March 8, 1904 – Guitar and Piano Lessons

Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library/University of Georgia Libraries. Click to enlarge.
Pearl Reed

Homer Jarrett
230 Alleghany St. City

2700 Kenwood Ave
March 8, 1904

Your letter was handed me at supper and don’t you know, that I was rather glad to hear from you. I did not answer your letter before, because I thought you were tired of hearing such “silly” “little” letters. You have managed nicely to keep yourself out of sight lately, since I’ve come to think of it, I think it has been about a month – don’t you?

I heard of the bad news that you had from home and Homer I send you my sympathy. Are they better now, I mean the ones that were ill?

In regards to my music, why I suppose I am getting on quite well. My tutor flatters me and tells me that I am doing “Oh, so nicely”, but I don’t believe one half of what is told me. Do you know I’ve changed from the guitar to the piano? You must think me the most changeable person Homer, but I get so tired of everything so very soon, you know.

Aren’t you tired of this stuff Homer? Well I am.



Did Pearl forget the letter she wrote just a month ago telling him off for insulting her mother?

Guitar? I had no idea my grandmother ever took guitar lessons. When I decided to stop taking piano lessons, she told me I should continue because I could play at parties and for friends. Some years later, she taught her niece Helen (Minnie’s oldest daughter) to play the piano.

Pearl would have heard about Homer’s family back in Georgia being sick from Minnie, who was married to Homer’s cousin, James Mullins.

February 7, 1904 – Evil Thoughts

Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library/University of Georgia Libraries. Click to enlarge.
Pearl Reed

Homer Jarrett
230 Alleghany St. City

2700 Kenwood Ave
February 7, 1904

Mr. Jarrett,

Homer, for the evil thought and words concerning my mother, which you spoke a few weeks ago, I forgive you as I hope to be forgiven of my many sins and faults. My mother does not know anything about it and has often asked why you never visit any more. She shall never learn your terrible thoughts of her . She will always think you one of the most gentle young men in the city, if I can help it.

Pearl D. Reed


January 27, 1904 – Illness and The True Reformers

Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library/University of Georgia Libraries. Click to enlarge.
Pearl Reed

Homer Jarrett
9 Walnut St.
Hot Springs, Ark

2714 Kenwood Ave.
Indianapolis, Indiana,
January 27, 1904


I received your letter about fifteen minutes ago and was pleased that you should be so solicitous of our welfare as to write to inquire about our health.

I am sorry to relate but I have a very bad cold from the exposure of Sunday evening. I was unable to be at my work Tuesday and, today was confined to my bed ‘till a few hours ago taking horrid old bitter remedies for my cold, and feel real badly yet, although I intend to go down town tomorrow whether or no.

I had intended to go to Allen’s Chapel Friday eve, but this slight illness has caused me to change my program for the week. If I am able to be at my work I will be contented. I am grateful to you for your kindness, but I am unable to accompany you on that evening.

You seem to be hurt over my calling you a coward. I said it, because, at the time you acted like one, but otherwise, I do not think you are. Forgive me if I spoke too plainly, for I did you an injury in doing so perhaps.

You must also forgive me for causing you to break your vow, in accompanying us to church and home. You should not have broken it Homer. You told me once before that you wanted to forget me and I told you that I would help you. We did quite well until Sunday Eve, and I suppose that you forgot. It shall not occur again, since, you wish it so, for I would not have you do an injury to yourself for me for anything, Homer.

Thanking you for every kindness that you have done for me and wishing you a successful career, I will say

Pearl D. Reed


What did my grandmother Pearl miss and who were the True Reformers?

True Reformers meet at Allen ChapelTrue Reformers meet at Allen Chapel Fri, Jan 29, 1904 – Page 16 · The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) ·

True Reformers’ Large Installation.

The Order of True Reformers has made elaborate arrangements for a public installation at Allen Chapel tonight, at which 105 officers will be installed. The affair is under the direction of W. S. Henry, chief of the Indiana department. An address of welcome will be delivered by the Rev. H. E. Stewart, and a response by the Rev. Charles Williams. An address will be made by the Rev. James M. Townsend on “Negro Enterprises,” and one on “Advantages of Race Protection,” by the Rev. J. F. Walker. The installation will be conducted by the Rev. J. T. Carpenter, of Washington, D.C., who is department general of the order. Representatives of the seven fountains (lodges) of the city will respond. There will also be music and recitations.”

