This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations with them.
Late last year, I ordered the Civil War Pension files of the Cleage men who served in 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during that war. Through these files I learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the pension files for this years challenge.
State of Tennessee
On this the 2nd day of March A.D. 1869 personally came before me a Justice of the Peace in and for the county and state above written Rose Shurman and Eliza Wilson, persons whom I certify to be credible and who being by me duly sworn declare that they were personally present at the birth of the following children born unto Nelson Reagan now deceased and his wife Susan Reagan viz. Philip Reagan born the 26th day of December 1857, Sarah Reagan born the 20th day of June 1860, Mary Susan Reagan born the 20th day of June 1864. That they remember the facts from private record of which the above is a copy of the names and dates and also from being present in the capacity of fellow servants and nurses and also from an intimate acquaintance with said children up to present date. They further declare that it was not customary to make church or other public record of the birth of children at the time and place of the birth of said children. They further declaim that they do not believe Mrs. Susan Reagan can produce better testimony than this affidavit in support of the dates of birth of said children as no physician was in attendance at said births and that they make this statement from personal knowledge having no interest whatsoever in the pension claim of Mrs. Susan Ragan.
Rose (Her X mark) Sherman
Eliza ( Her X Mark) Wilson
Attest T. A. Boyd/ N. F. Spielman
Sworn to and subscribed before me and at the same time personally comes Mrs. Susan Reagan who is well known to me to be the person she represents herself to be and who being by us duly sworn according to law declares that the foregoing is the best witness she can present in support of the birth of said children for the reason no church or other possible record was ever made of the births of said children nor was any physician called to see her as she was in a state of bondage and she further discloses that in her original declarations she stated her husband said Nelson Reagan deceased was a private and that she is now informed her husband was in Co. “C” 1st Reg. U.S. colored artillery heavy and that she thinks she was led to make this error by the defective means of giving true information at the time and that this statement is made to correct the former affidavit as declaration.
Susan (her Xmark) Reagan
Attest: T. A. Boyd W. T. Spielman
Sworn to and subscribed before me and I certify that the contents of the foregoing declaration were carefully read and properly explained before signing and that I have no interest in the Pension claim of Mrs. Reagan. T.T. Butter
State of Tennessee Monroe County Justice of the Peace
Susan Rice Ragan gave birth to five children. The first two were born before her marriage to Nelson Ragan. My great grandmother Celia’s father was said to be a member of the slave holding Rice family. The only maiden name I had known her to have was “Rice”. Perhaps her older brother Henry was a Rice too. That is why they were not included in the pension, although they were young children, they weren’t the soldier’s children.
After I realized that this was my great great grandmother’s pension file, I checked to make sure that Susan Ragan wasn’t W.R. Sherman’s first wife’s mother. she wasn’t. I looked for “Susan Ragan” in the 1870 census and found her with five children. One of them was my great grandmother, Celia. I had been looking for my great grandmother as Celia Rice in the 1870 census for years but, could never find her. That was because her first name was Ann, which I did not know until I found her death certificate a few years ago. In this census the whole family was listed as “Ragan”.
The Ragan household was number ten on the census sheet in 1870. The number for the household of my Cleage 2 X great grandparents, Frank and Juda and their children, including my great grandfather Louis, was five.
I next looked for Susan Ragan in the 1880 census, but was unable to find her. I found her in the 1900 census, but not in the 1910 census. Finally, I decided to add Susan Rice Ragan to my family tree as my great grandmother ‘s mother. Immediately, I found her in the missing censuses using the name “Rice”. Susan Ragan had come up as “Rice” after I added her to the tree because my great grandmother’s father was a member of the slave holding Rice family and so I had ” unknown Rice” as her father’s name. Ancestry attached the name to her mother as a former spouse. So Ancestry searched for her under both “Ragan” and “Rice”.
In the 1880 census Susan and two of her children, Philip and Mary (Mollie) were living in Athens, TN. On the same sheet was William Roger Sherman with his first wife and their children and Sallie Cleage and her children. You may notice that Susan’s age here is given as “30”, making her nine years older than her son Philip. In the 1870 census, she was listed as being “40”. Ages in census records are not to be trusted.
By 1880 my great grandmother Celia was married to Louis Cleage and they were living in rural Louden County TN with four children. Henry Rice was no where to be found. Sarah/Sally was working as a servant in a white household in McMinn County.