Betsy & John Graham – Autauga County Alabama

header ato z 2016This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I will be writing about people who were born into slavery and were later free.  In a few cases I will be writing about the descendants of enslaved people who were born free.  They are not related to me.

List of enslaved from the estate file of William A. Graham 1860. Click to enlarge.
List of enslaved from the estate file of William A. Graham 1860. Click to enlarge.

Betsey Graham was born into slavery about 1848 in Alabama. In 1860 she is found on the list, shown above, of Judge William Archibald Graham’s slaves. Her husband John is also listed.  The list appears to be arranged in family groups with parents and their children in descending age together.  Betsey’s parents were Manuel and Elsie Graham. John’s mother was Rose.

Judge Graham’s plantation in Autauga County Alabama was a far cry from James Hardage Lane’s farm in Montgomery County Kentucky that I described yesterday.  Judge Graham’s plantation consisted of 300 improved and 700 unimproved acres.  There were 4 horses; 14 asses and mules; 300 swine; 10 milch cows; 4 working oxen and 56 other cattle.  $800 worth of stock was slaughtered. In 1850 the livestock was valued at $4,400. $1,000 in 1850 money equals about $30,000 of buying power today.

Crops included 30 bushels of rye; 4,000 bushels of Indian corn; 50 bushels of oats; 100 bales of ginned cotton weighing 400 lbs per bale; 400 bushels of peas and beans; 10 bushels of Irish potatoes; 400 bushels of sweet potatoes; 300 lbs of butter and 30 tons of hay.

In the 1860 census Judge Graham was a planter with $29,000 worth of real estate and $64,000 worth of personal property (which included slaves).  His 39 slaves lived in six cabins. When his estate was being valued there were 56 slaves on the plantation.  He was married once and had nine children.  All of them were literate.

The first census taken in Alabama after the Civil War was in 1866.  John and Betsy were married with two children under the age of 10. In 1870 they had three children. Martha was the oldest at eight, Alice was five and Richard was three. John worked as a farm laborer and Betsy worked as a domestic servant. They were both illiterate and remained so for the rest of their lives.

In 1880 John was working as a laborer. Betsy was working as a servant. Richard, was the only child still at home. He was 16, attending school and working as a laborer.  He was literate.  I realize that Richard was three only ten years before in the 1870 census.That’s the way it goes.  You have to take the ages in the census with a grain of salt. He was probably 13. His parents had gained 20 years between 1870 and 1880.

In 1900 John and Betsy were no longer living together. John, 55 lived with his mother, Rose in a rented house. He worked as a laborer. Betsy, also listed as 55 and lived with Eliza Graham Fay, one of Judge Graham’s daughters.  Betsy was the cook. She had given birth to three children and two were living. John and Betsy were listed as widow and widower.  It was not uncommon for separated couples to claim their spouse was dead.

In 1900, of the three children, I could only find the daughter Alice who had married to Brag Green, a laborer. They had been married ten years and had two children ages nine and seven who were both attending school.  They rented their house.

In 1910 John was living alone and working as a laborer on a truck farm. John listed himself as single. Betsy was living with the Booth family as cook.  I did not look to see if the Booth family was related to the Grahams. Betsy listed herself as a widow. Daughter Alice was a widow working as a nurse for a private family and living with her 17 year old daughter, Bula in a rented house. Bula was literate, Alice was not.

The last time I found any of the family was in the 1930 census. Betsy 81, was living with her daughter Alice 62 in a rented house worth $1. Neither was working.  The only death record I found was for Alice.  She died in 1932 in Hayneville, Lowndes County Alabama. She had been working as a cook for a private family and was a widow.


I found the information for this post in various census records; death records; marriage records on and Family Search.  The Estate file of William Archibald Graham was on Family Search.

Allen Lane – Born 1810 in Kentucky

header ato z 2016

evening twilight blog
Evening Twilight   J.J.Lankes

This is my first offering for the 2016 A to Z Challenge.  This is my 4th year and I will be writing about people who were born into slavery and were later free.  In a few cases I will be writing about the descendants of enslaved people who were born free.


“…It is my will that my four Negroes be free at my death, namely Perry, Allen, Frazer, and Mariah, and that my sons Henry S. Lane and Higgins Lane by my Executors to execute this my will. In witness thereof I hereunto set my name this 22nd day of July 1841.

