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Interview with Julia Emerson Tracy,  October 18, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Julia Emerson Tracy,  October 18, 2004
October 18, 2004
In this interview, Julia Emerson Tracy discusses the geneology of her family and their connection to Wilmington, including her grandfather's involvement in the Atlantic Coast Line railroad and the construction of Keenan House.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Tracy, Julia Emerson Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 10/18/2004 Series: SENC Notables Length 46 minutes

Hayes: So let me introduce today, this is Julia Emerson Tracy. Did I get that right?

Julia Emerson Tracy: That's correct.

Hayes: Being interviewed by Sherman Hayes, university librarian at Randall Library, UNCW, and today is October 18th. And you may hear an in sotto voce on the side occasionally, and that is?

Mary Ellis Warren: Mary Ellis Warren.

Hayes: Mary Ellis Warren who is a cousin. First cousin?

Mary Ellis Warren: First cousin, yes.

Hayes: And today, Julia has agreed to talk to us about family history for a very important person to both Wilmington and to the university, and we're focusing on your grandfather, who was?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Thomas Martin Emerson.

Hayes: And the university connection is that he had what?

Julia Emerson Tracy: He built what is now called Keenan House at seven ten oh one- seventeen oh one Market Street, which is the residence of the Chancellor of UNCW.

Hayes: Good. But before we get into that, I'm just checking here to make sure I hear a few times, so why don't we go back and start what you know about his early family and early so forth.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uhm.. my grandfather was uh.. a descendant of the Haverhill Emerson's that came to uhm.. Massachusetts in the mid 1600s. Uh.. his father, Warren Chase Emerson, migrated from that area to Ohio in the mid 1800s. He was born in 1851 and...

Hayes: And who was born?

Julia Emerson Tracy: My grandfather, Thomas Martin Emerson...

Hayes: Okay, okay.

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... was born in Preble County, Ohio, in 1851. As a young boy aged 16, he began his railroad career in Hagerstown, Indiana, as a telegrapher. And then he went to Fort Wayne, Indiana, as chief freight clerk, and then was a traveling passenger agent for the Detroit and Indianapolis through line. In 1875 he decided to come south. He came to Colombia, South Carolina, and then to Wilmington, North Carolina, as a freight clerk. In 1880, he was chief clerk in the freight and passengers department of the old Wilmington and w- to Weldon railroad.

Hayes: Well, good.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. in 1881 and 1882, he was a synth- assistant general freight agent of the C&O in Richmond, Virginia.

Hayes: I see you're looking down, and this is kind of a...

Julia Emerson Tracy: This is a chronology that I had put together uh.. of the information that I got so that I would be able to uhm.. (sighs) follow his career.

Hayes: Right.

Julia Emerson Tracy: In 1882 he came to uh.. Wilmington again and was assistant general freight agent for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. He then became traffic manager for the entire ACL system in 1891, and in 1902 he was made third vice-president for the ACL in charge of traffic.

Hayes: Was he still in Wilmington as far as you know?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes, all in- this is all in Wilmington, that was the headquarters of ACL at that time. And in November of 1905 he was elected president of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad and served in that capacity until his death in November of 1913.

Hayes: And he died at age?

Julia Emerson Tracy: He died at age 63.

Hayes: 63.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uhm..

Hayes: Now what about his brother? You said that his brother came with him, that's fascinating.

Julia Emerson Tracy: His brother Horace Mann Emerson came with him and...

Hayes: Through all of these various trips?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. I'm not sure whether they were all together uh.. during these uh.. years that he was moving around, but they were both settled- they both settled in Wilmington uh.. in the late 1800s. Uh.. his brother died uhm.. I believe it was in the early 1900s. The brother died rather early. His brother's son, Horace Mann Junior, was quite prominent in Atlantic Coastline circles and his-- the grandson of Horace Mann Senior, Horace Mann the Third, uh.. served uh.. with the Atlantic Coastline Railroad and even served with the uh.. what became the uh.. Seaboard Coastline Railroad after the merger in Jacksonville, and just died recently and has been buried here in Wilmington. Uhm.. but my grandfather, when he arrived, he uh.. married Lilly Davis, who uh.. who's mother had been a Nixon, and uh.. the father of Lilly Davis was the s- Champ T.N. Davis, I believe it was, who was killed in the Civil War, there's a monument to him in the Oakdale Cemetery. Uh.. she was just a tiny tot when her father was killed. The first Mrs. Emerson...

(tape break)

Hayes: Okay, we're back after a small set design.

Julia Emerson Tracy: He- he married in 1877 and they had three children, Neil who was the oldest, uh.. the uh.. daughter, Eleanor, and a daughter Lillian Elliot. Neil died of tuberculosis in Arizona in 1909 at the age of 29. He had a daughter, Lillian Emerson, who was a Broadway stage actress, and his widow married a Mr. Terry in (inaudible).

