Virgil Cleage

821px-Miner._Gilliam_Coal_and_Coke_Company,_Gilliam_Mine,_Gilliam,_McDowell_County,_West_Virginia._-_NARA_-_540803

Black coal miner in McDowell, West Virginia.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee and their descendents. Click on any image to enlarge. Click on links for more information.

Virgil Cleage was born free in 1884, the sixth of the nine surviving children of Jefferson and Rachael Cleage.  His father was a coal miner in Rhea County, Tennessee. Virgil was literate and worked as a laborer, probably in the mines.  The children in this family attended school.

In 1906 Virgil married Lillian Brown.  In 1910 they were living in Anderson, Tennessee and Virgil worked in the coal mines there.  His sister Emma and her family lived next door.  Her husband was also a miner.  Virgil’s first three children were born in Tennessee, Agnew was 3, Thelma was 1 and Beatrice was 7 months old.  They rented their house on Wind Rock Road.

McDowell Coal.

McDowell Coal.

Their fourth daughter, Bernice, was born in 1916 in Kentucky. Perhaps they tried the Kentucky coal mines for a short time before moving to McDowell County, West Virginia. Here is a bit about the West Virginia Mines.

“West Virginia’s southern coal fields were not opened until about 1870, though they were known to exist much earlier. One of the major southern coal fields was the Flat Top-Pocahontas Field, located primarily in Mercer and McDowell counties. The Flat Top Field first shipped coal in 1883 and grew quickly from that time. Individual mining operations were consolidated into large companies, and Pocahontas Fuel Company, organized in 1907, soon dominated the other companies in McDowell County.

“On March 12, 1883, the first carload of coal was transported from Pocahontas in Tazewell County, Virginia, on the Norfolk and Western Railway. This new railroad opened a gateway to the untapped coalfields of southwestern West Virginia, precipitating a dramatic population increase. Virtually overnight, new towns were created as the region was transformed from an agricultural to industrial economy. With the lure of good wages and inexpensive housing, thousands of European immigrants rushed into southern West Virginia. In addition, a large number of African Americans migrated from the southern states. The McDowell County black population alone increased from 0.1 percent in 1880 to 30.7 percent in 1910.”

Vulcan_Mine_-_Powellton__WV_-_Copy

Virgil continued to work in the West Virginia coal mines for more than ten years. Three more daughters and a son were born there. Mattie Belle was born in 1922, Irene was born in 1924, Ophelia was born in 1925 and Harold in 1927.

The winter of 1927/1928 was a hard one for the family.  A week before Thanksgiving Day on November 18, 1927, Virgil’s wife Lillian died of pulmanary tuburculousous. She was 44 years old. Her youngest child was not yet a year old.  The oldest daughter was seventeen.  In February of 1928 both Irene and Harold died of pneumonia. Irene was four and Harold was barely a year old.  That same year oldest son Agnew married Grace Womac and moved to Columbus, Ohio where he worked in the steel mills.

In 1930 the family lived in Browns Creek, Mcdowell County.  They seemed to have moved around a fair amount.  They rented their house for $10 a month.  Virgil worked as a coal loader in the mines.  I found descriptions of the job of coal loader here Who Is A Coal Miner?

“Loaders, inside, bituminous.—Shoot or blast coal from veins or beds after it has been undercut by machine miners and then load the coal into cars with coal-loading machines. In some mines they do the timbering; that is, set props or timbers to prevent the falling of slate, stone, and earth into the rooms of the mines; also lay tracks in rooms of mines and keep rooms in good working condition.

“Loaders, outside, anthracite.—Load coal into railroad cars and refuse into mine cars.”

Virgil’s daughter Thelma had married a coal miner and lived next door to her father.  The other four children lived at home. Beatrice was working as a maid. She had a daughter, Lunetta, a little over a year old. Bernice, 13 and Mattie Belle, 8 were in school.  Lunetta died a month later.  She was a year and eight months old.

Miner's children playing in Gary, McDowell County, WV.

Miner’s children playing in Gary, McDowell County, WV.

By 1936, Virgil had moved to Columbus, Ohio  where he lived with his son Agnew and family. The younger children remained in West Virginia with their older sister Thelma. Virgil Cleage died in on October 9, 1938 in Columbus Ohio.  He was 54 years old.

________________

I had almost finished writing this when I decided to Google Virgil Cleage. Through that search I found Irene and Harold and marriages, children and deaths for the other children. I found several death certificates, freely available online. Now I guess I should go back and Google everybody else I have written about.