James H. Lane

I also will that Samuel Stone and Newton Reid be my Executors in connexion with Henry S. Lane and Higgins Lane as aforesaid. In testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand this 28th September 1846. I also do will to Perry (note: from census records I believe this name should be Jerry) and to Allen and to Frazer their Horses as known by the name of their horses at present.


James H. Lane, the slave owner who wrote the above Will, was born in Virginia and moved to Kentucky where he farmed. He outlived 2 wives and left a third a widow when he died in 1846. He had 8 children and 4 slaves.

Allen Lane was born into slavery about 1810,  Jerry about 1794, Frazier in 1808 and Mariah about 1816.  Slaves were not enumerated by name in censuses. In the 1810 through 1840 census no one in the household was enumerated by name except the head of household.  Looking at those censuses we find that James Hardage Lane had 4 slaves.

Now I enter the area of speculation in creating a timeline for their lives.  In 1810 age ranges were not given, just the total number so perhaps there was an enslaved woman.  Three of them were probably baby and toddler Allen and Frazier, the child Jerry.  Mariah was not born until 6 years later so perhaps there was a grown woman of childbearing age who was mother of the younger children.

In 1820 James H. Lane again still 4 slaves.  This time age ranges are given and he had 2 males under 14 (probably Frazier and Allen), 1 male 14 – 25 (probably Jerry) and 1 female under 14 (Probably Mariah).  These four slaves gained 10 years in the 1830 and 1840 censuses. In 1841 James H. Lane wrote the above Will.  In 1846 he died and Allen, Frazier, Jerry and Mariah were free.

In 1850 they were enumerated along with the general population, as were 165 other free black people in Montgomery County, Kentucky.  Allen(40), Jerry(56) and Frazier(42) were living together. They were laborers, probably on farms. Mariah(34) was  nearby living with one of James H. Lanes daughters and her family, Evalina Lane Reid.

Allen Lane was the father of four children born during slavery. They were not living with him, either before or after slavery. I was unable to find them until the 1870 census.  They were Maria born in 1837, Margaret born in 1838, Amelia born in 1844 and Thomas born in 1850.  Although Allen Lane’s name appears on their death certificates no mother is named.

I was unable to find him in the 1860 census, but in 1870 Allen Lane was 60 years old.  He was enumerated as a mulatto living in Sharpsburg, Bath county Kentucky in a large household. He was a laborer. Mariah Lane, 50 years old and a 10 year old girl, Malinda Lane were among the group.  They were listed as black with no employment. None of the three were literate and Malinda was not in school.

In 1880 Allen Lane was enumerated in Hamilton County Ohio, College Hill with his daughter Amelia Lane Franklin and her family. This time his birth year is given as 1793 and his age as 87. According to the 1810 birthdate used before, he would have been 70. He is listed as a widower. Both Allen and Amelia’s husband Benjamin are listed as laborers.  There are 5 children in the home, all born in Ohio. 15 year old Anna is working and literate.  9 year old Margaret  and 8 year old Matilda are in school and can read and write. The two youngest children are 5 and 4 months and too young for school.  The three adults are illiterate.

I have not found a death certificate for Allen Lane yet.  He does not appear in the 1900 census.


To write this I drew upon Census records, Death Certificates and the Will of James Hardage Lane.  You can click on the link to see the whole Will.  To find out more about free people of color, enslaved people and white people in Montgomery County before the Civil War in 1850, 1860 and in 1870, click this link Free and Enslaved in Montgomery County Kentucky.

Things I wish I knew – Who was the 4th enslaved person living with the Lane family in 1810?  Who was Allen Lane’s wife and where were she and the children?  What kind of crops James H. Lane grew on his farm.  That I had photographs of everybody.



Telling Their Story A-Z Challenge 2016 – Theme Reveal

atoz-theme-reveal-2016+v2This is my 4th year participating in the A to Z challenge.  This year I will be telling the stories of  people who were enslaved but made it to Freedom. I found them in photographs shared by friends, names in Bills of sale and Wills.  They were from Kentucky, Alabama and Ohio.  Some of them left a lot of information. Some left only a name on a photograph and the information in a census record. I discovered some while researching my own extended family history.  They all left a story.