Hayes: Now who had a daughter? Neil?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Neil. Neil's daughter.

Hayes: All right. So this would have been?

Julia Emerson Tracy: My grandfather's granddaughter.

Hayes: Granddaughter.

Julia Emerson Tracy: She was the oldest granddaughter.

Hayes: Right.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uhm.. I think she was born in 1905 so she was born some 30 years before I was (laughs). Uhm.. his daughters uhm.. Eleanor and Lillian Elliott, married Wilmington men. Eleanor married uh.. Cornelius Vanluven, and uhm.. Aunt Elliot, we called her Elliot by her middle name, uh.. married Albert S. Williams. And they both lived here all their lives in Wilmington.

Hayes: Interesting.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uhm..

Hayes: Probably still relatives around then from...

Julia Emerson Tracy: No.

Hayes: No?

Julia Emerson Tracy: There are no surviving relatives out here. Uhm.. the uhm.. the only other surviving relatives besides myself that I know of are uhm.. the grandchildren of Eleanor Emerson who live in Baltimore and other environments.

Hayes: But this Mary Davis, was that her name? His first wife.

Julia Emerson Tracy: His first wife was Lillian. That's what she was called.

Hayes: Lillian. But that's not your grandmother.

Julia Emerson Tracy: No, that was not my grand...

Hayes: So what happened?

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... uh.. mother. What-- after uh.. Mrs. Davis died uhm.. he married Mary Bowman from Richmond, Virginia, who was my grandmother. Uh.. they had one child, Thomas Martin Emerson Junior. In 1913, shortly after completing a trip across the United States by private railroad car, uh.. he died. Mr. Emerson, my grandfather, uh.. leaving his three year old son and his widow living in Keenan House. My grandmother rented the house to the Delanos [Ph?] for approximately ten years, and then she sold it in 1923 to Mrs. Keenan.

Hayes: Did she stay in Wilmington then?

Julia Emerson Tracy: No. She was back and forth between Wilmington and Richmond all during that time, but mostly lived in Richmond. And my father was at boarding school at Woodberry Forest.

Hayes: And were her parents still alive then in Richmond?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. no. Uh.. no. Her mother had died when she was uhm.. very young, in childbirth, and uhm.. her father died while she was uh.. living here in Wilmington married to Mr. Emerson. Uh.. but she did have quite a bit of family living in Richmond. She had brothers there.

Hayes: Tell me, what have you found about that family? What was that connection?

Julia Emerson Tracy: The Bowman [Ph?] family uhm.. came to Richmond in the 1850s and started a printing and stationery company. And that continued until uh.. I think it was the early 1970s when the company was closed. Uh..

Hayes: There was still...

Julia Emerson Tracy: My grandmother Emerson lived in Richmond uh.. until 1950- she died in 1952, and I visited her there I think three times, uh..

Hayes: So you...

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... after the uh.. after the world war uh.. (sighs) uhm.. after World War II uhm.. when we could travel again, I would take the train from Jacksonville where I was living. My father died when I was three years old in uhm.. Alexandria, Virginia. So I never really knew a whole lot about my Emerson/Bowman connections until the advent of the in- internet and I began to research my genealogy and finding out about uhm.. all the things about my grandmother Emerson that-- I didn't even know her parent's names when I started. So.

Hayes: But you do remember talking to her, then.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes, I do remember talking to her, but uh.. she was not-- sh- she was a very private person and we did not uh.. and of course I was 15 when she died, I saw-- so the time that I saw her was-- that I could recall was between the time I was nine and 15, so that I'm sure that we didn't have very many (laughing) meaningful conversations.

Hayes: You didn't ask her about Keenan House?

Julia Emerson Tracy: I didn't even know Keenan House existed, okay? Uh.. I had had this old photograph uhm.. that came with her things that she left me...

Hayes: You still have that, hold that up. That's great.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes, I still have that photograph. Uh.. and uhm.. and I knew this was a beautiful...

Hayes: Yeah.

Julia Emerson Tracy: uh.. mansion, okay, somewhere, and I assumed that it had to be in Wilmington, my mother told me that.

Hayes: Yeah, that's great.

Julia Emerson Tracy: But uhm.. I was- I did visit my Aunt Elliot here in Wilmington once in 1956, and it was a very brief visit, and uhm.. she told me at that time uh.. that the-- (background noise) about the house. And it just, you know, I was a very young college girl and it didn't really in- interest me at the time. So I just uh.. let it go by, and then I found uh.. these mementos that my grandmother had left me, which is uh.. a scrapbook that they made when they went from Wilmington...

Hayes: Right.

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... all the way to British Columbia on their private railroad car in 1913.

Hayes: Good.

Julia Emerson Tracy: With a three year old child co- cooped up in a railroad car (laughing) for a month.


Julia Emerson Tracy: Must have been very interesting.