More information about the history of True Reformers Bank.

True Reformers Bank 1888-1910

The Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers was the first bank owned by African Americans in the United States. It was founded on March 2, 1888 by Reverend William Washington Browne and opened on April 3, 1889. Although the True Reformers bank was the first black-owned bank chartered in the United States, the Capitol Savings Bank of Washington, D.C. was the first to actually open on October 17, 1888.

Born in 1849, Browne was a former Georgia slave who escaped joined the Union Army in the North. After the Civil War, he founded the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers, a black fraternal organization. In 1887 when Browne visited Charlotte County, Virginia to establish a local branch of the True Reformers, he encountered problems. The branch arranged to keep its savings with a white shopkeeper in the county, but with racial tensions high after an 1887 lynching, the shopkeeper told other white residents that local blacks were organizing and raising funds, and the branch was forced to disband. Browne decided the True Reformers would have to found and run a bank itself so that its finances could not be monitored by whites. ”  To read more, please click on the linked text.

Christmas – December 21, 1903

Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library/University of Georgia Libraries. Click to enlarge.

Homer Jarrett
#230 Alleghany St. City

2714 Kenwood Ave.,
December 21, 1903

Mr. Jarrett –

Homer, do you remember a girl that you once knew and visited some times in the north part of this city? If you do, well that girl would like very much for you to come out to her house Christmas Day and take dinner with her and family, if you will be so obliging. It will give us great pleasure Homer if you will take dinner with us then, will you?

You are far from your home and mother and I would be delighted if you would share mine on this day of “Peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

How are you? We have not seen you since the Sunday that you were out. Did you know that Minnie had moved on West Street now? I was at her house one evening last week, for a few minutes, and discovered that she had changed her dwelling.

I shall expect you for dinner Friday Homer and you will not disappoint us?



Bookmark to Pearl from her brother Clarence E. Reed. Christmas 1903.
Journal to Pearl from her brother Clarence.

Hot Weather and A Train Trip – July 3, 1903

Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library/University of Georgia Libraries. Click to enlarge.

Homer Jarrett
Exchange Hotel
Union Stockyard City

2714 Kenwood Ave.
July 2, 1903

I received your interesting little letter and was delighted to hear from you. I do not feel very well, in fact, I do not believe any one could this warm weather, unless they were composed of iron. Do you?

I think we shall leave for Benton Harbor Monday A.M. if I am not mistaken. We were speaking of our trip today and mother spoke as though she wanted to stay only two weeks, but I shall try to persuade her to stay two months.

Homer you spoke of our going to the park Sunday, well, if we go, I think it had better be at 2 P.M., for it will be cooler then.

If I have worried you with this message, forgive me. I am tired and angry and had to vent my ill humor on someone.
Pearl D. Reed


We will never know why Pearl was tired and angry, but I did find out about the weather for that day and traveling to Benton Harbor by train. According to the Indianapolis Journal, on July 2, 1903, the high temperature was 90 degrees and the low was 70. It was clear and sunny with a south wind.
July 2, 1903 weatherJuly 2, 1903 weather Thu, Jul 2, 1903 – Page 2 · The Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, Indiana) ·

Union Station, Indianapolis, Indiana

Union Station, Benton Harbor, Michigan

Pearl and her mother traveled from Indianapolis and Benton Harbor at least once a year to visit her older sisters Sarah Busby and Louise Shoemaker and their families. They would have taken the train.  One train left at 7 AM and arrived in Benton Harbor at 8 PM that same day. The later train left at 11 AM and arrived the next day at 3:10 PM.
Fri, Jul 17, 1903 – Page 9 · The Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, Indiana) ·

The trip was 303 miles and lasted about 13 hours. The cost of a ticket in 1903 was about two cents a mile, bringing a the cost of one ticket to $6.06.

When I graduated from college, I took a trip to San Francisco via the Greyhound Bus. My grandmother Pearl packed me a big lunch to carry with me. I remember fried chicken enough to share and white buttered bread. And fruit.  I imagine they packed a good lunch for the train trip.

Evangeline – May 17, 1903

Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library/University of Georgia Libraries. Click to enlarge.

Homer Jarrett
Exchange Hotel
Union Stockyard, City

2714 Kenwood Ave., City
May 17, 1903

Mr. Jarrett,

Homer I am indeed very sorry that I was not at home Saturday when you came. In looking through “Evangeline”, I found your little missive and was glad to hear that you liked and enjoyed the books. Mother was feeling badly when you were here and is worse now. She was confined to her bed all of today. You need not answer this Homer for it is of no consequence and is not worth spending the time on.