West Virginia Coal Miners and Coal Camps – Excellent photographs taken during 1935 – 1937  for the Farm Security Administration The exhibit features the work of two photographers, Ben Shahn and Marion Post Wolcott.

Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | 11 Comments

Big Afro And A Baby

December 1970. Me and my oldest daughter.

December 1970. Me and my oldest daughter.  At my mother’s house, Detroit.

Posted in Cleages, sepia saturday | Tagged | 31 Comments

United States Colored Troops & Cleages

U.S. Colored Troops 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment, Knoxville Tennessee.  I like to think the men I studied are pictured here.

U.S. Colored Troops 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment, Knoxville Tennessee. I think the men I studied are pictured.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee and their descendents. Click on any image to enlarge. (Parts of this post were published previously on this blog.)

When I began looking for the Cleage free men and women after 1865, I found several men had enlisted in Company A, U.S. Colored Troops 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment based in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Knoxville is about 60 miles from Athens, depending on which route you take.  McMinn county is in the Appalachian mountain range, so it was not a straight, flat walk.  I have identified 8 Cleage men who enlisted. They enlisted at different times and I wish I knew the story of how they decided to leave, how they got away and how they made their way 60 mile to Knoxville to enlist.

Routes from Athens to Knoxville, distance and time it would take to walk from Google Maps.

Routes from Athens to Knoxville, distance and time it would take to walk from Google Maps.

1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery

Overview:  Organized at Knoxville, Tenn., February 20, 1864. Attached to 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, 23rd Corps, Dept. of Ohio, to February, 1865. 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, District of East Tennessee, Dept. of the Cumberland, to March, 1865. 1st Brigade, 4th Division, District of East Tennessee, to March, 1866.

Service:  Duty at Knoxville, Tenn., till January, 1865. Operations against Wheeler in East Tennessee August 15-25, 1864. Operations in Northern Alabama and East Tennessee January 31-April 24, 1865. Stoneman’s operations from East Tennessee into Southwestern Virginia and Western North Carolina February to April. At Greenville and in District of East Tennessee till March, 1866. Mustered out March 31, 1866. From: The Civil War Archives– Union Regimental Histories.

Below, Mitchel Capel recites “W’en Dey ‘listed Colored Soldiers”.  A poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar.  His father, Joshua Dunbar, was a member of the United States Colored Troops.

Here are the Cleages that joined the USCT in Knoxville. The names were spelled differently, often even within one man’s records.  David Hamilton was married to Florence Cleage.  Isaac Turk was formerly enslaved on David Cleage’s plantation and was married to Fannie Cleage.  Jefferson Cleage was also in the USCT, although his name doesn’t appear here, it does appear in pension records.

First Name Last Name Battery Rank_In Rank_Out
Abraham Clegg I Private Private
Charles A. Clegg A Private Corporal
George Clegg I Private Private
Hiram Clegg A Private Corporal
Philip Clegg A Private Sergeant
Abraham Cleig I Private Private
George Cleig I Private Private
Isaac Turk A Private Private
David Hamilton I Private Private
Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | 2 Comments

Tennessee Cleage

gdpp_0001_0001_0_img0013For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee and their descendents. Click on any image to enlarge.

Tennessee Cleage was my great grandfather Louis Cleage’s younger sister.  She was born into slavery about 1864 on Alexander Cleage’s plantation in Athens, TN.  I found her living with my great grandfather, Louis Cleage’s family in 1880. My great grandfather Louis Cleage was 28.  His wife Celia (Rice) Cleage was 24. They were farming in Loudon County Tennessee. They had been married for 8 years and were the parents of four children – 7 year old Josie, 5 year old Jacob, 3 year old Henry and 1 year old Edward.  Louis’ 20 year old sister, Tennessee lived with them along with 5 year old Louseny.  Their 5th child, my grandfather Albert,  would not be born until 1882.  None of the adults could read or write.  The children were too young to attend school.

athens overview wide

A view of the area about 1920.

The 1880 Agricultural Census Schedule that includes Louis Cleage are in poor condition.  Parts of it are unreadable because they are blackened. Other parts are pale and blurry making them difficult to read.  This is the information I could make out.  He rented his land for shares of his crops.  He had 15 tillable acres and 5 acres in woodland and forest. The farm, buildings, land and fences were worth $150. Farm implements and machinery were worth $125. The livestock was worth $125. He had 1 milch cow and produced 25 lbs of butter in 1879. I was unable to read if he had any swine, chickens, mules or horses, I hope he did. He had no working oxen.   He planted 25 acres of Indian corn, yielding 100 bushels. He planted 5 acres of oats, yielding 25 bushels and 5 acres of wheat that yielded 25 bushels.  I think that Tennessee would have helped on the farm.

