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.
I was afraid I would be unable to find a “Z” name or word related to the pension files. I was overjoyed to find in my family tree a Zona Bayless. She was the sister-in-law of George Cleage, the George Cleage who remained in Athens, Tennessee. After inspecting the only census record in which Zona Bayless appears, I discovered that there was a transcription error and her name was actually Missouri. Missouri is the name she appeared under in the 1880 census before disappearing from the record.
Department of the Interior
Bureau of Pensions
May 12 1894
You are informed that the name George “Cleage” has not been found on the rolls of I.1st U.S.C.H.A. The correct spelling of clients name should be given and if he enlisted and served under any other name than this one he now bear he should state under oath what that name was and he should prove by at least two comrades that he is the identical person who so enlisted and served. His discharge certificate should be furnished if possible.
He also state whether other was any other soldier of the same or similar name in you Co. or Regt?
Joel I. Payatt
I wrote about the other George Cleage here George Cleage X 2. This post is about the George Cleage who lived in Athens, Tennessee.
George Cleage was born about 1845 in McMinn County, TN. His family was enslaved on Alexander Cleage’s plantation. His parents were Jim and Hulda Hurst and he had at least five siblings, including Abram Cleage who served in UscHeavy Artillary and Katie Cleage who was the widow of a U.S.C. Heavy Artillary soldier.“
I was unable to find George Cleage in the 1870 census. About that time he married Jemima Bayless, who was born into a free family of color about 1854 in McMinn County. I could not find her in the 1870 census either.
In 1880, George and Jemima Cleage had three young daughters, Anna, 6, Mary, 4 and Lizzie, 2 years old. George was employed as a laborer. Jemima was keeping house. Neither of them could read or write. In 1893, George applied for a pension. He did not follow through and it was dropped.
By 1900 George was a widower. Two of his daughters were enumerated with him in the 1900 census. Daughter Anna had married Frank Cunningham who died before 1900. Anna has one child with her husband, 2 year old Mazinia Cunningham. George’s daughter Lizzie was working as a cook. Both of the daughters were literate, George was not.
That is the last I found of George Cleage. Lizzie disappears soon after the 1900 census. She may be the Lizzie Cleage in Knoxville or she may not. Mary and Anna ended up in Indianapolis where they died in the 1920s. Anna is listed in the city directories as “Anna Cleage (widow of Frank) and that caused me some confusion because I thought she might have been a wife of my great grandfather Louis’ brother Frank Cleage, but that turned out not to be the case. She must have gone back to her maiden name after Frank Cunningham died. My grandfather and three of his siblings lived in Indianapolis at this time. I wonder if the two families crossed paths.