Pinkey Porter copyright Becky
Pinkey Porter holding baby William Turner. Photograph from the collection of Becky Leach.
Margaret Lane Alley
Margaret Lane Alley.  Photograph from the collection of Zann Carter.
Major Lee Zeigler
From a newspaper article., A Speculative Circle and Grandfather Mershell’s DNA

lunceford long connctions chart
A chart showing the other lines and the generations between me and my 4th great grandmother and the Long/Jacksons.
My grandfather, Mershell Graham.
My grandfather, Mershell Graham. has a new feature called “speculative circles”. They take groups of people that share DNA and who you do not have any matches in your tree.  They rate the DNA links from “emerging” (not enough people in the group yet.) to “very strong” which means that  the reality of a connection is high. My sister was recently tested and received several “speculative circles.” Most of them were “weak” links. I had also never heard of the people in the trees, nor could I see where we might match up. With one circle, however, there were strong links with 8 out of the 12 people in the circle.

My grandfather Mershell Graham’s sister Annie (Click for more information about Annie) and her children appear in the 1910 US census in Elmore county working as servants for Oscar and Emma (Jackson) Barron .  They were there in the 1920 census and until Emma died. Emma was the daughter of Absolom Jackson, a large slave holder in Autauga County (In 1866 Elmore County was formed from part of Autauga).

Who are they?
On the end it says “13/2/18 on Barrons farm.” I think some of these are Annie’s children.

I began to think that my family may have been slaves on Absolom Jackson’s plantation. My grandfather was born in 1888 in Coosada, Elmore County, Alabama.  His mother’s name was Mary Jackson.  About 15 years ago a Jackson descendant sent me a copy of the 1832 Will of James Jackson in which he divided up the slaves between two of his sons (Absolom and Crawford) and his son-in-law (Lunceford Long).  1832 was before Mary Jackson (my grandfather’s mother) or her parents were have been born. All of James Jackson’s adult children had large numbers of slaves that, of course, weren’t mentioned in that will. Due to these reasons, I was not surprised that I recognized no names.

I started a tree for James Jackson and his family on I do that for any people I think might have enslaved any branch of my family.  I use the information to look for wills and bills of sale, anything that might have my ancestors listed.

The circle. The grey lines are between various other circles but not ours.
The circle. The grey lines are between various other circles but not ours.  The orange ones share DNA with us.

All of this is leading up to the circle. We share Lunceford Long’s and his wife Nancy Daniel Jackson Long’s DNA with descendants who have a paper trail.  Lunceford (1797 to 1857) and his wife Nancy are the nearest common ancestors that all of the lines in the circle share. They are the 6th generation back from me. This means that we have DNA from both Lunceford and Nancy.  How could this happen?

At first I thought that meant that one of the sons had a child with an enslaved woman. But the sons are not the closest ancestor, Longford and Nancy are. I believe it means that Lunceford Crawford Long had a baby with an as yet unnamed enslaved woman?  And that said unnamed woman was related to Nancy Daniel Jackson so that they shared DNA.

I take all this to mean that I was right and the Jackson’s did own my ancestors.  Now to look for more wills and other records that might show names I can recognize and hopefully place in family groups.

John Wesley Cobb 1883 – 1958

I have been writing this post for way too long, getting lost in research and real life. A Sepia Saturday prompt a week ago featured a posh hotel and made me start to work again.  This post does not feature a hotel, rather the lack of one because black motorists back in the 1930s were not welcome in white hotels as they traveled.   In 1936 The Negro Motorist Green Book began publishing and shared information about lodging places that Negro motorists could be sure of a welcome.  Before that people stayed with friends or friends of friends or kept driving. Click on all images to enlarge.

celia's death 6-8-1930

map of trip
From Detroit, MI to Athens Tennessee, passes through Richmond, Kentucky.

I had been unable to find my great grandmother, Anna Celia Rice Cleage Sherman’s death date or death certificate before finding  the above item. After jumping up and down shouting my joy at finding the date, I began to wonder who the Cobbs where that my grandfather and his brothers stayed with.  I came across several other items from different years, with various family members stopping with the Cobbs in Richmond, KY on their way to or from Athens, TN.  How did my family know the Cobbs and who were they?new barber shop 1_30_1889a

John Wesley Cobb was born in 1882 in Richmond, Kentucky to Squire and Malinda (McCallahan) Cobb.  His parents were born in slavery in the 1846 and 1859. By 1889 Squire Cobb was an important member of Richmond’s black community.  He was a barber with his own shop, a member of the Knights of Pythias, and St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal church. Malinda Cobb birthed 9 children.  Six lived to adulthood.  Both parents were literate and the children attended school.  John and one of his brothers were tailors.  His sister Susie was a teacher before her marriage. His oldest sister, Lena, married a barber.  Malinda Cobb died in 1916.  Squire Cobb died at about 89 years of age in 1935.