Hayes: What I'm going to do is, let me bring this a little close, and you hold a few up that you find fascinating, and we'll put those on the tape.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Okay.

Hayes: How does that sound? And we're going to make copies of this for the file, so if someone's listening to this, they can look at the whole one.

Julia Emerson Tracy: This is their private railroad car.

Hayes: Okay that's good. Let me just get a little closer here.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. that they uhm..

Hayes: Okay, and tilt it towards me just a hair.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Tilt it towards you?

Hayes: Yeah. Okay. That's good, that's real good. That's good, right there, that's great. Now you can put it down, that's fine.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh..

Hayes: And so what happened, he was so high up in the hierarchy, that he could just have his own car?

Julia Emerson Tracy: He had his own private railroad car. Uhm.. and they just attached it to all these other railroads and went all the way across the country. Uh..

Hayes: And your father, is there a picture of you father in there?

Julia Emerson Tracy: There's a picture of my father in here uh..

Hayes: You said that was one...

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... at age three.

Hayes: ... one of the few that you even have of him.

Julia Emerson Tracy: That's one of the few that I have uh.. of him at this particular age.

Mary Ellis Warren: Tell him- tell him his nick-name.

Julia Emerson Tracy: They called him Fine. F, I, N, E. And that you will see on this page uh.. and a poem. I'm sure he was a blessing to these-- the was born when my uhm.. grandfather was 60 and my grandmother was 43. So.

Hayes: Okay, tilt it this way. There you go, right there, that's good. Oh, those are great.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uhm..

Hayes: We'll get those done.

Julia Emerson Tracy: He uhm.. must have been a very precocious child.

Hayes: So they were both, yeah, I was going to say they were both..

Julia Emerson Tracy: They were both older then we think about having a three year old (laughs).

Hayes: Is there a picture of the two of them?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes.

Hayes: That might be good to just get down. We don't have to see all the scenes, but what's one of your favorite ones of them?

Julia Emerson Tracy: This one of a mountain right here I love. Uhm.. lets see if I can-- yes, here that are. Well that's not too good of my grandfather. Lets see if I can find another one. Uhm.. as you will be able to see, they were not fashion plates (laughs). Oh, here we go.

Hayes: That's a good one, yeah.

Julia Emerson Tracy: This is a good one. Here we go.

Hayes: Okay, I'm just coming in. Oh, that's great.

Julia Emerson Tracy: This is Mr. and Mrs. Emerson on uh..

Hayes: He had that big walrus moustache.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes, absolutely. That was just the fashion. Yes.

Hayes: That was just the fashion at the time. Yeah.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uhm..

Hayes: Now you said that-- lets go back to the Keenan House, 'cause that's kind of fascinating. He had lived here before, quite some time...

Julia Emerson Tracy: He had.

Hayes: But where did the other-

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. he was living at 510 Dock Street.

Hayes: Okay.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. in fact we went by that house yesterday and uh.. I don't know if it's the original house that's still there, but 510 Dock Street is a Victorian- very large Victorian house and uh.. could very uh.. conceivably have been uh.. where he lived. My uh.. apparently his uhm.. his son Neil was about 20 when he married my grandmother, his second wife. His daughters were younger and they were still living at home and uh.. it seems uh.. reasonable that they may have moved into Keenan House with them. I'm not sure of this, okay.

Hayes: Oh, okay.

Julia Emerson Tracy: But uhm..

Hayes: Was there a gap between when his first wife died and...

Julia Emerson Tracy: Five years between when his first wife died.

Hayes: And you had some interesting...

Julia Emerson Tracy: No, three years.

Hayes: ... speculation of how they...

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. how they met.

Hayes: Yeah.

Julia Emerson Tracy: During the funeral of the first Mrs. Emerson, Lilly Davis Emerson, uh.. it shows uh.. in a paper clipping that I was able to read yesterday in the Bill Reeves collection, that uhm.. the organist at her funeral was a man named E.P. Boatwright, and I happen to know that that was my grandmother Emerson's brother-in-law. She- he was married to her sister.

Hayes: Wow.

Julia Emerson Tracy: And uhm.. also interestingly enough, in the choir at the first Mrs. Emerson's funeral was Mary Lilly Keenan. So there is another connection. Uhm..

Hayes: (laughing)

Julia Emerson Tracy: But uh.. apparently uh.. after the first Mrs. Emerson passed away uh.. it was probably her sister and her sister's husband who put my grandmother together with Mr. Emerson. My grandmother was an old maid, she was 30 years old and not married. So I'm sure...

Hayes: Or 40 years.

Julia Emerson Tracy: No. She was 30 when she married. She was 40 when she had-- 43 when my father was born.

Hayes: So they were married for quite some time.

Julia Emerson Tracy: They were married 12 years...

Hayes: Yeah, good.

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... before my father was born.

