LOST! African American Search Notices After Slavery, 1865-1892

Earlier I posted some newspaper notices seeking lost family members  after the Civil War. My historian friend, Paul Lee, left a wonderful comment taken from two articles he wrote for “The Michigan Citizen”.  It is reprinted here, with permission.  You can read the previous post at “I have not seen him since the war“.

[Introduction to an article that was published, in slightly different form, in “The Michigan Citizen” (Highland Park), Feb. 13th-19th, 2000]

Compiled and edited by Paul Lee
Special to The Michigan Citizen

Ida B. Wells1893

Ida B. Wells 1893

“My mother…was born in Virginia and was one of ten children. She and two sisters were sold to slave traders when young, and were taken to Mississippi and sold again…. She often wrote back to somewhere in Virginia trying to get track of her people, but she was never successful. We were too young to realize the importance of her efforts, and I have never remembered the name of the county or people to whom they ‘belonged.’”

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the uncompromising newspaper editor, anti-lynching campaigner, and feminist wrote this moving passage about the enslavement and forced separation of her mother and aunts some 60 years after Emancipation ended the formal bondage of black people in the now re-United States.

Though written for her autobiography, published after her death as “Crusade for Justice,” its details and tone closely resembled the spare, often poignant search notices placed in black newspapers throughout the nation for at least four decades after the end of the Civil War.

Though Wells-Barnett did not indicate it, her mother might have placed such a notice as part of her “efforts” to find her lost siblings.

We have compiled and edited 41 search and reward notices from six black papers representing four states and one territory (Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas, Kansas, and the Oklahoma Territory, respectively) and four regions (the Border-South, South, Gulf States, and Southwest).

Outside of legal notices, black people usually appeared in at least two other ways in the classified pages of 19th-century papers.440 negroes for saleFirstly, as, most often, nameless property in for-sale ads, such as one that advertised “ONE Likely Negro Girl, in her 15th year — a first rate house servant, Also — one new first class top Buggy, and Harness complete. Enquire immediately of John P. Hubbell” — the latter reference underscoring her condition as only one of several commodities being offered.

This notice appeared in “The Weekly Tribune” of March 26, 1852, which, ironically, was published in a small Missouri town named Liberty.

Delta-9-25-1849_Runaway_Slave_AdSecondly, in fugitive slave notices, often illustrated with the familiar “running man,” which did, however, include one notable detail lacking from most for-sale ads — the name of the now “lost” property.

Because of the nature of enslavement, which saw and treated black people as property to be bought, sold, used, and disposed of, and the massive social displacements during and after the Civil War, few black families were left intact by war’s end.

Search notices offer compelling testimony of the strength of black family bonds. Ironically, these valuable sources of information are rarely used by historians and genealogists.

. …

[Introduction to an article that was published, in abridged form, in “The Michigan Citizen,” May 13-19, 2001]

More African American Search Notices After Slavery, 1892, 1895

Compiled and Edited by Paul Lee
Special to the Michigan Citizen

“INFORMATION WANTED OF my husband and son. We were parted at Richmond, Va., in 1860. My son’s name was Jas. Monroe Holmes; my husband’s name was Frank Holmes. My son was sold in Richmond, Va. I don’t know where they carried him to.

“…I and five children…were sold to a [slave] trader who lived in Texas. I am now old, and don’t think I shall be here long and would like to see them before I die. Any information concerning them will be thankfully received by Eliza Holmes, Flatonia, Fayette Co., Tex.”

This moving plea for information, published in September 1895, is but one example of the poignant appeals that appeared in black newspapers from the Civil War to the first years of the 20th century.

Placed by black people in search of relatives and friends that were separated from them — often by force — during the dark period of enslavement, these notices usually bore the headings “LOST!” or “INFORMATION WANTED.”

Last year, we were proud to reprint a compilation of 41 of these notices, published in four states and one territory (“LOST! African American Search Notices After Slavery, 1865-92,” Feb. 13-19, 2000).