John Wesley Cobb. Photo curtsey of
John Wesley Cobb. Photo curtsey of Joan Cobb Webb, Granddaughter of John Wesley Cobb.

John Wesley Cobb married Bessie Pollard about 1803.  They had one daughter , Leona Cobb, in 1904.  They later divorced and both remarried. John second wife was Lillian Titus, who taught school when they were first married.  They had no children.

JW Cobb started as a tailor for the R.C.H. Covington Company, a department store in downtown Richmond.  He sewed on clothes like the one pictured in the advertisement below.  Later Cobb, was able to open his own tailor shop and he continued to work on his own account through out the following years.

The_Richmond_Climax_Wed__Oct_31__1917_overcoatJohn W and his wife Lillian  owned their own home at 311 First Street. John Wesley was an active member of St. Paul A.M.E. Church. In several news items, he is listed as Rev. JW Cobb, assisting the Pastor at funerals.  I suspected that the paper had the wrong name but I just found him in the death index on FamilySearch and his title is given as Rev. In 1935, the Cobbs presented gold footballs to the football team at an awards banquet. I wish there had been a picture or a description as I don’t know if they were little pins or full size footballs!

He and his wife appeared regularly in the news/society items in the Richmond Colored Notes.  He served as secretary for the group that sponsored the Madison County Colored Chautauqua.

big chautauquaOn December 16, 1946 Lillian Cobb died from breast cancer that had spread to her spine.  Her husband was the informant.  On the 28th of February 1958, John Wesley Cobb died. I have not yet found his death certificate, and I do not now what he died from.

I still don’t know how my family knew the Cobbs.  Some possibilities are that my grandfather’s brother Henry’s wife, Ola Adams Cleage, knew them.  She was raised and went to school in Danville, Kentucky which is in the same general area.  Or perhaps they knew some of the same people who put them in touch.  Another possibility is that some of JW Cobbs siblings that moved to Michigan met the Cleages.  Some of them lived in Detroit and in Yipsilanti, Mi outside of Detroit at different times.

Links that might interest you.

The Kentucky Colored Chautauqua 1916

Madison County Colored Chautauqua 1915

On the way to bury their mother

Celia’s Death Certificate

For more Sepia Saturday, CLICK!
 I think I will leave this link even though I am a week late!   For more Sepia Saturday, CLICK!

A – Z Reflections 2015

For more A to Z reflections, CLICK!

This is my third year participating in the A to Z Challenge.  This year I blogged a series of sketches about the free people  formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee. I also wrote about some of their descendents.

I found myself (once again) spending pretty much all day, everyday researching and writing up my posts.  I thought I had already done a lot of the research but once I started writing people up, I found there was more I wanted to know about their lives.  Sometimes I spend a lot of time looking and did not find the information.  Other times, it would appear unexpectedly.

I had a limited amount of time to visit other blogs and tended to visit the same ones when I found some I enjoyed. It was difficult to find blogs that I was interested in by the hit and miss method I employed using the gigantic list.  I had more luck visiting people who commented on blogs I already enjoyed.  I also followed people I knew from past challenges and other prompts I participate in throughout the year, Sepia Saturday for instance.

Three of the blogs I consistently followed were: MopDog, Stories I Found in the Closet, and Tell Me Another.  I think it would be a good idea to mention blogs we especially enjoy during the challenge.  I need all the help I can get to find those I enjoy. A blog I found late in the challenge through a comment on someone’s fb page that I will be catching up on and following is Modhukori.  Three blogs that I visited regularly from Sepia Saturday were: Bob’s Home For Writing, Family History Fun and  Anne’s family history.

I will be doing the challenge in 2016.  I like the way it makes me think about my topic and dig up information and actually write it up. My tendency is to get lost in researching.  I am very glad that Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out thought up A to Z and put it into action.

A list of my posts for the April Challenge with links.

Z is for Zero Cleages…

with names beginning with the letter Z.  For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I have been blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee and their descendents.



Yvette 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. Click on links for more information.

Yvette’s mother’s name is spelled wrong int he article. It is “Edith”.

Yvette Cleage is my second cousin.  I have not seen her since the 1960s when we both attended my father, then Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr’s church.  The church was then called Central United Church of Christ, now known as The Shrine of the Black Madonna.