Hayes: And he must have been at the point 40...

Julia Emerson Tracy: He was 60. He was 60 years old when my father was born.

Hayes: Born. But when they were married, he was 50?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. I guess he was about 50 uh.. or so. Well he was uh.. 47 or so. I think he was like 17 years older then she was.

Hayes: So she may have well just been visiting Wilmington off and on anyway because of her...

Julia Emerson Tracy: That is- that's possible, yes.

Hayes: ... sister.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Visiting her sister in Wilmington and- and met him. Or there was-- he uh.. had business in Richmond because uh.. it was quite uh.. a center for the Atlantic Coastline also. So he would have been visiting in Richmond where she lived. So uh...

Hayes: Yeah. Hard to know.

Julia Emerson Tracy: And it would be very interesting to- to find out, but I don't-- I guess I'll have to write a novel and make up their meeting (laughs).

Hayes: (laughing) Please bring it to Wilmington. We would like it to happen here.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Absolutely. (laughing)

Hayes: So in the second marriage then, as far as we know the first wife died of some natural disease or cause, uncertain of what it was.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uncertain what it was.

Hayes: And typically got remarried.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Right.

Hayes: And, surprise of surprise, have your father.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Have a- have a child.

Hayes: And by this point the Keenan House was built when?

Julia Emerson Tracy: The Keenan House was built in uh.. 1908. It was completed in 1908. As I understand it, there has been some question about uhm.. whether Mrs. Mary Bridges actually started the house and then my grandfather finished it, but from what we can tell, Mrs. Bridges had some sketches made, but she never began the building. My grandfather brought in another architect and uh.. they used the original uh.. designs and built the Keenan House and it was completed in 1908- 8, and my grandmother uh.. and grandfather Emerson moved into the Keenan House. My father was born in 1910, probably in the house. We don't know that for sure but uh.. at the t- at the time uh.. most births were at home, so we would- we would assume that he probably was born in the Keenan House, and then three years later his father, my grandfather, died in the house.

Hayes: And of what cause?

Julia Emerson Tracy: He had-- well they called it acute indigestion, which I guess today we would call a heart attack.

Hayes: Okay.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. he was stricken while on a business trip uh.. you know, on the railroad, and they- but they brought him home and he died the- the next day after he arrived home. So he died in the house and my father was born in the house. So.

Hayes: Interesting.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. this has been my first visit to Keenan House, and Dr. Rosemary DePaolo has been so gracious and wonderful to allow me to tour it even though it- the renovations are not complete, and asked me to come back next year to see it when it is completed. And I am certainly going to plan on that if possible.

Hayes: And I think we want to get on the record that you really like the color.

Julia Emerson Tracy: We love the color.

Hayes: We love the color.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes we do. My cousin and I both approve of the color, yes.

Hayes: Now at the time that he built this house, this is a substantial house. So he was fairly high up even at that point.

Julia Emerson Tracy: He was uh.. he had become president of the Atlantic Coastline in 1905. And the house...

Hayes: So he was the president.

Julia Emerson Tracy: He was the president at the time that he built this house.

Hayes: And how much do you think it probably cost him?

Julia Emerson Tracy: We don't know for sure, b- but uh.. there was a neighborhood association of some type at that time that said that he could not build a house for less then $5,000.

Hayes: In 1908.

Julia Emerson Tracy: In 1908.

Hayes: It's a lot of money.

Julia Emerson Tracy: So that would have been quite a bit of money at that time.

Hayes: And he may have spent more then that.

Julia Emerson Tracy: I'm sure he did spend more. It seems that he would have, yes.

Hayes: But the question of whether the two older girls from the other marriage were still at home at that time, it's hard to know...

Julia Emerson Tracy: I'm not sure uh.. now lets see, I could probably find that out uh..

Hayes: No, just curious to see.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Because I do have their marriage dates, uh, somewhere here.

Hayes: 'Cause it was a big house for three people.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yeah, it was a very big house for three people.

Hayes: (laughs)

Julia Emerson Tracy: Lets see when uhm.. lets see. Okay. Neil married in 1906, so I guess he was not living at home. Eleanor.. lets see.. she married in 1906.

Hayes: So she wasn't at home.

Julia Emerson Tracy: So she wasn't living at home. And Elliot (sound of turning pages) I think she's here.

Mary Ellis Warren: She was the youngest, wasn't she?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh-huh. I'm not sure.

Hayes: Well, when was she born? Do you have that date on...

Julia Emerson Tracy: Elliot was born ... oh, know where it is. Right here. Sometimes this-- there she is. Uh.. Lilly Elliot Emerson was born in 1884 and she married in 1912. So she did live in the house. She must have lived in the house uh.. before she was married since she was not married until 1912.

Hayes: And she married a local boy.

Julia Emerson Tracy: She married a local boy and uh.. she lived here all her life. So.

