Mershell, Mary V. and my mother Doris Graham are sitting on their front steps waving balloons on sticks. It was 1926. The house was on Theodore, the east side of Detroit. Sometimes I dream about this house and the porch usually figures in the dreams as I leave or enter or start down the street going somewhere.
My mother Doris and her sister Mary Virginia with their dog Bonzo. The picture was taken in August 1932, about 6 months after their brother Howard died of Scarlet Fever. Mary V. was 12 and Doris was 9. The sisters were granddaughters of Jennie Virginia Allen Turner, who was the daughter of Dock and Eliza Allen. My mother later had a sister-in-law named Gladys Cleage, who will celebrate her 93rd birthday this Saturday. I could not find a photograph of her with a sister and a dog, but here she is with sister Anna.
Gladys and Anna were the grandchildren of Lewis and Anna Cecilia Cleage, and great granddaughters of Frank and Juda Cleage of Athens, TN.
Mershell Graham was born June 10, 1921 in Detroit Michigan. He died on November 2, 1927, at St. Jopseph Hospital, also in Detroit, from traumatic cerebral hemorrhage resulting from a fracture at the base of the skull during an automobile accident. Mershell was described as a single, colored male, a school boy age 6 years 4 months and 23 days old. He lived at 6638 Theodore Street with his family. He was buried in Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery on November 4, 1927. Both of his parents, Fanny Turner Graham and Mershell C. Graham were born in Montgomery Alabama. His father, my grandfather, Mershell Cunningham Graham, was the informant.
Howard Alexander Turner was my mother’s youngest brother. Howard was born September 7, 1928, in the year following his older brother, Mershell’s death by trauma after being run over by a truck on the way back to school. My grandparents felt that Howard had been sent to fill the space left by Mershell. Unfortunately he died of Scarlet Fever, exacerbated by Diabetes
Howard died at Herman Kiefer Hospital in Detroit. He had been ill for fifteen days before his death. He is described as a single, colored male age 3 years, 5 months and 27 days old. His mother’s maiden name was Fannie Turner and his father was Mershell Graham. Both were born in Alabama. He was born in Detroit, Michigan and lived at 6638 Theodore St. in Detroit. He died at 5:05 AM on March 4, 1932. His father was the informant.
I wrote more about Howard in these, much more personal posts with copies of his mother’s thoughts and memories:
This photograph was taken in 1950, the year before this other wagon photograph 3 in a wagon. This time Dee Dee the photographer appears with us. My sister Pearl and I had just moved to Detroit from Springfield, MA. We spent most Saturdays at our maternal grandparent’s house with our cousins Dee Dee and Barbara.
My mother said that after a difficult birth, her sister Mary V.’s foot was turned inward.She did not know if this was the fault of the doctor or not, but Mary V. wore a brace for years.
Mary V’s grandson, Ahmad Elkins, posted the pictres below on fb recently. They are his grandmother’s well worn baby shoes, saved through the years. Amhad shared his photographs with me and gave me permission to post them here.
Two other posts about Mary Virginia Graham Elkins are:
The birth of my tenth grandchild earlier this week made me wonder how many grandchildren the women in my family had in the past. I combined this with when they had their first child and how many children they had. Here is what I found.
I was born in 1946. My oldest daughter was born in Detroit in 1970 when I was 23 years old. My youngest son was born when I was 41. My first grandchild was born when I was 52. I was 68 when my youngest grandchild was born. I have six children and ten grandchildren.
My mother, Doris Graham Cleage, was born in Detroit Michigan in 1923. She gave birth to two daughters. The oldest (me) was born when she was 23 in 1946. My sister was born in 1948 when my mother was 26. I had 6 children and my sister had 1. My mother was 47 when her first grandchild was born and she would have been 64 when her youngest grandchild was born. Doris had two children and seven grandchildren.
My maternal grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, was born in Lowndes County, AL in 1888. She gave birth to 4 children, all in Detroit. The first was born in 1920. The fourth was born in 1928 when she was 40. Both boys died in childhood. Fannie’s oldest daughter (my aunt) had 3 children and my mother had 2. My grandmother was 56 when her first grandchild was born. She was 65 when her youngest grandchild was born. Fannie Mae had four children. Two died in childhood. She had five grandchildren.
My paternal grandmother, Pearl Reed Cleage, was born in 1886. Her first child was born in 1911 when she was twenty five. Her youngest child was born in 1924 when she was thirty nine. Her first grandchild (me) was born when she was sixty years old. She was seventy six when the youngest grandchild was born. Pearl had seven children and nine grandchildren.
Pearl’s mother, my great grandmother Anna Allen Reed She was born about 1849. She gave birth to her first child when she was 16, in 1865. She gave birth to my grandmother Pearl, her youngest child, when she was 37. Anna was 40 when her first grandchild was born. She had been dead for 15 years when her youngest grandchild was born in 1924. Anna had eight children and thirty-six grandchildren.
My great grandmother, Celia Rice Cleage Sherman was born about 1855 in Virginia. She was taken to Tennessee as a small child. Her first child was born in 1873 when she was eighteen years old. Her youngest child was born in 1883 when she was 28 years old. Celia’s first grandchild was born in 1897 when she was 42 years old. She was 69 when her last grandchild was born in 1924. Celia had five children and twenty-one grandchildren.
My maternal great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner, was born free in 1866 in Montgomery, AL. She gave birth to three daughters. The first two daughters were born in Lowndes County. My grandmother was the oldest, born in 1888 when Jennie was 22. Daisy was born in 1890. In 1892 Jennie’s husband died. She later remarried and her youngest daughter was born in Montgomery, AL in 1908 when she was 42. Of her 3 daughters, only my grandmother had children. Jennie Virginia Allen Turner had three children and four grandchildren.
My maternal 2X great grandmother, Eliza Williams Allen was born into slavery about 1839 in Alabama. She gave birth to 13 children. Eight survived to adulthood. All were born in Alabama. The oldest daughter was born into slavery in 1856. Eliza was about 17 years old. Her other children were born free in Montgomery, AL. Her youngest child was born in 1879 when Eliza was 40. Eliza had thirteen children and eighteen grandchildren.
My 3X maternal line great grandmother, Annie Williams, was born into slavery about 1820 in Virginia. I only know of one child, Eliza above, who was born in Alabama in 1839 when Annie was about 19. Annie died before the 1900 census so did not answer the question “How many children did you give birth to?” There is no oral history of Eliza having siblings. Annie had one daughter and eight grandchildren.
My 2X great grandmother Emma Jones Turner was born into slavery about 1842 in South Carolina. She was later taken to Alabama. She gave birth to ten children. Six of the children survived to adulthood. Her first child was born when she was about 18 years old and the youngest was born when she was 30. Emma had ten children, and sixteen grandchildren.
I do not remember seeing my parents dressed up for this dance. I was six years old. I do not remember ever seeing my parents dressed up and going out. After we moved off of Atkinson to Chicago Blvd, I remember that my mother had several fancy gowns hanging in her closet.
I looked for information about an Alpha dance in Detroit in 1952. I couldn’t find anything. Neither of my parents were members of a sorority or fraternity. I am assuming that some members of the church invited them to the dance.
“In 1951, when I was four, my father received a call to St. Marks Presbyterian church in Detroit. We left Springfield, Massachusetts and moved into 2212 Atkinson, down the street from my paternal grandparents who lived at 2270 Atkinson. St. Marks was located a block away, in the other direction, on 12th Street. The 1967 Detroit riot started a block from the church.” For more click A is for Atkinson.