Tennessee disappears for twenty years. The census record for Loudon County has many bad spots where it’s impossible to make out names and the rural area  she lived in, did not have a city dirctory, so she does not appear again until 1910. Tennessee lived with her sister Angeline Cleage Rhea and her husband Jacob in Loudon County, TN.  Her age was listed as 46.  Jacob did general farm labor. Angeline and Tennessee had no occupation given.  Tennessee had no children and was single. She could not read or write.  Angeline and Jacob were literate.

On April 19, 1912 Tennessee died of Inflammatory Rheumatism.  This type of reumatism causes the joints to become inflamed and eventually damages the internal organs.  My grandfather’s brother, Edward Cleage suffered with it, as did one of his daughters.  On the certificate Tennessee’s occupation is listed as “domestic”. The disease probably made it difficult for her to pursue any physical type of work in her later years.  Her age was listed as 45.

This is another example of records giving contradictory ages.

Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | Tagged | 6 Comments

Sallie Cleage

Unidentified woman.

Unidentified woman standing in for Sallie Cleage

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee and their descendents. Click on any image to enlarge.

 The first thing I noticed about Sallie Cleage as I started writing about her life, were the wildly differing birth dates.  They ranged from 1817 to 1841. I believe the death record saying she was born about 1823 is closest to the truth.  If she was born in 1841, her oldest child would have been born when she was 4 years old.  If she was born in 1817, she would have been 103 when she died in 1914.

Sallie Cleage was born into slavery about 1823 in Tennessee. Her mother’s name was Silver Baver.  Sallie and Clinton Cleage had fourteen children together, most of them born during slavery. By 1900, only five were living. I have already written about three of them – Amanda Cleage, Nelson Cleage and Lydia Cleage.

1870 Census

1870 Census

Clinton died about 1869.  In 1870 Sallie lived in Athens TN with six of her children. None of them can read or write and only the oldest at home, Lydia attended school.  She owned no property and her personal property was worth $250.  She was keeping house. Nobody in the household is listed as working outside of the home.

1880 census

1880 Census

In 1880 Sallie and seven of her children are living together in the same house as 1870. Roger William Sherman, who later married my great grandmother, lived next door.  Nelson worked as a laborer. Mary was the only literate member of the household. None of the children were attending school and nobody else had a job.  The 1890 U.S. Census was destroyed in a fire so we have to skip to the 1900 census.

1900 Census

1900 Census

In 1900 Sallie owned her house free of mortgage.  Her son Robert, his wife and son, along with Sallie’s granddaughter, Rosie Smith, shared her home.  Robert worked as a dining room servant. He was literate.  Sallie and his wife were without employment. Rosie attended school for 4 months. Robert’s son, Thomas Cleage, was not old enough for school.

Sallie’s daughter Sallie Cleage Waterhouse, lived down the street.  All of the children in herhousehold attended school.  She and her husband were able to read.  He and his oldest son worked as laborers.

sally marsh cleage death certifOn April 1, 1914, Sallie Cleage died of bronchial pneumonia.  Her daughter Amanda Cleage was the informant. She was 93 years old.

________________

When I started writing Sallie Cleage’s life, I thought that it was a full one because she appeared as mother on so many death certificates. As I wrote, I began to feel that I had been wrong because nothing really seemed to happen. I was wrong, she did live a full life. It was full of her family. She lived to live free and to see her children and grandchildren learn to read and write.  Her husband, Clinton, died so soon after freedom. She gave birth to 14 children and saw nine of them die before she did.   It is easy to forget overlook what those deaths must have meant to her when we have no record of when or how they died.

Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Ralph “Pete” Cleage

Ralph Pete Cleage

Ralph “Pete” Cleage. 1920 – age 22.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee and their descendents. Click on any image to enlarge.

Ralph “Pete” Cleage was born January 25, 1898 in Athens, Tennessee. He was part of the second generation of his family born free.  The son of Florence Cleage and grandson of Jerry Cleage,  he grew up surrounded by extended family. Ralph, his mother and his siblings Harriett and William, lived with his Aunt Nellie Cleage Deadrick and her daughter Delia, until he was about 21. Florence was a cook and Nellie was a laundress. The children all attended school. Ralph completed three years of high school. He worked as a laborer and as a truckman for the railroad.  Ralph was 5’11”, weighted 180 lbs and had dark hair and dark eyes.