Hayes: Right.

Julia Emerson Tracy: She was living at the Oleander Court Apar- Apartments. I'll never forget when I went to visit her in 1956.

Hayes: Did you meet her husband, or not?

Julia Emerson Tracy: No, he had already died. Yes. She was, like, age 93. She didn't die until 1967 I believe.

Hayes: Wow.

Julia Emerson Tracy: She was uh.. quite uh.. up in years.

Hayes: Now one of the things you and I have talked about off camera was that our current generation doesn't recognize how powerful and connected the railroad business was. So being the president of a railroad was a...

Julia Emerson Tracy: Big position.

Hayes: Big position.

Julia Emerson Tracy: At the time.

Hayes: Do you have any sense of hundreds of workers, thousands of workers?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Oh, I'm sure thousands of workers. Uhm.. it uh.. was said that my grandfather Emerson was a great salesman. I have read a book, The History of Atlantic Coastline Railroad by uhm.. Prince uh.. is the author's name, which says that he was responsible for buying up all these little railroads, these little short lines, up and down the coast. And he was responsible for bringing the Plant system, which was a Florida Railroad, into the Atlantic Coastline system. And uhm.. extended the uh.. the reach of the Atlantic Coastline system quite extensively during his presidency.

Hayes: But he himself didn't come out of that kind of old Wilmington elite. It sounds like he worked up through the...

Julia Emerson Tracy: He absolutely came up through the ranks uh.. all the uh.. on his own merit and desire. I doubt very seriously that he had much of an education because uh.. at age 16 he began working, and that was right after the Civil War, and I do know that uhm.. in Ohio uh.. his father and some of his older brothers were involved in the Civil War. So uhm..

Hayes: Now you had said that you thought that now as the president, he's going to be in the inner circle of the wealthy and connected. He was a friend of Pembroke Jones?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes. Pembroke Jones.

Hayes: And how do you...?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh I uhm.. because uh.. I have a doohickey. Excuse me, I use that word all the time. I have a little book that I got that uh.. I believe-- it's called Our Marriage Vows, and Pembroke Jones I- I believe this is one of the signatures as uhm..

Hayes: Wow.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Who told me- who told me about...

Mary Ellis Warren: A witness at the wedding.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. oh- oh he was a witness at the wedding, or something.

Hayes: Wow.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uhm.. and uhm.. Maybe that wasn't it. Or I read it in- in-- maybe it was in the clippings from the Bill Reeves collection about...

Hayes: Right.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. different uh.. occasions that he and Pembroke Jones were uhm.. connected.

Hayes: Right.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yeah, I think that was it. Because, you know, this is Champ McDowell Davis who was president of the Atlantic Coastline for many years from, I think, about the 40s, 50s, 60s, in there uh.. was a cousin of the first Mrs. Emerson, and he was a guest at their-- at the wedding of my grandmother to my grandfather.

Hayes: Excellent. Any other names there that you can read?

Julia Emerson Tracy: I- not that I recognized.

Hayes: Well, just read them off.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Lets see uhm.. Edmund Cromp. Uh.. Carrington...

Hayes: Well here, lets...

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... Randolph.

Hayes: Read them all. Give the full name if you can see it, that's good.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. lets see. Uhm.. Julia Woodbridges Edmonds. Nanny Armsted Cromp. Mrs. Frank T. Cromp. Mary Carrington. Champ Mac D. Davis. Janet H.W. Randolph. I can't uh.. I'm not sure. And there's something Fitzgerald. And then another J.L. Cromp. Mrs. M. Fitzgerald. Mary Childers it looks like. Austin Brookenbaugh.

Hayes: Brookenbaugh.

Julia Emerson Tracy: J.W. Edmond. Mrs. E. Hodgkiss and E.D. Hodgkiss. W.H. and Mrs. W.H. Brown. Lucy Quarrels. Elise Flannigan. Katie Blankenship.

Hayes: Blankenship, yeah, that's a big name.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Mrs. R.B. Davis. And uh..

Hayes: That...

Mary Ellis Warren: R.B. Davis.

Julia Emerson Tracy: R.B. Davis. Mrs. B.R. Davis. (laughs) That's what it looks like. Rebecca Powell Carter. William H. Powell. Sarah Massey Bowman. Florence Kemper.

Hayes: Now, do you think that Sarah Massey Bowman was a...

Julia Emerson Tracy: She was a re- relative of- of my grandmother.

Hayes: There you go.

Julia Emerson Tracy: And uh Willy Bowman. Louise Carrington. Ashley Makin-Miller. Eleanor C. Emerson, which was uh.. my grandfather's daughter, and Greer Bowman, who was my uhm.. grandmother's first cousin.