The Letters – The People


My grandmother, Pearl Doris Reed, was born in Lebanon, Kentucky in 1886. She was the youngest of the eight children of Anna Ray Allen Reed.  The four youngest, including Pearl, were the children of Buford Averitt, a white physician.  The older children had different fathers. By 1888 Pearl’s oldest brother, George, had moved to Indianapolis Indiana to work at Van Camps cannery. The rest of the family soon followed. She graduated from high school and took music lessons. In 1903, Pearl was nineteen years old. She lived with her mother and older brothers in North Indianapolis, Indiana.

Oldest sister Josie was dead before 1900. Sisters Sarah and Louise were married and lived in Benton Harbor, Michigan with their husbands and families. Minnie and James Mullins and her growing family moved back and forth between Indianapolis Indiana and Benton Harbor during this time.

Pearl’s mother, Anna Ray Reed, was born into slavery about 1845 in Lebanon, Kentucky. For most of her life she worked as a domestic or a laundress. During the time of the letters, she was often ill. Her sons supported her. Anna had two siblings. Her sister Clara remained in Lebanon, Kentucky. Her brother Thomas served in the Civil War. He moved to Indianapolis, about 1877. During the time of the letters, Anna and her family lived in the house directly behind Thomas’.

Homer Jarrett

Homer Jarrett was a cousin of Minnie’s husband, James Mullins. He was born in Harris County, GA in 1882. He completed 8th grade. During the time of the letters he was moving around a lot, from Indianapolis, to Pine Bluff Arkansas to St. Louis MO and back to Indiana. He eventually moved to Boston, MA where he made his living in real estate. He never married. According to his draft records, he was short, slender, tan complexion, black hair and blue eyes, . He died in Boston in 1959 at 77.

James Mullins

Minnie Averette Reed Mullins was born in 1878. Completed 8th grade. In 1898 Minnie married James Mullins in Indianapolis, IN. Their daughter, Helen was born in 1899, son James in 1900, Ben in 1901. Arthur was born in 1904. They had 12 children in all. They continued to move between Indiana and Michigan, settling in Michigan permanently by 1920. Minnie died in 1963 at 84.


Hugh Marion Reed Averette was born on April 23, 1876, in Lebanon, Kentucky. He completed the 8th grade. Hugh served as a coal presser during the Spanish American War and returned to Indianapolis in 1902. He married Blanche Celeste Young in 1906. They had four children. They moved to CA in the 1940s and the whole family passed for white. He died in 1951 at 75.

Lillian Louise

Lillian Louise Reed Shoemaker was born about 1873 in Lebanon, Kentucky. In 1891, Louise married Michigan native, Solonus Shoemaker, in Benton Harbor, MI. Daughter, Mildred, was born in 1899. Son, Floyd 4 years later in 1903. She died in 1938 at 65.

George Reed: Was born in 1867 in Lebanon, Kentucky. His mother was 18 when he was born. There was an older sister, Josephine, who was born during slavery and died before 1900. George never married and had no children. As the oldest son in a home without a man, he became the man of the house. He never learned to read or write and earned his living as a laborer. He moved to Indianapolis in 1887, where his mother’s brother Thomas Ray Allen had been living for at least five years. The rest of the family followed. George died in 1945 at 78.


Sarah Jane Reed Busby was born in 1871. Completed 4th grade. In 1889, she married James A. Busby in Indianapolis. They immediately moved to James’ home in Benton Harbor, Michigan. They had ten children. She died in 1954 in Benton Harbor, at 84

Clarence Elwood Reed was the youngest son of Anna Reed and the brother next in age to my grandmother Pearl. He completed 8th grade. In 1902 he moved with the rest of the family to 2730 Kenwood Ave. He later moved to Chicago and married at least three times. He had no children. He died in 1954 in Chicago at 72.

In 1900 a black laborer earned about $150. An black laundress earned $180 per year.  By 1910 the average worker earned $200 – $400 per year.

Finding The Letters

This photo of the letters is from Michal Brown Rare Books website before they sold the letters..

