wasn’t cut out for law school? April 13, 1913 issue of The Pensacola Journal. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Cephas Jr. moved back home at the end of the Spring, 1913 semester, and apparently got a job with the local newspaper as a photographer. He never finished his degree at the University of Florida, and he spent the next few years in search of a way to market his talents:

Cartoonists Magazine, Volume 2, 1916. Source: Archive.org

And an article in the Marianna Times-Courier for 1917 mentioned that he had a job playing the piano in the local movie theatre. Cephas Jr. is clearly not sitting around twiddling his thumbs; but, he was working in a variety of different jobs to earn a living. It is unlikely he went back to work for his father.

Then — the U.S. entered World War I, and things changed for Cephas Jr.

I’ll continue with his story in a few days.

Emmett in Pensacola, 1902

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A little over a month ago, I reported on finding electronic copies of The Pensacola News for 1902. The electronic newspaper is located on a database at the George A. Smathers Library of the University of Florida. You can see the copies for yourself at the link here.

There are only a few years of this publication available — and luckily, it exists electronically. My colleagues at the University of West Florida have several bound copies of The Pensacola Evening News (the later iteration of this same paper) from 1913 to 1918, but unfortunately, could not let me (or anyone else) look at it, because the bound copies are literally disintegrating. When I was in Pensacola last October, I asked (my second request), even brought my own cotton gloves with me. The archivists — who know me fairly well by now — really wanted to let me look through the books, but they couldn’t.

One thing to note about the electronic copy is that it is only as good as the hard copy that was scanned in. Here’s an example:

Notice the faded text on the left side of the page. Unfortunately, this is the situation for the left side of the pages throughout the bound book of newspapers. Source: The Pensacola Daily News, Feb 14, 1902, page 1. University of Florida

Notice the faded text on the left side of the page. Unfortunately, this is the situation for the left side of the pages throughout the bound book of newspapers. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, Feb 14, 1902, page 1. University of Florida

I spent several weeks carefully going through every single paper available electronically during the brief period when Emmett lived in Pensacola (September 1901 to February 1902), before he enrolled at Stetson University.

What I know about this period is that Emmett was attending Meux’s Business College, taking shorthand and secretarial courses.

Advertisement from August 30, 1901 edition of The (Pensacola) Daily News. Emmett had been clerking for Judge D.J. Jones, during this time -- but he could only do so much without knowledge of shorthand. It is likely Jones recommended Emmett obtain shorthand training. Emmett was visiting family during the summer of 1901, and this advertisement got his attention. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, August 30, 1901.

Advertisement from August 30, 1901 edition of The (Pensacola) Daily News. Emmett had been clerking for Judge D.J. Jones, during this time — but he could only do so much without knowledge of shorthand. It is likely Jones recommended Emmett obtain shorthand training. Emmett was visiting family during the summer of 1901, and this advertisement got his attention. Shorthand was cataloged under the ‘Sciences’, as in business science. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, August 30, 1901.

Emmett most likely lived with his uncle, Judge Evelyn Croom Maxwell during his six months in Pensacola. Emmett’s grandfather, Judge A.E. Maxwell, was also in Pensacola, but not in the best of health in 1901 — and at that point, A.E. Maxwell had moved in with his son.

Here's the census of 1900 showing that Emmett's grandfather (who went by 'Emmett'; hence the "E.A." in the list) was living with his son and daughter-in-law on Belmont Street in Pensacola. Source: U.S. Census, 1900

Here’s the census of 1900 showing that Emmett’s grandfather (who went by ‘Emmett’; hence the “E.A.” in the list) was living with his son and daughter-in-law on Belmont Street in Pensacola. Source: U.S. Census, 1900

Alas, there’s a big, empty lot now where the Maxwell house once stood.

Information Sleuthing; Research Envy

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I heard back from the archivist at the University of West Florida, Dr. DeBolt, about the half-editorial written by CHB Floyd in the Pensacola Evening News for 1912. Dr. DeBolt checked the hard-copy holdings and the reserve film.

Unfortunately, the bound copy and the reserve film showed that the editorial is only one half of the page, just as in my version of the microfilm. But he referred me to his colleague, Dr. James Cusick, at the University of Florida’s George Smathers Library and Archive in Gainesville. They also have copies of the Pensacola Evening News in their holdings, but he was not sure how complete they were.

Dr. Cusick got back to me this morning and said, unfortunately, they don’t have anything in bound copy from 1912. The more complete holdings are at the University of West Florida, so if they aren’t at UWF…well, strike two.

I’ve put queries out to the other libraries that may have Pensacola newspapers from this time period in their holdings, including the Library of Congress, but they may not have updated their holdings list, or, they simply may not have the Pensacola Evening News, period.

Next, I’ll contact the CHB Floyd descendants again. Perhaps they found a collection of their ancestor’s published writing, or notes that would include something from 1912 since my last contact.

Cross your fingers. Something may turn up.


Meanwhile, I’ve been working on the logistics for the second research trip. What’s hard is narrowing my list of need-to-see from the want-to-see list because I simply don’t have an unrestricted amount of time when I visit. There’s so much I’d like to see, but I’m only going to have about week, maybe 10 days on the outside, to do it. Two and a half of those days are for traveling, as it is a 15 hour drive to Pensacola from here.

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I’m having to prioritize what I can see/do on this trip. I’ll hit Pensacola, Chipley, Marianna, and (maybe, hopefully) Tallahassee. I had hoped to fit Gainesville in there, too, but it isn’t going to be possible.

I don’t know about you, but I have this tendency to overthink and overplan things and events before they happen. I’m trying not to do that, but it is a bit hard, because I have a big list of items I need to see in the archives this time. The last time I was in Pensacola, the Escambia Court Archives and Records building was closed due to hurricane damage the week before I got there. So, I’m having to make up for that missed visit.

Most of my time will be spent divided between Pensacola and Marianna, viewing holdings in the Escambia and Jackson county courthouse archives. Getting what I need to get done between business hours is the thing; as in, I’m worried that I won’t be able to accomplish what I need to do before I have to leave.

Hell, I could stay all night in an archive if someone would let me, and I’d finish. All I need is a blanket, a laptop, and coffee in a travel cup. I’d leave the place cleaner than I found it, just like a good scout. I’d even have a fresh pot of coffee and bagels in the office kitchen ready to go the next morning as a thank-you!

See, they use a LOT of legs for that legwork, AKA 'research assistants.' Otherwise, our friends Wes and Elyse, et al. would not be able to produce this show every week.

See, they use a LOT of legs for that legwork, AKA ‘research assistants.’ Otherwise, our friends Wes and Elyse, et al. would not be able to produce this show every week.

This is where I share with you my deep envy of the fact that the History Detectives have research assistants AND a budget for them! I so envy the fact that other historian-type writers, such as David McCullough, have research assistants AND a budget for them!

A colleague has suggested hiring a research assistant at the Gainesville and Tallahassee libraries to look the information up for me if I run out of time. It is a good option, but honestly, I much prefer to see this information for myself. I hate the idea of delegating that to a research assistant, because I don’t want to miss anything in the discovery process, including holding the same document that Emmett might have held in his hands once upon a time.

Still. Nowhere is it written that Emmett’s research must be done in one fell swoop, all by my lonesome; and in fact, much of my research has been about cooperation with many willing others who are simply glad to help. There are RAs on staff at these two libraries who would be more than willing to help me with this project. Some of these students who need the research experience for academic credit. It’s worth investigating.