Hayes: Oh good.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Who was, by the way, uh.. they were very uh.. prominent in medical circles. Uhm.. my-- her first cousin, Greer Bowman, was a uhm.. doctor and founded Stuart Circle Hospital in R- in Richmond. And uh.. one of her other cousins was one of the first female doctors in Richmond, graduated from the uh.. Medical College of Virginia in 1922.

Hayes: Wow.

Julia Emerson Tracy: So uh.. they were quite ambitious.

Hayes: Thank goodness you're finding distinguished relatives.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes- yes that's- that's true. That's true.

Hayes: (laughing)

Julia Emerson Tracy: And there are some Emersons uh.. way back that I found that uh.. are not as distinguished. (laughs)

Hayes: A sad note is you said that your father was born in the house, he went on to the railroad business as well?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Ah yes. He graduated form VMI and he was employed by the railroad off and on during the uh.. short span of life. He died in 1929. I mean, at the age of 29 in 1940.

Hayes: And you were just?

Julia Emerson Tracy: I was just three years old.

Hayes: That seems strange, doesn't it?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes. Very.

Mary Ellis Warren: History repeats.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes.

Hayes: Coincidence. And then your other side, your mother's side.

Julia Emerson Tracy: My mother's uh..

Hayes: Just so we have a sense of where that connected into...

Julia Emerson Tracy: The story is a very exciting one. My father came to Gainesville, Florida in 1934 uh.. on business for the railroad. I don't know exactly which railroad he was working for. Maybe the ACL, I don't know exactly. But uhm.. he met my mother on a blind date in September of 1934 and in November (laughs) of 1934 they eloped.

Hayes: Oh my goodness.

Julia Emerson Tracy: She was the daughter of a railroad engineer in uh.. outside of Gainesville, Florida, and uhm.. he brought her back. She was 18 years old when he brought here back to Wilmington and her family-- his family, mother always talked about how his family just welcomed her with open arms. Here she was, she said "I was dumb as dirt." (laughs) She had no experience outside of...

Mary Ellis Warren: Just an innocent girl.

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... this small town where she had grown up. And uh.. but his family welcomed her, brought her in. His sisters uh.. just helped her uh.. find her way and uh.. helped educate her in what was going on and were just absolutely wonderful to her.

Hayes: So she came and lived in Wilmington, then.

Julia Emerson Tracy: She came and lived in Wilmington. And then uhm.. my grandmother brought them a house in uhm.. Raleigh. And they moved to Raleigh and they lived there and I was born in Raleigh.

Hayes: And do you know why your father died so young?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. he was just uhm.. a wanderer and we don't really know exactly what happened. But uh.. he didn't uh..

Mary Ellis Warren: Didn't live to an old age.

Julia Emerson Tracy: No he didn't. And it's uh.. it's coincidental that his only other half brother, Neil, also died at the age of 29. So both the g- of grandfather Emerson's sons died at the age of 29.

Hayes: Wow. That's interesting. Whatever that means.

Julia Emerson Tracy: We don't what- know what the kar- that kind of karma was, but (laughs).

Mary Ellis Warren: No. And- and your father- your father's father died, grandfather died when your father was three.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yeah.

Mary Ellis Warren: And your father died when you were three.

Julia Emerson Tracy: That is correct, when I was three.

Hayes: Interesting. And your mom, she didn't really know much of the Emerson family anyway then.

Julia Emerson Tracy: No, she-- they were only married-- well they were married for about five years. They were married in 1934 and he died in 1940. So they were married about six years. Uh.. but (sighs) I guess I really didn't ever ask that many questions. You don't as a young person get involved in the genealogy, and it's so important that you do ask those questions before people are uh.. are not around to answer them.

Hayes: Right.

Julia Emerson Tracy: My mother uh.. had Alzheimers and she was really lost to us s- some ten, 12 years ago. And I really had never asked those questions.

Hayes: Yeah, and that's quite a...

Julia Emerson Tracy: And uh..

Hayes: ... tragedy too.

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... now we're calling, you know, aunts uh.. my mother's sisters and saying "Did you know? Did you say? Did you hear? Did you?" Yeah. And they're uhm.. up in their 80s and 90s and can't-- often can't answer my questions. Uh.. it's only been in the last three years that I have really started to study uh.. the Emerson side of my family and get into my grandmother Emerson, and the Bowman side of my family. Uhm.. my mother did remarry and uh.. I was raised in Jacksonville and just really-- because World War II came along I didn't-- could not visit in- in Richmond and- and Wilmington like I might have...

Hayes: Right.

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... had it uh.. had it not uhm.. prevented that travel.

Hayes: Well of course the Emerson's, it sounded like that side didn't continue very far, right?