While  looking for some of his ancestors last spring, my cousin Peter Olivier found a packet of  letters online written by my grandmother Pearl Reed (Cleage) from 1903 to 1905. They were for sale by Michal Brown Rare Books who “specialize in Americana, especially manuscript materials. We offer manuscript letters and archives, diaries, journals, personal and business correspondence from the 17th century through the 20th.

By the time I found out that the letters existed, they had been sold to the University of Georgia in Athens. I thought it was strange because neither my grandmother Pearl Reed nor Homer Jarrett, the young man she was exchanging letters with, were well known. Homer seems to have saved every piece of mail he ever received. Eventually all of those hundreds of pieces (which included my grandmother’s letters) ended up being sold after his death, because in their entirety they give a unique picture of the era in which they were written.

I immediately got in touch with Special Collections Library at The University of Georgia in Athens.  I was able to purchase scans of all 41 letters and envelopes very reasonably. I was very excited to have a look into my 19 year old grandmothers life through her letters. It was lucky that the University purchased them. I could never have afforded to buy them.

Next, the people in the letters.

George Reed Funeral – May 31, 1945

George Reed Funeral

“Funeral Services for George Reed, 73, colored, who died Monday at the home of Dr. and Mrs. A. B. Cleage, Detroit, were held today at the C.M.C. Willis mortuary, with the Rev. J.A. Alexander, pastor of Bethel, A. M. E. church, officiating. Burial was in Crown Hill. the body was accompanied here by Dr. and Mrs. Cleage and Henry Cleage, Detroit. Mr. Reed became ill here a year and a half ago and was taken to Detroit where he lived with his sister, Mrs. Cleage. Survivors, besides Mrs. Cleage, are two other sisters, Mrs. Sara Busby, Benton Harbor, Mich.; and Mrs. Minnie Mullins, Detroit; and two brothers, Clarence Reed, Chicago, and Hugh Reed who has lived in the West several years.”

George was actually closer to 78. He appears in the 1870 census as three year old George Ray with his mother Annie Ray.



Last Will and Testament of George Reed

You can read about George Reed’s life at this post George A. Reed

George Reed 1873 – 1945 – Tombstone Tuesday

Last Will & Testament of George Reed 1943

Click to enlarge

Last Will and Testament of George A. Reed

State of Indiana

County of Marion

I, George A. Reed, being at this time a resident of the city of Indianapolis, Marion County, in the state of Indiana and although impaired physically, of sound and disposing mind and memory, do hereby make, publish and declare this to be my last will and testament hereby revoking any and all wills by me hereto fore made.

Item I  All my debts and funeral expenses shall be first and fully paid.

Item II I hereby give and bequeath to my brothers Clarence Reed and Hugh Reed twenty five dollars ($25.00) each.

Item III  I hereby give, bequeath and desire my real estate situated at 2730 Kenwood Ave., Indianapolis, Indiana, more particularly described as  seventy (70′) off the east end of Lot twenty five in Ruddle and Vinton’s Park Place addition to the city of Indianapolis, in said county and state, as per plot thereof in Platt Book 4 page 190 seventy (feet) off the East end of said Lot twenty five (25) being forty (40′) feet wide, to my sister Sarah Busby of Benton Harbor, Michigan, to be her sole property, absolutely and in fee simple.

Click to enlarge


Item IV I have money on deposit in the United States Postal Savings Bank of Indianapolis, Indiana and at the Railroadmen’s Federal Savings and Loan Association of Indianapolis. I hereby give, bequeath and desire all said money and all the rest and residue of my property, real, personal and mixed that remains after my bequests mentioned at Item II and the devise at Item III to my sisters, Sarah Busby of Benton Harbor, Michigan, Minnie Mullins Busby of Benton Harbor, Michigan and Pearl Cleage of Detroit Michigan, to be theirs absolutely and in fee simple, and they shall each have one third thereof.

Item V  I hereby nominate and appoint Pearl Cleage to be the executrix of this my last will and testament and of my estate.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 25th day of October 1943 George A. (His X mark) Reed (seal)

Witness to mark:  Mettie J. Martin

Robert Lee Brokenburr                         Indianapolis, Ind. Oct. 25, 1943

We, the undersigned hereby, in the presence of said George A.Reed and in the presence of each other at his request witness the foregoing last will and Testament, that he declared the same to be his last will and testament and signed same of his own free will and accord in our presence, and we sign same as witnesses in his presence and in the presence of each other.

Mettie J Martin

Robert Lee Brokenburr


You can read about George Reed’s life at this post George A. Reed.