Memories of Chickens

I was reading a post over at Georgia Black Crackers about fried chicken and as I was getting into my third paragraph in the comment section I decided to just write about my chicken memories here.

Fried chicken used to be the main part of my favorite meal along with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I grew up in Detroit, without chickens in the yard, but I remember going to the poultry market several times with my maternal grandmother, Nanny.  Crates full of live chickens were piled around the walls.  My grandmother would pick her chicken and they would kill it and dress it there.  When she cooked chicken she always smothered it in gravy.  Perhaps she bought the cheaper old birds that were too tough for frying.  It was delicious.

Every Saturday my mother drove us all across town to my grandparent’s house.  She and her sister would be in the front and the four, eventually five, of us cousins would be in the back.  No seat belts in those days.  We spent many happy hours playing in the backyard where our yard toys were kept in the old chicken house.  Of course it was free of all signs of chickens.  They were gone by the time we were there but I remember the story of the mean rooster that attacked my little uncle Howard and ended up as chicken dinner.  And of chickens running around the yard with no heads after they’d been chopped off.

Nanny was a great cook.  She didn’t know how to cook when she married at age 29, my grandfather taught her.  Where he learned to cook so well I am not sure.  Working in the dining car on the railroad?  I’ll have to ask my cousin and see if she knows.  He always cooked the turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When my sister and I were very small someone gave us three chicks for Easter.  We lived in a combination parsonage/community house.  It was huge.  We kept the chicks in a box in the basement and thinking back I don’t remember a heat light which may be the reason that, one by one, the chicks died.  I remember my mother throwing their bodies into the basement incinerator.

My Uncle Henry told a story about chickens from the time that he and his brother Hugh were conscientious objectors during the 2nd world war had a farm near Avoka, Michigan where they raised chickens and milked cows.  One day it rained and they hadn’t put the chickens up.  He said they piled up in the yard with their mouths open, just sat there and drowned from the rain running down their throats.

When I was grown living with my husband and children in rural Simpson County, Mississippi keeping goats and chickens, I learned first hand about killing, plucking and cutting up chickens.  From my yard to the table.  I wasn’t really that good at the killing part.  In fact, I only remember one time that I actually killed a chicken.  My husband was a printer working in nearby Jackson, MS.  It was time to fix dinner and there was not much food in the house.  He had the car so no chance for a trip to the store in town.  I decided to kill a chicken.  With the help of my two oldest daughters, who must have been about 9 and 12 at the time, we did it.  Each of them held a clothesline tied to either the chicken’s head or feet and I chopped off the head.  I would have gotten better I’m sure, but luckily never had to do it again.

One last memory.  It’s really my husband’s memory, but I’ve heard it so often I can see it as if it were mine.  Once during the annual family trip back to Dermott, Arkansas a relative gave them a chicken to take back home.    They were living in Carr Square Village in St. Louis, MO at the time.   They kept the chicken in the newspaper wagon long enough for it to become big enough to eat.  His name was Speckle because he was black and white.  One day they came home and they had a real treat, chicken sandwiches.  Nobody asked why chicken in the middle of the week, they were too busy eating it.  Later they found it was poor Speckle.

Wordless Wednesday – Plymouth Congregational Church

"Plymouth Church photo"
Plymouth Congregational Church - September 1928. Detroit, Michigan

Nearly wordless.  My grandfather Mershell C. Graham was one of the founders.  He is standing behind his daughters, Mary V. and Doris (my mother).  Their cousin Margaret is standing between them.  They are in the front row, towards the left side of center.  Elementary age.  My grandmother, Fannie, had just given birth to their son Howard so was not there.

Treasure Thursday – Poppy’s locket

Several years after my mother’s death, I found a cigar box full of unidentified things – pocket watches, big buttons, lockets.  This locket had the note inside saying “? In locket in Daddy’s things”.  I don’t know who the women are.  The initials on the front seem to be H.J.G or maybe J.H.G.  My grandfather’s name was Mershell C. Graham.  His story is sketchy.