More Notices

The response of our readers to these notices was immediate and emotional. Many of the calls, letters, and comments that we received were nearly as poignant as the notices themselves.

We are, therefore, honored to publish 28 additional notices, compiled and edited from two 19th-century black newspapers — one from “The Langston City Herald,” Jan. 28, 1892, and 27 from “The Christian Recorder,” Sept. 12, 1895.

“The Langston City Herald,” published in the old Oklahoma Territory, was the “booster” organ for Langston City, one of the first, and the most famous, of the black-governed towns in what is now western Oklahoma.

It is also believed to be that territory’s first black paper.

“The Christian Recorder,” then published at Philadelphia, Penn., is the organ of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. It is one of the oldest black papers in the world.

The “Recorder,” now published at Nashville, Tenn., was an important medium for news and opinion about black people, not only in the U. S., but also thruout the world.

slaves led awaySeparated, Not Destroyed

The notices demonstrate that, though slavery inflicted lasting damage on black families by ruthlessly dividing them, it could not erase the love and loyalty that family members felt for one another — even after decades of separation.

The notices make clear that, through all of slavery’s horrors, many bondsmen and -women found reasons and ways to maintain their sense of familyhood, and acted upon it when freedom finally arrived.

Freedom Trails

Some separations were voluntary — though no less painful. Tens of thousands of bondspersons managed to escape from enslavement every year, but only a fraction were able to remain free and begin new lives elsewhere.

Most were recaptured and returned to their owners. Those considered “runners” were usually sold or traded.

In their groundbreaking 1999 study “Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation,” John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger assert that, contrary to popular belief, the destination of many “runaways” was neither the northern United States nor Canada.

Instead, most fled to nearby plantations, cities, or other parts of the South.

Even less well known is the fact that some joined “maroon” colonies of fugitive and free blacks that were concealed in woods, swamps, and backcountry.

During the Civil War, the Union Army’s relentless march to smash the Confederacy created new openings. While most of the newly freed persons remained bound to the land, some followed after and assisted their liberators.

Others left in search of relatives, or tested their new freedom by doing what had previously been illegal — going wherever they wished to.

Some, evidently traumatized by slavery and war, simply wandered off, never to be heard from again.

Posted in African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research | 3 Comments

I have not seen him since the war

The Freeman headingWhile looking through the 1894 very fragile copy of The Freeman, I came across a column called Lost Relatives. There were many columns like this after the Civil War where people wrote hoping to find family members – mothers, brothers, sisters, children – that were sold away to other plantations.  This column was written 29 years after the war and people were still hoping to find their loved ones.  It must have been amazing to find your mother looking for you when you never expected to see her again.  When you didn’t know if she was dead or alive.  The emotions I feel finding my long dead ancestors in wills and census charts, pales by comparison.  Click to enlarge.

Lost RelativesFor more information about the Lost! newspaper items, go to this link Lost! African American Search Notices After Slavery.


Posted in African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, sepia saturday | 28 Comments

Slave Time

I have been working on the freedom stories of my list of formerly enslaved men and women from the Cleage plantations and it’s amazing.  I start to write about 1 person and find some information that takes me deeper into the life of their community that time and life during slave times.  I found several who fought with 1st United States Colored Heavy Artillery.  The widows and orphans petitions for pensions are especially helpful as names I know appear as witnesses and testify to living on down the row on the plantation or being present at births.

As I continue to work, I wanted to share this recording made in the 1940s of people who lived during slavery talking about their lives.  Their voices are so clear and present, not at all like the garbled transcriptions I come across where the people sound like they barely know the English language and there is nothing of the beauty of their voices.

While googling for information, I came across a book on that mentioned how slaves came to Athens and McMinn County in a section called “The Black Community.” I quote below.

