The Migration – From Montgomery to Detroit

Dock Allen was born around 1832 into slavery in Georgia.  He died free in 1909 in Montgomery Alabama.  He was a carpenter.  His mother, Matilda Brewster was born in Georgia into slavery.  I don’t know when or where she died.

Eliza Williams Allen was born into slavery about 1839 in Alabama.  She died free in Montgomery Alabama in 1917.  She was a seamstress.  Her mother, Anne Williams was born into slavery in South Carolina about 1820 and died free in Montgomery before 1900.

Dock and Eliza’s daughter Jennie Virginia Allen Turner was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1866.  She was a seamstress.  She died in 1954 in Detroit, Michigan.  In 1887 she married Howard Turner.  He was born in Lowndes County Alabama in 1864.  He was murdered in Alabama in 1892.  His father, Joe Turner, was born into slavery in Alabama about 1839. He was a farmer. He died free in Alabama in 1919.  Howard’s mother, Emma Jones, was born into slavery in South Carolina about 1840 and died free in Alabama in 1901.

Jennie and Howard’s daughter, Fannie Turner Graham was born in Lowndes County, AL in 1888.  She died in Detroit, Michigan in 1974.  She managed a grocery store before her marriage to Mershell C. Graham in 1919.  Mershell and both of his parents were born in Alabama.  Mershell moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1918.  In 1919 he returned to Montgomery to marry Fannie.  They both returned to Detroit immediately following the wedding where they roomed with friends from Montgomery for several years.  Mershell worked at Fords Motor Co. in the parts section.  When they were ready to buy their own house they sent for Fannie’s mother, Jennie and two sisters.  All of Fannie and Mershell’s children were born in Detroit.  In 1946 Fannie’s Aunt Abbie came up from Montgomery and lived with Mershell and Fannie until her death in 1966.

By the 1960s all of Dock and Eliza’s children and grandchildren had left Montgomery and were living in Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin and New York City.  Mershell’s relatives remained in Alabama but contact was lost and we don’t know what happened to them.  Joe and Emma’s children stayed in Lowndes County, some moving to Montgomery and Birmingham by the 1930 census.  Because my grandmother lost touch with them before leaving Alabama I only know by following the census where they went.  I believe some eventually moved to Chicago but I’ll have to wait for the 1940 census to verify.

My cousins and I grew up in Detroit surrounded by family on both sides, who had left Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee to end up there.  Of my grandparents five granddaughters, two remain in Detroit as do their children and grandchildren.  One now lives in California where the majority of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were born and live.  My sister and I, along with most of our children and grandchildren live in Atlanta Georgia.

3 thoughts on “The Migration – From Montgomery to Detroit”

  1. Naming those that migrated – I love this. And hate that the distance broke some links with the family that stayed.

    I went back and reread the letter your grandfather received from the friend who stayed in Alabama. So much of what you post stays with me.

  2. After I posted, I thought I should have talked about why they migrated, including linking to that letter you mention. guess i will have to do another post. i was thinking of looking up that friend and see where he finally ended up.

  3. Two of my dad's sisters migrated to Detroit from Hazelhurst, MS, during the 1940s. One remained until death, the other one returned to Mississippi.

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