I find bits and pieces – unidentified photographs, old notebooks… If I could find him in the 1900 census with his family.  He was born in Coosada Station, Elmore County, Alabama about 1888.  He chose to celebrate his birthday on Christmas day because he didn’t know the actual day.  By the time I found him in the census in 1910 he was working on the railroad.  He moved to Detroit in 1917, married my grandmother in 1918 in Montgomery and they immediately removed to Detroit.  He worked at Ford Motor Co. for years.  He was a founder and trustee at Plymouth Congregational Church in Detroit.  He always grew a large, wonderful garden with cabbage, collards and tomatoes.  He could, and did, fix anything that needed fixing.  He taught himself to read so I assume he never went to school.  There is a story that he was a child servant and slept outside the little girls door at night.  The other story is that his parents came one one rainy day (from work?) to find him and his brother digging sweet potatoes out in the garden.  They had the measles. I’m thinking they were very hungry.  Who feels like digging in the rain when they have the measles?  There were at least three children older than he was according to his delayed birth certificate. There could have been younger siblings too. Those mentioned were a sister named Annie, and a brother named Bill who went west. My cousin, Margaret, told me that was a way to refer to relatives that passed for white.  Perhaps the Jacob, named in front of the little Bible that was also in the box was a brother.

Labor Day – Part 2 (Maternal side)

After working on the collage I uploaded yesterday for Labor Day, I kept thinking about the work that family members had done over the generations.  Here is a chart showing 7 generations of workers from my great-great-great-grandmother to my children.  My direct line is highlighted in yellow.  The women with children combined whatever else they did with cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and raising the children.  The first generations started their work life as slaves in Alabama.

7 generations of my maternal line and the work they did.

I made the chart using Microsoft Word.  That resulted in a very crowded chart.  I then imported it into Photoshop where I cut and pasted and moved things around and added the highlights.  I later thought I should have added places of birth and death, but I didn’t. Next time.  The paternal side chart is available HERE.

Backyard Photos – Theodore St. Detroit, Michigan

While going through my grandmother’s photographs awhile ago I noticed that they had photos of people lined up in the backyard.  When I looked closer I found some of the relatives I had not realized we had pictures of.  One lingering question is why was cousin Alphonso the only relative I met?

"theodore backyard"
May 1940. My grandparents, Mershell and Fannie Graham, with unidentified visitors.
"theodore backyard alphonso"
Summer 1960

Left to right:  Abbie Allen Brown, Mershell Graham (my grandfather), Alphonso Brown(Abbie’s son), me, Doris Graham Cleage (my mother)  Back – Fannie (my grandmother)  Henry Cleage (my uncle & step-father).  Abbie was my 2 x great aunt and Dock & Eliza’s daughter.

"theodore backyard roscoe and stella"
"Stella + Ros 1960 Our back yard. On visit from Chicago."

Left to right: Roscoe, Fannie, Stella, Abbie. Roscoe McCall was Mary Allen McCall’s son. Stella was his wife. Mary was Eliza’s daughter.

"theodore backyard bobbie visits"
"Right to left: Bobbie, unintelligible name, Mrs. Bishop, Daisy, Fan, Alice, Abbie. Taken by John Wesley Allen. Our back yard. 9-21-61. Daisy passed 11 - 24-61. Her last picture."

John Wesley Allen was Ransom Allen’s son.  Ransom was Eliza and Dock’s son.  Abbie was Dock and Eliza’s daughter.  Alice was my grandmother Fannie’s youngest sister.  Daisy was my grandmother’s sister. Bobbie was John’s wife.

"theodore backyard Rance and Bobbie Allen visit."
Same day as above with John Wesley Allen on the right.
"Theodore backyard Ruth Pope visits from Chicago. 1963."
"Alice , Abbie , Ruth , Mother, Daddy. Ruth Pope age 15"

Ruth is Beulah Allen Pope’s granddaughter. Abbie and Beulah were Dock and Eliza’s daughters. Fannie and Alice were Dock & Eliza’s granddaughter. August 1963.

Six Degrees of Separation – Slavery

Today  I was reading  Nolichucky Roots  She was writing about the degrees of separation between her and her ancestors who where slave owners.  It got me thinking about how many degrees of separation there are between me and my ancestors who were enslaved.  I have always felt that it wasn’t as long ago as some feel.  It turns out I am one degree from slavery 6 different ways.

  • My paternal grandfather, Albert born 1884 TN knew his parents, Lewis & Celia (Rice) Cleage born about 1852 & 1855 in TN into slavery.  One degree.    (photo 1 & 2 – Albert & Celia)
  • My paternal grandmother, Pearl born 1886, knew her mother Anna Allen Reed who was born about 1849 in KY into slavery. (photo 3 Pearl)
  •  My maternal grandfather, Mershell born 1889 AL, knew his parents William & Mary (Jackson) Graham b. Al, 1851 & 1852. One degree. (photo 4)
  • My maternal grandmother, Fannie born 1888 AL, knew her father, Howard Turner, who was born about 1863, AL into slavery.  One degree.(photo 5 – Fannie)
  • My maternal great-grandmother, Jennie born 1866  knew her parents, Dock & Eliza (Williams) Allen born in Ga & AL about 1839 into slavery.  One degree. (photo 6 – Jennie, 7- Eliza, 8-Dock)
  • My maternal grandmother’s first cousin, James born 1880 AL, knew his parents Edward & Mary (Allen) McCall born 1842 & 1856 AL who were born into slavery.  One degree.(photo 9 James, 10- Mary).