“When Nash arrived, there were black persons in their 80s and 90s who had been among the first to come to the county. Blacks had originally come into the county either with the settlers, or as a result of being purchased at “slave sales” up until the time of the Civil War. By the 1800s, few—if any—slaves came to this immediate area directly from Africa. Virginia had come to be known as the “slave breeding ground,” and most major cities in that state had periodic sales in which the slaves were sold at auction. The slave owners usually attended the auctions together, and marched the slaves back to their new homes in groups. East Tennessee was a major route south toward Atlanta. If someone became ill or could not make the full trip, he would be sold, traded,or given away along the route. In this way, less affluent people might acquire one or two slaves across several years. “Slaves” in this situation simply meant an additional hand to work beside the slave owners in their fields and mills. The huge sprawl of cotton fields, with hundreds of field hands and their overseers spread out across a vast acreage, was unknown in McMinn County. At the height of slavery, there were only a small number of persons in the county owning more than half a dozen slaves.” McMinn County by C. Stephen Byrum pages 78 & 79

Posted in African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | 3 Comments

Prelude to Freedom

Slavery on the Cleage Plantations

This is a brief summary of Samuel, Alexander and David Cleage from 1810 to 1870 as the family went from owning no slaves to collectively owning over 120. These are the plantations on which the people in this series lived during slavery.

Samuel Cleage

Samuel Cleage

Samuel Cleage

Samuel Cleage was born in 1781 in Pennsylvania.  The family later moved to Botecourt, VA.  His father, Alexander Cleage, owned no slaves according to the Federal Censuses he appeared in.

Samuel worked as a building contractor in Virginia. In 1810 he was 29, had a household consisting of 7 white people and 1 enslaved person.  After his parents died in 1823 he moved his whole household to McMinn County, Tennessee.  He was about 42 years old. Read about the move at C is for Cleage Bricks.

The trip took several years because he stopped to build brick houses at farms along the way, collecting pay in gold and slaves.  Although some sources say that he arrived with hundreds of slaves and barrels of gold, the 1830 Census lists a household of 4 free whites and 15 enslaved blacks. After arriving, Samuel picked out a parcel of about 1,125 acres and using his slaves labor, built a fine brick house.  The land that Samuel Cleage bought was part of the land opened for white settlement when some Cherokee, hoping to profit from the already occurring influx of whites, signed the Calhoun Treaty.  It was called the Hiwassiee Purchase.

In a 1834 agreement between Samuel Cleage and his overseer, 7 slaves were named and 2 little boys were unnamed. Some of the tasks mentioned in the agreement are clearing land, distilling and planting. Article of Agreement Between Samuel Cleage and Overseer – 1834.

By 1840 the household consisted of himself and his wife and 23 slaves.  Eleven are involved in agriculture.  In the 1850 census Samuel and his wife shared their home with his son David, his wife and 2 small sons.  They now owned 31 slaves, 1,200 improved acres and 20 unimproved with a value of $20,500.  That translates to about $560.000 in today’s dollars. Samuel Cleage died in 1850 at age 69.

Alexander Cleage

Alexander Cleage

Alexander Cleage

Alexander Cleage, born in 1801, was the oldest son of Samuel and Mary Cleage.   He married Jemima Hurst in 1832 when he was 31.  She brought 4 enslaved women to the marriage.  They were named in her father Elijah Hurst’s Will.  The first census I found him was for 1840. There were 6 white family members and 4 slaves – 3 women and a boy. That is 1 less woman than the 4 that came to the marriage.

By 1850, Alexander was a bank officer.  There were 9 white family members and 31 slaves, 24 women and 7 males.  His real estate was worth $5,750.  In 1852 there was some moving around of slaves from Samuel Cleage’s estate and Alexander came into possession of 12 named slaves.  In 1857 there was a bill of sale for an unnamed slave.