Yvette’s father, David Cleage, was my father’s first cousin, son of James and Josephine (Cleage) Cleage.  James was the son of Jerry and Charlotte (Bridgeman) Cleage. Josephine was my grandfather, Albert B. Cleage Sr’s sister and the daughter of Lewis and Celia (Rice) Cleage. Lewis was the son of Frank and Juda Cleage. And there we are, back to the plantations of David and Alexander Cleage.

I found Ziggy Johnson’s obituary online at The Motor City Muckracker.


eXtra! eXtra! John Cleage Injured in Explosion!

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.

Nine injured in explosion
Article from

John Cleage was born in Texas to Richard and Adeline Cleage, he was the oldest of 11 children, 9 survived to adulthood. The family returned to Athens before John was 1 and that is where he grew up.  He completed 8th grade and was literate.In 1910 he was married for the first time to Annis Culberson.

Around 1912, John moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where the explosion mentioned in the article occurred. He later moved to Cleveland, Ohio.  Here he married his second wife, Willard.  They had one daughter, Evelyn.  His mother and siblings moved north to Ohio.

Through the years John worked as a laborer, porter and a groom.  He moved to Chicago about 1828 and lost touch with his family in Ohio for decades. (I have a news item describing this reunion. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it in time for this post!) In Chicago he married for the third time to Cornelius Taner. John’s draft registrations describe him as light brown complexion, brown eyes, black hair (until it turned grey) short (about 5’4″) and slender.

John Cleage died on April 27, 1954 in Chicago, IL.  He was 76 years old.

John's obituary is maked with a dot.
John’s obituary is marked with a dot.  He is in the middle column, second name down. Article from

William Henry Cleage

From: Postcard History Series: McMinn County. By Joe Guy with postcards form the collection of Don Reid.
From: Postcard History Series: McMinn County. By Joe Guy with postcards form the collection of Don Reid.

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.

William Henry Cleage was born free on December 4, 1866 in Athens, Tennessee.  His mother was Adeline “Addie” Cleage and his father was Nelson Cleage. His mother married Edmund Sherman shortly after William was born and for over 33 years of his life he used the name William Henry Sherman and was listed in the censuses along with the couples other children as a son of Edmund Sherman.

Until they died Williams grandparents, Henry and Jane Cleage, lived next door.  William and his siblings all attended school and learned to read and write.  In 1866, the Methodist  Church along with the Freedman’s bureau started a school for black children in Athens. I was unable to find out much more but this is the school they probably attended.   Grandfather Henry  and stepfather Edmund worked as laborers and the women of the family worked as laundresses from their own homes, when they had paid occupations.  Eventually his widowed sister Belle and her two children moved next door on the other side.  His sister Sallie and her two children lived with their parents, Edmund and Addie. William lived for many years in the multigenerational family home. All three of the households owned their homes free of mortgage.

In the 1910 Census, 45 year old Williams was identified for the first time as a Cleage and as the stepson of Edmund.  The grandparents were dead. Addie, Belle and Sallie were all taking in laundry and all of Belle and Sallie’s children were attending school.  By this time the Athen’s Academy was up and running and that was probably the school they attended.

William married Laura Hall on June 8, 1911.  He was 44 and she was 22. Laura died eight years later on August 21, 1919 from influenza.  She had been ill for thirty days. The Influenza Pandemic was sweeping around the world. In contrast to other forms of the flu, this type killed more healthy young adults than any other part of the population.

I do not know if they had any children. I tried to find Laura’s sister’s households for the 1920 Census, but so far I have not found them. In 1920 William was working as a porter at a hardware store in Athens. Laura’s 18 year old brother, Clarence Hall, was living with him and attending school. William was renting a house on King Street.

In 1930 William was boarding with Joe and Emma Melton, an older couple who lived on Chester Street. William was a truck driver for a hardware store.

Death Certificate for William Henry Cleage
Death Certificate for William Henry Cleage. (Tennessee State Library and Archives; Nashville, Tennessee; Tennessee Death Records, 1908-1959; via

On June 5, 1937, William died of kidney failure. His occupation was listed as “Merchant”. He was 70 years old. The informant is listed as Silas Sherman.  I wonder if they meant Sallie Sherman, William’s sister.  Several names were misspelled on the death certificate – Nelson is spelled “Nelse” and Henry is spelled “Hewy”.