Julia Emerson Tracy: No, they didn't. Uh.. well uhm.. Eleanor Emerson had one daughter, her name was also Lilly, there's a lot of Lillys around (laughs). Uh.. and Lilly had four sons, three of whom are surviving today. Uh.. and they-- I uh.. have been in touch with them. One uh.. one of them, who is a lawyer in Baltimore uh.. Vanluven [Ph?]... Stewart uh.. he is. Uhm.. and uhm.. we-- recent-- we went to Oakdale Cemetery to see uhm.. my grandfather Emerson's grave and were distressed by the vandalism. Unfortunately our lot there was really hit hard uhm.. by the vandals and there was a lot of uh.. tombstones that were overturned. Mr. Kozin, the superintendent there, we talked with him briefly, and he's really trying to restore uh.. what has been damaged out there. And we were, uh.. the- the (banging sound) grave of the first Mrs. Emerson was really desecrated very badly. Uhm.. my grandmother and my father are both buried in Richmond, in Hollywood Cemetery.

Hayes: Okay.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Only his first wife is buried there c- 'cause there was 40 years between when he died and when she died, so uhm.. she was buried in her family plot in Wilmington.

Hayes: And your grandfather...

Julia Emerson Tracy: My grandfather Emerson is buried at- at uh.. Oakdale.

Hayes: At Oakdale.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Yes.

Hayes: It's a really kind of remarkable story when you consider he was also a northerner and was highly successful in the railroad business, it didn't seem to hold him back.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Didn't seem to hold him back at all. And uh.. some of clippings that I wrote uh.. that I read yesterday uh.. at the uh.. library uhm.. indicate that he was uh.. a southern gentleman, (laughs) well respected as such, okay. It does go on about his uh.. even though his roots were in the north, he uh.. adapted and adopted the southern culture and lifestyle and everything and really became a true southerner. You know.

Hayes: That's interesting.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Very interesting.

Hayes: And in both cases, his first wife and his second wife were both well established southern families.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Well actually, my grandmother Emerson, the Bowman family didn't-- came from Pennsylvania in the 1850s...

Hayes: Oh 1850.

Julia Emerson Tracy: ... to Richmond. So actually, their family, uhm.. was uh.. a Yankee family too (laughs).

Hayes: But what during the Civil War?

Julia Emerson Tracy: And during the Civil War uh.. my grandmother E- uh.. Emerson, her father fought in the Civil War for the south and his brothers, he and his brothers. Uh.. his uhm.. but their uncles and cousins were in Pennsylvania and uh.. there are some letters that one of the cousins has that were uhm.. the fa- my grandmother Emerson's father, Greer Bowman, wrote to a cousin in Pennsylvania during the war uh.. and then the letters back from her to her cousin, which are very poignant because you- you got one family on one side of the conflict, and another one on the other. And they are extremely interesting to read from these two young people. One fighting the battles and one was a girl at home uh.. who was evidently very fond of her cousin.

Hayes: Wow. As you go on your next search here, what are the things that you're hoping to still find out about your grandfather?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Well uh.. I've gotten so much information that I haven't been able to digest yet. Uh.. these few days have just been jam-packed with information and I did answer the two uhm.. major questions I had when I came were to find out the chronology of where he lived here in Wilmington during the- during all the years, and I have answered that to some extent. And uhm.. to find out the true actual legal name of his first wife, which I finally found uh.. a history of the St James Episcopal Church her baptism which listed her name as Elizabeth Shearman Davis. Because she was always known as Lilly. Everything we have is known as Lilly. Even her tombstone says Lillian Davis, okay. And-- but apparently she was baptized Elizabeth Shearman Davis in October of uh...

Hayes: And how was the Shearman spelt?

Julia Emerson Tracy: S, H, E, A, R, M, A, N.

Mary Ellis Warren: (inaudible)

Julia Emerson Tracy: In fact uh.. I was told uh.. by o- one of the sources that I had regarding her information that her name was Eliza Sherman Davis. And uh.. this was what I was trying to find out, was what was her really-- really what was her name. But uh.. it appears that, at least I know she was baptized that and whether she actually adopted the name of Lilly and..

Hayes: I wonder if Elizabeth wasn't commonly...

Julia Emerson Tracy: A nickname might have been a Lilly.

Hayes: ... has nicknames Beth, Elizabeth, Lizzy or Lillian. Maybe it was a natural...

Julia Emerson Tracy: Nickname. Yeah.

Hayes: Nickname.

Julia Emerson Tracy: It could have been. I- I uh.. was very confused. So those were the two questions I was seeking and I got both answers.

Hayes: And we were just checking on the interesting connection of the Lillian Emerson who was the actress. You might tell us about that. Back the connection back up to which family was that then?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Okay, Neil Emerson, who was the first son of grandfather Emerson and his first wife, uhm.. married uh.. Lillian Slocomb from Fayetteville. They had a daughter named Lillian Emerson. She, as a child according to newspaper clippings that I read yesterday in Bill Reeve's collection, uh.. was a dancer uh.. and performed as a child seven, eight, nine years old.

Mary Ellis Warren: Five.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Five. From the time she was five.