More of Jacob’s Bible

Inside cover of Jacob's Bible

Transcription

Elias Hopkins
presented to him by his brother + sisterinlaw
James + Elizabeth Canfield
July 4th 1875
Youngstown
Ohio
(Initials that I can’t make out. First seems to be Y)

Who are these people and how did they happen to give Jacob Graham the Bible in 1913? It is a small pocket size New Testament. The edges of the pages are golden. It has a flap that used to open and close but it is all starting to fall apart. I don’t want to handle it more then I can help. But here is one last scan.

Wordless Wednesday – Inside cover of Mershell Grahams Bible

biblejacobgraham
I have not found out how these people are connected to my grandfather Mershell Graham.

So much for wordless….
After posting this I decided to go look for Jacob Graham at Family Search. I used the pilot program and found a death record for Jacob Graham who died June 30, 1913 at the Salvation Army Fresh Air Camp. I googled the Fresh Air Camp and found several photographs in the Alabama Archives about Fresh Air camps the Salvation army ran in Montgomery for Old men and others for poor women and children. I also found a google book “By Alabama. Dept. of Archives and History”, Thomas McAdory Owen, an entry that mentioned under the section Benevolent Insititutions in Alabama, that the Salvation army had a Fresh Air Camp on the upper Wetumpka Road, founded in 1911 conducted by the Montgomery Anti-Tuberculosis League for tubercular cases.( Alabama official and statistical register.) I’m sending for the death certificate.

…to be where you can breathe a little freedom

Lowndes Adams, Rufus Taylor and Lewis Gilmer
Lowndes Adams, Rufus Taylor and Lewis Gilmer
204 Oak Street
Montgomery, Ala
April 7, 1917

Dear “Shell” – From my early acting in answering your letter, you may know or imagine how proud I was to receive a letter from the boy. I have thought of you often and wondering at the same time, if I was just to receive a postcard from you; for as you have said about me, I consider you one of my closest and most trusted worthy friends. It doesn’t seem that one can realize the feeling that exists until a separation, but after looking into the proposition, knowing that you had to get located, being in a new land, and being among strangers would consume lots of your time. I am certainly pleased to know that you are so well satisfied with Detroit and the surroundings. Yes, I would be tickled to death if I could be up there with you, for I am sick and tired of this blooming place. I know it must be an inspiration to be where you can breathe a little freedom, for every body down here are beginning to feel that slavery is still existing in the south.
The Teacher’s Association has been in session here from the 4th to the 7th and quite a number of visitors are here. The boys thru my chivalry managed to give a subscription dance, and believe me I came in an inch of being fagged out. You know how you have to run a “jinke” down to get a $1.00 from him. We had quite a success as well as an enjoyable one. Cliff was to make the punch but on account of his training being too late for him to even come to the ball, it fell my time to do something and I did wish for you but managed to brave the situation and tried to follow as close as I could remember my seeing your making punch and for a fact I really made that punch taste like “a la Shell punch”, and it turned out to be perfect class.
Alabama Medical Association will convene here on 9 and 10 and they are giving a dance at Tabors Hall on Randolph and Decatur Sts. No, not a full dress affair, so I think I shall attend. Sam Crayton is here from Chicago and he is very anxious for me to return with him, but I am afraid he will have to go and I come later.
Well, the U.S. is really in War with Germany and we can’t tell what the next war may bring. It will mean suffering for humanity, and we people down here especially. I am just as neutral as can be and expect to stand pat in the idea.
Yes, people are leaving here in droves for all directions and now you can miss them off of the streets. As many people that hung around the drug store on Sunday, you can scarcely find a dozen there now.
I have seen Miss Turner but once and that was down town. I know she keeps you well informed of herself. There is no news of interest. My sister Jessie was married in February and is now living in Pensacola, so you see so far 1917 has been lucky for me. Now old boy, I shall expect for you not to allow such long gaps between our writing each. All of my family sends the best of wishes to you and Mrs Wyman and Hubby. The boys and girls join in with me and send their share.

Your devoted pal,
Lowndes