Ralph’s mother Florence,  died 0n June 4, 1918 of typhoid fever. She was 40 years old.  She was buried in Hammond’s cemetery.  Ralph’s grandfather Jerry Cleage died the following year on March 28, 1919 of arteriolosclerosis.  He was 92 years old.

The next year found Ralph playing baseball with the Knoxville Giants, a black baseball team.  He played first base and later became a respected umpire.  The players worked other jobs to support themselves as they did not make enough to live on.  You can find more articles on Knoxville’s black baseball players Old Knoxville Baseball by clicking the link.

Ralph married Carrie Sweat about 1934.   He lived in Knoxville and eventually moved to Nashville where he continued his baseball career.  He worked as a watchman and a laborer to supplement his income. You can see his Baseball Stats at this link.  Here are a few articles from that page that mention Ralph Cleage.

TheJournalAndTribuneHeader-nodate1st base 1920 pete cleage

The Journal and Tribune - June 8, 1921

The Journal and Tribune – June 8, 1921

The Journal and Tribune - June 29, 1921

The Journal and Tribune – June 29, 1921

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Journal and Tribune - June 22, 1921

The Journal and Tribune – June 22, 1921

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ralph died on October 29, 1977.  He was 79 years old. Because he died so recently, his death certificate is not available online.  Ralph is buried in Crestview Cemetery, the largest black cemetery in Knoxville.  Like many of the African American cemeteries I have found during this challenge, it started out well kept and went into a decline in the 1960s until it was covered in brush and weeds. A clean up effort started in 1990 and it is reported to be in much better condition now.

Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Questions Answered About Amanda Clegg

This is not Amanda Clegg. Photo from this site

Not Amanda Clegg.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee. Click on any image to enlarge.

As I was researching Abraham and Amanda Cleage who started in Athens, TN and went to Austin, TX and on to Los Angeles, CA, I came across another Abram and Amanda in Little Rock Arkansas. I first found Amanda and her card from the Freedman’s Bank in Little Rock.  This was the first and only such card I have come across.  Below is her story as I pieced it together.

Amanda's Freeman's bank card, below is the card of the woman she worked for.

Amanda’s Freeman’s bank card on the left.  On the right is the card of the woman she worked for.

Amanda was born into slavery about 1858 on the plantation of Thomas Watts Clegg in Jefferson County Arkansas. She was the daughter of Abram and Fanny Clegg.  There were a total of twelve slaves and two slave dwellings.  Amanda’s younger brother Benjamin was born in  1867. Her father, Abram, died soon after Benjamin’s birth.

The family lived in Jefferson County until Amanda was nine years old when they moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.  In the 1870 census, Fanny said she was born in Tennessee. Fanny worked as a cook while Amanda worked as a servant. She opened an account with the Freedman’s Bank in 1871 and was able to sign her own name.  I hope she did not lose much money when the bank failed in 1874.

Benjamin married and had a son, Benjamin Jr., who was born in 1892 in Arkansas. Amanda married a Mr. Love in Arkansas. both of these marriages ended, due to death or divorce.  Their mother Fanny died before the move to Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1893  twenty five year old Amanda married Hezekiah Powell, age forty three, in Kansas City. Benjamin joined them and shared their home through the years while working as a porter and later a bootblack. Hezekiah owned and operated restaurants and hotels through 1911. Amanda worked as housekeeper, cook and laundress.  She gave birth to one child who died young.

Around 1912 Hezekiah went into the shoeshine business for the next 28 years. Benjamin worked as a boot black in his brother-in-law’s business. Amanda worked off and on as a servant or maid.

On January 2, 1929 Benjamin died in an automobile accident that resulted in a fractured skull. Amanda was the informant on the death certificate. She reported that he was married, that his parents were Abram Clegg and Fanny Clegg, and that  Fanny was born in Tennessee.  Benjamin was 62 years old.

On September 28, 1932, Hezekiah died when he fell asleep while smoking and set the himself on fire. Once again, Amanda was the informant on the death certificate. He was born in South Carolina. She did not know who his parents were. Hezekiah was 82 years old.

On December 20, 1936, Amanda died of heart problems. The informant was Pearl Smith from Chicago and she did not know the names of Amanda’s parents. Amanda was 78 years old.

I hope the living of their lives was not as hard and sad as the reading about them was.