Hayes: Wow.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Uh.. and in 1914 she was in London and gave a performance for the crowned heads, many crowned heads of Europe.

Hayes: And she lived here in Wilmington, or was she over in Fayetteville?

Julia Emerson Tracy: Well I believe her, uhm.. no, I believe they lived in New York City.

Hayes: New York City.

Julia Emerson Tracy: I think for the most part, they lived in New York City.

Hayes: Okay.

Julia Emerson Tracy: And after Neil died she and her mother definitely lived in New York City.

Hayes: Okay.

Julia Emerson Tracy: She was born in 1905, so uhm.. she went on to become a- a stage and radio actress uh.. and starred in uhm.. some-- it seems uh.. in some plays on Broadway and uhm.. Lux Radio Theatre and uhm.. with Clark Gable and Cary Grant and all that kind of good stuff.

Hayes: And she went by still Lillian...

Julia Emerson Tracy: She went by the name of Lillian Emerson apparently. Uhm.. I have-- I got onto that because there was a letter in my mother's effects that she had written, my mother had written to her mother uh.. saying that they were going to New York to attend the play uh.. of where Thomas, my father's cousin was performing in this play. And then later on she wrote that uh.. they were going to listen to this uhm.. radio performance that his cousin was making with Clark Gable, and that turned out to be apparently r- Lux Radio Theatre. So uh.. she was evidently quite a prominent actress. We have some information that uh.. Mr. Hayes was kind enough to get for me on the internet today uh.. about a Lillian Emerson Foundation uh.. that uh...

Hayes: Terry in fact.

Julia Emerson Tracy: Lillian Emerson Terry.

Hayes: Because she married...

Julia Emerson Tracy: Now her mother was also Lillian Emerson and she married uh.. a man- a man whose last name was T-- I think was Franklin Terry in New York City, who was quite wealthy.

Hayes: After Neil.

Julia Emerson Tracy: After she uh.. Neil had died. So uhm..

Hayes: Wow.

Julia Emerson Tracy: We'll uh.. I'm gonna pursue that, see what I can find out about uh.. the Lillian Emerson Terry Foundation. Find out where-- what that was and where it went and what it is. (laughs)

Hayes: And you've been up in Richmond working that vein too?

Julia Emerson Tracy: I have been in- in Richmond uh.. researching the Bowman family, which was my grandmother Emerson. And uh.. finding out about them uhm.. because when I started out I didn't even know her parent's names. I at least had some information about my grandfather because I had uh.. gotten this book of obituaries that were published at the time of his death that uh.. all the papers in the United States from Wilmington to San Francisco published an obituary on him.

Hayes: Wow.

Julia Emerson Tracy: So I have uh.. a book of those, and it gave a great deal of uhm.. historical background uh.. on him. So I was able, when I got on the internet, to do a lot of uhm.. research regarding him because I had a lot of information. I didn't have anything for her. I didn't even know what her parent's names were. And uhm..

Hayes: Do you know what...

Julia Emerson Tracy: But the internet has solved all those.

Hayes: You may want to track the vein of the organist at the wedding. That sounds like an interesting...

Julia Emerson Tracy: Oh the Boatwright's. Yes, I have a little bit of information on the Boatwright's and I had-- did visit with the Boatwright cousins in Richmond uh.. the descendants of my grandmother's sister who was uh.. Francis Bowman Boatwright.

Hayes: (laughs)

Julia Emerson Tracy: And I did find at one point, I think it was- I think it was like 1900 uh.. in one of the censuses I found that uh.. her sister uh.. Mrs. Boatwright and Mr. Boatwright were living with my grandmother and grandfather Emerson in 1900 here in Wilmington.

Hayes: Interesting.

Julia Emerson Tracy: They were living together. They were uh.. shown as I say-- part of the same household in the 19-- I believe it was the 1900 census.

Hayes: Interesting.

Julia Emerson Tracy: So that was..

Hayes: Yeah.

Julia Emerson Tracy: When I saw that name as the organist, then, you know, I finally thought "Oh, maybe I have really found a connection." So I can't wait to tell my cousins in Richmond about this. (laughs)

Hayes: Listen, thank you so much for sharing this because it's fascinating the motivation for the Keenan House that's been built and the real people that lived there and why it was rented out to the Delanos [Ph?], because she wasn't here then at that point. They kept it as an investment.

Julia Emerson Tracy: She kept it as an investment until she sold it to Mrs. Keenan in 1923. And that would be interesting also to find out what she sold it to Mrs. Keenan for. (laughs) But uhm.. and I appreciate very much this opportunity uhm.. and Dr. DePaolo's gracious response and- and enthusiasm for uhm.. letting me come and uh.. be a part of all of this and uh.. I thank you for your interest.

Hayes: All right. Thank you.

#### End of Tape 8 ####

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