In 1860, Alexander was a farmer with estate was worth $43,500 and a personal estate worth $55,000.  There were 7 family members, 52 slaves and 8 slave dwellings.  He wrote his Will that year and gave the names of the 12 slaves his wife received at her marriage and “their increase”, plus two men.  I only recognize 2 of the names as being the same as those in Elijah Hurst’s  Will.

In 1870, Alexander was a 69 year old farmer.  He owned land worth $40,000 and his personal estate was worth $20,000.  Two of his 2 children, a young man 23 and a girl 13, at home and both attended school during the past year. Everyone in the family was literate.  There are no slaves in the household, but the 16 year old live in black servant is illiterate and she has not attended school during the past year.

David Cleage

David Cleage

David Cleage

David Cleage was born in 1806 in Virginia.  I have 2 bills of sale for 3 named slave boys, ages 10, 11 and 13 for 1841 and 1842.  In 1846 David married Martha Bridgman.  She brought at least 1 enslaved girl with her, Charlotte who was about 10.

In 1850, David Cleage was 44. He was a cashier at the bank in Athens, TN.  His real estate is valued at $1,000.  He and his family are sharing a home with his parents.  He owns 32 slaves.

By 1860, the number has risen to 75 slaves living in 8 slave dwellings. He is still a cashier at the bank, real estate worth $2,000 and personal estate worth $90,000.  The household includes 5 family members and an overseer.

In 1870 David was 64,a   retired banker with real estate worth $18,700 and a personal estate worth $41,995.  All 7 people in the household are literate. The children between ages 21 and 8 attended school within the last year.

 Sources:  I used documents founds on Ancestry.com and Familysearch.com, several bills of sale that I have copies of, “The Cleage Slaves and the Bricks of History” by Joe Guy and “Botetourt County, Virginia Heritage Book – 1770-2000″

Posted in African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | 2 Comments

From Slavery to Freedom – 56 Former Cleage & Hurst Slaves

I pulled this list together using documents from the plantations of Samuel, Alexander and David Cleage and Elijah Hurst. All four were located in McMinn County, Tennessee. During 2015, I am going to go through the list and write about each person that I can find after Freedom in 1865. I completed 4 earlier.  You can read their story by clicking on the linked names.  I will start tomorrow with a general description of each plantation.

  1. Bill Cleage – 1807
  2. Henry Cleage – 1824
  3. Lea Cleage -
  4. Fannie Cleage -
  5. Peter Cleage – 1817
  6. Jerry Cleage – 1831
  7. Bob Cleage- 1830
  8. Jim Cleage 11832
  9. Big Annie Cleage
  10. Matilda Cleage
  11. Charity Cleage – 1838
  12. Caroline Cleage – 1836
  13. Jim Cleage  – 1822
  14. Joe Cleage  – 1844
  15. Sally Cleage  – 1842
  16. Arch Cleage  – 1836
  17. Margth Cleage   – 1838
  18. Charles Cleage  – b.1828
  19. Mary Cleage  – 1821
  20. Henry Cleage  – 1848
  21. Lydia Cleage   – 1851
  22. Joe Cleage  – 1808
  23. Jane Cleage  – 1834
  24. Lynd Cleage  – 1841
  25. Frank Cleage  – 1813
  26. Phillip Cleage  – 1831
  27. Lewis Cleage  – 1830
  28. Sam Cleage  – 1850
  29. Jeff Cleage  – 1837
  30. Martha Cleage  – 1831
  31. Lea Cleage  – 1818
  32. Julian Cleage  – 1809
  33. Patsy Cleage  – 1847
  34. Amy Cleage – 1825
  35. Jeff Cleage – 1858
  36. Juda Cleage – 1814
  37. Charles Cleage – 1848
  38. Angelen Cleage – 1850
  39. Lewis Cleage - 1852
  40. Laura Cleage – 1859
  41. Frank Cleage – younger than Laura
  42. Jane Cleage -
  43. Adaline Cleage -
  44. Tom Cleage -
  45. Frank Cleage – 1816
  46. Tom Lane Cleage -
  47. Harry Hurst
  48. Jeff Hurst
  49. Rachel Hurst
  50. Peter Hurst
  51. Auston Hurst
  52. Tom Hurst
  53. Nancy Hurst
  54. Judi Hurst
  55. Jerry Hurst
  56. Dorcus Hurst (bill of sale 29 Jan 1827)