_________________

Were they were tied to my Athens, TN Cleages. I think they were not.  Another question that came up was, if the Amanda who married Hezekiah was Amanda Clegg because she was listed on the marriage record as Amanda Love.  I was unable to find a  marriage record for Amanda and Mr. Love but, she said on the 1900 census that this was her 2nd marriage and after comparing all the addresses for Benjamin and the Powell’s over the years and finding that they lived together so much of the time I concluded that she was Amanda Clegg.  Finding Benjamin’s death certificate with Amanda as the informant sealed the case for me.

Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | Tagged , | 5 Comments

P is for Pearl Cleage

AppalacianExpo

The Appalachian Exposition was held in Knoxville in 1910. My grandparents (Albert and Pearl Cleage) went there on a trip to Athens soon after they were married. I hope the other Pearl Cleage was also to attend.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee. Most  are not related to me by blood, although our families came off of the same plantations – those of Samuel, Alexander and David Cleage.   Click on any image to enlarge.

I feel like I am sketching out the basic outline for a deeper and richer story. I really don’t have time to do them justice during this challenge. Hopefully I will work more on them after I recover from the A to Z Challenge.

Pearl’s father Peter Cleage was born into slavery in 1817 in Alabama. He ended up in McMinn County Tennessee. In 1870 he and his wife Nellie, were living next door to my 2X great grandparents, Frank and Juda Cleage, and their family. Peter owned no property worth mentioning and worked as a laborer. He was 53. Nellie was 52.

Nellie died soon after this census was taken. In 1871, Peter Cleage married Margaret Guthrie.  He was 54 and she was 20.  They had 7 children together.  Five of them lived to grow up.  The parents were unable to read or write but all of their children were literate.

Family View - Printer Friendly - Ancestry.com

Peter and Margaret (Guthrie) Cleage’s Family Tree.

Pearl was born in 1887.  She is a part of the same generation as my grandparents.

Pearl’s sister Lydia Cleage (This is a different Lydia Cleage than the one that appeared as L is for Lydia Cleage) married Harrison Boyce in 1899. Pearl Cleage was eight years old in 1900. Peter Cleage was dead.  Margaret, and two of her daughters (Pearl and Angelina) moved from Athens to Knoxville to live with Lydia and her husband.  Her older daughter, Susan married and remained in Athens for the rest of her life.

Harrison, Lydia’s husband, worked as a day laborer.  This extended family continued to share housing for several years. Margaret and Angeline sometimes worked as cooks and other times they took in laundry. Harrison worked as a porter and then a janitor.

After 1909, Angelina disappears. I am afraid she died.  Margaret was eventually able to buy place a place of her own for herself and her daughter Pearl. For the next few years, Pearl worked as a laundress and Margaret as a cook, soon both were cooks.

Pearl’s future husband, Blaine McGee was born and grew up in Athens. In 1914 he was twenty eight years old, moved to Knoxville  and opened an “Eating House”, as it was advertised in the city directory.  In 1914 Pearl was a cook in Blaine’s restaurant.  The two were married in 1917.  The next year they celebrated the birth of their son, Blaine Jr. Sadly, they also experienced the deaths of Mother Margaret on January 8, 1918 and of Amitra, Lydia and Harrison’s 13 year old daughter who died 22 October 1918.  Pearl’s daughter was born two years later. They named her Margaret after her Pearl’s mother.

Pearl and Blaine lived above their restaurant on 317 S. Central, for over forty years. During all of these years, Pearl’s sister, Susan Cleage Gibson lived and raised her family in Athens. I wondered if any of her children moved to Knoxville. I could find no evidence that they did.

Pearl Cleage McGhee died in Knoxville General Hospital of a stroke on October 24 1938. She was fifty one years old. Her husband Blaine was the informant. Pearl is buried in the Southern Chain Cemetery.  Southern Chain is an historic black cemetery located in an area of Knoxville where there are several such cemeteries.  They had fallen into neglect and are presently being rehabilitated.

Blaine McGhee continued to cook and run his restaurant for fifteen more years, until his death on August 20, 1953 of carcinoma of the stomach.

Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | 7 Comments

Orlena Cleage

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee. Most  are not related to me by blood, although our families came off of the same plantations – those of Samuel, Alexander and David Cleage.   Click on any image to enlarge.

Orlena Cleage was born into slavery about 1855 in McMinn County, Tennessee. I don’t know which Cleages are her people.  Orlena appears as a 15 year old in the 1870 Census living with Louis and Malinda (Brigeman) Evans in Athens.  Orlena doesn’t have any occupation listed. This is the same household where we found Lydia Cleage in 1870.  She never appears with a Cleage family and I cannot find her death certificate.

Orlena Cleage appears once more, on the death certificate of her son, Robert Leonard Brown, born 1893 in Rockwood, Tennessee and died in Jefferson County Ohio in 1945. His father’s name is listed as Iziah Brown.  Leonard’s wife, Ida Brown was the informant.

Leonard's Death Certificate with Orlena named as his mother.

Leonard’s Death Certificate with Orlena named as his mother.  He was called Robert Leonard here, but in most records he was known by his middle name, Leonard.

I easily followed Leonard through his life via records but all I am going to tell you is that he had four children – Harold Clark, Gertrude Brown, Robert Brown and Charles Brown. . In the 1920 Census Leonard was living in Ohio and was a boarder in his future wife’s home.  The other border was Henry Cleage from Tennessee. In 1940 he was a stopper setter in a steel mill

One day when this challenge is over, I will go back and try to tie up all the lose ends and figure which of several Henry Cleage’s that was and if he was related to Orlena, but for tonight I am calling it a wrap.

Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Nelson Cleage

martet_street_1909

Market Street. Chattanooga, TN. 1909.  Market was the main business street in Chattanooga.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee. Most  are not related to me by blood, although our families came off of the same plantations – those of Samuel, Alexander and David Cleage.   Click on any image to enlarge.

 Nelson Cleage was born into slavery around 1850. His parents were Clinton and Sallie Cleage. Two of his siblings have had their stories told, Lydia Cleage Glass and Amanda Cleage.  He lived with his widowed mother and siblings in Athens, Tennessee until moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee about 1866. He started working for E.S. Nixon & Son, Florists, Nurserymen and Seedsmen and Dealers in Agricultural Implements.  He started off as a laborer and eventually listed his occupation as florist.

An advertisment for the Florist Nelson Cleage worked for from 1866-1917.

An advertisement for the Florist Nelson Cleage worked for from 1866-1917.

Some of the Athens Cleages in the Chattanooga City Directory. 1902.

Chattanooga City Directory. 1902.

In 1891 Nelson married Annie Wright.  She was literate. Nelson was not. Their daughter Rosa was born in 1897.  There was quite a little community of Cleage’s from Athens in Chattanooga. They came and they left. Here is a selection from one year. You will notice the little ‘c’ after some names.  That stands for “colored”.

This item was so stereotypical that I didn't really want to use it.  You will note Nelson is mentioned half way down.  Why this was newsworthy for a respected black newspaper all the way in Indianapolis, I do not know.

This item was so stereotypical that I didn’t really want to use it. You will note Nelson is mentioned toward the end.

Last Thursday Nelson Cleage and Thomas Hopkins became involved in a quarrel over a watermelon, which resulted in Cleage receiving a severe cut in the head and Hopkins being shot in the hand and thigh.  Neither are fatally injured.  July 14, 1894. 

The way the stories are all run together makes it difficult to know where one stops and the next begins.  Did this happen at the 4th of July church barbecue? I doubt it.  Why this was newsworthy for a respected black newspaper all the way in Indianapolis, I do not know, but it shows that small local stories were shared far and wide. On second thought, it reminds me of items a small town newspaper.  It shows a different aspect of Nelson’s life.  One of my great grandfather’s on my other side of the family was shot to death at a barbecue in Montgomery, Alabama about this same time.  I wonder if I will ever find an item about that.

Annie was dead by 1910 and Nelson was listed as a widower on the census for that year. Thirteen year old Rosa was attending school.  Both she and Nelson were able to read and write.  I wonder if Annie taught him before she died.

I found a death certificate for Leroy Cleage, Nelson’s son was born about 1910 in Chattanooga. His mother’s maiden name was listed as Hazel Frances. In 1917 Nelson died from pneumonia. The death certificate says that he was married. Perhaps he and Hazel married. His sister Sallie Cleage was the informant.  His body was returned to Athens for burial.

Neson’s son Leroy died when he was eight years old in 1918. Nelson’s daughter Rosa married a man by the last name of Brooks.  They had a son, Don Aldron Brooks in California. She died in California in 1995.  He was in the military for a short period of time and died of natural causes in 1997.

You can read something about   Chattanooga’s Black Community at this link.

Posted in A-Z Challenge 2015, African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, Cleages | Tagged | 6 Comments