Posted in African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | 11 Comments

Fannie Mae Turner about 1917

Another photograph that I am seeing for the first time, of my maternal grandmother Fannie Mae Turner soon to be Graham.  Written on the back of the postcard type photograph, it says “Fannie M. Turner before marriage

from pearl jan 2014

Fannie Mae Turner Graham 1888 – 1974.


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“Anthropoid, anthropoid, don’t kill me yet!”

antrhopoidMy sister Pearl as the anthropoid, about 1961 at Old Plank.

My family had a tradition of chasing the children around while acting like a monster.  My Uncle Louis was the master and didn’t need any sort of mask or costume to send us screaming into the lake at Idlewild.  He just twisted up his face and hands and came towards us and that was it.

My uncle Henry got the mask above from somewhere and incorporated that into the scary chases.  You had to holler out “Anthropoid, anthropoid, don’t kill me yet!”  when he got too close, in order to escape.  Aside from putting on the mask for photo ops, I remember once time we put it on, wrapped in a blanket and sat on the lawn toward the road where we hoped to scare drivers passing the house.  I don’t remember any wrecks so I guess no harm was done.

By the time my children came along, my cousin Warren used to take them on a bear hunt. I remember one time that he worked it out with another cousin to be out in the woods where he drove and stopped and told the kids, who as I remember were in the back of a pickup with a camper, that they were waiting there to see the bear.  The other cousin starting growling and knocking on the truck and finally my cousin drove off, it was dark or almost dark. He said they had a close escape.  Later, when we were all inside, the other cousin came around tapping on the windows.  The bear!

My cousin and me playing in the sand during the visit Louis chased her into the lake.

My cousin and me playing in the sand on the beach in Idlewild during the visit my uncle Louis chased her into the lake. July 1955.

Nobody was terrified of the bears or monsters, well maybe my cousin Barbara who did run into the lake, but mostly it was the enjoyable kind of being scared while knowing you are safe.


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Three Generations – 1939

Three Generations

Three Generations

From Left to right My grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, peeking over my greatgrandmother’s, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner’s, shoulder. My grandmother’s sister Daisy Turner. Behind and between Aunt Daisy and Aunt Alice Turner, is my aunt Mary Virginia Graham Elkins, although she was not yet an Elkins. At the end, behind Alice, is my mother, Doris Graham Cleage, although she was not yet married a Cleage either.

They are posed in Grandmother Turner’s backyard on the East Side of Detroit at 4536 Harding.  The house is gone now.  They look like they just came from Church, at Plymouth Congregational, however the photo is dated July 4, 1939 on the back.  July 4 was on a Tuesday that year. Maybe they went on a church picnic. My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham took the picture.

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Two Men In Hats – about 1918

Mystery friend of my grandfather Mershell C. Graham.

Mystery friend of my grandfather Mershell C. Graham.

Another fine friend of my grandfather. Unfortunately also another unlabeled photograph.  I think it was taken in Montgomery, Alabama around 1917 or so.  You can see the scotch tape my grandmother used to fasten the pictures in the black paged album.

My grandfather Mershell "Shell" Graham.

My grandfather Mershell “Shell” Graham.

This photograph of my grandfather was taken in the same place as the one of his friend above. Wherever that may be is lost in the mists of time.

Posted in Grahams, sepia saturday | Tagged | 13 Comments

Mystery Woman and Girl

mystery woman and girlThis bit of photograph was under another photograph in my Graham grandparent’s Black Album.  Unfortunately, I did not make a note of the photograph that I pried off of this one years ago.  Ah, the mistakes I made back then.

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