Clifton Graham

This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published  between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.  Click on any image to enlarge.

Clifton Graham was the best man at my grandparent’s wedding.

The Emancipator, Saturday, Jun 22, 1918

“Mr. Clif Graham, who has been residing in Detroit, Mich., for the the past year or more, is visiting relatives and friends in the city.”

Clifton Graham and his family were always referred to as my grandfather Mershell Graham’s adopted family.  He wasn’t raised by them and we all knew his birth family was in Coosada, Alabama. I never asked why he had adopted them as his family. I always assumed it was because he was friends with Clifton and they shared the name of “Graham”. Now everybody I could have asked is gone.

My grandfather is on the railing, Cliff is on the steps and mother Mary Graham is seated on the porch of the Graham home. 

Clifton Graham was born July 13, 1889 in Montgomery, Alabama. He was the fifth of the five children of Joseph and Mary (Rutledge) Graham. Only two of the children survived to adulthood – Clifton and Mattie. Both Clifton and his older sister Mattie attended college for several years. He was drafted in July of 1918, married Gwendolyn Lewis the following month and was released from the army in March 1919. While Clifton was in the army and before their son was born, Gwendolyn taught school. Their first son, John Clifton Jr. was born in Montgomery. They moved to Detroit and the second son, Lewis, was born there. In the 1930 Census Clifton Graham worked as a prohibition agent. Later he continued to work for the government.

Clifton’s sister and mother also moved to Detroit. Gwendolyn’s brother, Billingsly Lewis moved with their mother to Chicago around the same time.


I found this information on in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. News items were found on I also use Google Maps. The photograph is from my family photos.

Blakley – Beckwith Marriage

This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published  between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.  Click on any image to enlarge.

Virgie and John were members of the same church that my grandparents attended.

“A marriage of interest to the many friends of both young people is that of Miss Virgie Dorsette Beckwith and Sergeant John W. Blakely, which was quietly solemnized Mar. 24 1919 at the home of the bride’s father, Mr. P.S. Beckwith, 517 South Street, Rev. E.E. Scott officiated, only relatives being present.

Miss Beckwith is a young woman of sterling qualities and has many friends who regret that her marriage will take her from Montgomery.

Sergeant Blakely left immediately after the ceremony for Evanston, Ill.

At home after June 10th at 1922 Wesley Ave, Evanston, Ill.”


Virgie taught school  in Montgomery for several years before her marriage. She did not work outside of the home afterwards. The couple moved to Chicago and lived there for the rest of their lives. John continued to work as a barber until his death in 1952. Virgie died two years later in 1954. John and Virgie Blakely had no children.

I have found no siblings for John Blakely. Virgie was one of five. Four of them, moved north. Her father eventually moved north also and joined two of his children in Cleveland, Ohio. One daughter moved to Detroit and one daughter remained in Montgomery.


John W. Blakely was a friend of my grandfather, Mershell C. Graham. In 1918 about a year before his marriage, Blakely wrote the following letter to him.

Montgomery Ala Feb 27/1918

My Dear Pal;
Your letter of a few days ago was received, and I can assure you that a line from my old friend was highly appreciated.  I remember writing you some time ago and for some reason I did not hear from you until now, but failing to put my address on my letter naturally would leave you in doubt as to where to write me, all of which I am very sorry.  I was indeed glad to hear that you and the other boys were all enjoying the very best of health and that the government has used good judgment in classing all of you in class A-1 and I only want you to know that when ever you all get there, you can rest assured that you will have the opportunity of seeing me for I am now in the old city taking my examination, they passed me all OK.  So you can see it is very likely I shall soon be somewhere in a training camp, I do wish however that it was possible for me to train somewhere in the Northern camps instead of the southern camps.  I am sure you understand why.  I shall leave tonight for Atlanta where I shall wait until they are ready for me to report for duty.  I was out to see your Mother Monday afternoon.  Found her looking and feeling the very best of health and was very glad to see me and to know that I had heard from you.  Of course she is worried over the thought of you boys having to go to the army, but said that if there was no way to keep out of it, why she felt she would have to make some sacrifice which is indeed a fine spirit.  I also stopped by Gwen and her mother’s.  They were both looking fine.  She was sick when I was here Xmas so I didn’t get a chance to see her and of course you know I couldn’t leave the city without seeing the Fairest Lady of the land.  Glad to say that she is looking just fine said that she would like so much to see you.

Montgomery is as dry as a chip.  There is really nothing doing here, all of the boys of our push have gone away with the exception of four – Adams, Taylor, Gilmer and Nathan.  Mack; I wish it was possible for me to say just at present whether or not I will be able to come west or not this spring or even in the summer but as things are arranged now it is hard for me to say.  But if I am not called in to service real soon, why I shall have more time to think it over.

I am doing nicely in Atlanta.  I have the 5th chair in a 12 chair shop, which, of course is the largest shop there.  So far as getting along OK, why I really have no reason to complain, but there is a desire to have that privilege to breath for once in life one deep breath of pure free atmosphere as a man, as well as meeting again with old friends.

I wish to be remembered to Cliff and Chisholm and to you all.  I hope your every efforts will be crowned with success.

Trusting that I shall hear from you again real soon,
I am your friend,
J.W. Blakely,
#8 Central Ave.
Atlanta, GA



I found this information on in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. News items were found on I also use Google Maps. The letter is from my family archives.




This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published  between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.   Click on any image to enlarge.“Mrs. Jenine Turner Wishes to announce the engagement of her daughter, Fannie Mae, to Mr. Mershell C. Graham, of Detroit, Mich. The Marriage to take place in the spring”

“Pom, Shell & Fan” My maternal grandparents, Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham. August 1919 Detroit, Michigan two months after their marriage.
The Wedding – June 1918

Graham-Turner Wedding

On Sunday, June 15th at four o’clock Miss Fannie Turner and Mr. Mershell Graham were happily united in marriage at the home of the bride on E. Grove St. The home was prettily decorated for the occasion.

Just before the entrance of the bridal party, Mr. Lowndes Adams sang a beautiful solo, immediately after which the groom entered the parlor to the strains of Mendelson’s wedding March, with Mr. Clifton Graham, his brother, as best man. The bride entered with her uncle, Mr. V.H. Tulane, who gave her away, gowned in white satin with real lace and pearl bead trimmings the hat, a beautiful creation of white Georgette, the bride made a very pleasing appearance.  She carried a large bouquet of roses and fern.

The home was crowded to its fullest capacity, fully two hundred guests being present which bespoke the esteem and popularity in which the young couple are held.

The presents were many and varied, consisting of silver, cut glass, linen, wearing apparel, money, and many useful household articles.

Rev. E.E. Scott performed the ceremony and Miss Naomi Tulane presided at the piano.

The guests were served delicious refreshments.

The happy couple left Sunday evening for Detroit, Mich., their future home.

Everybody mentioned in these articles will appear in this years challenge, plus a few others.
I found this information on in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. News items were found on I also use Google Maps. The photograph is from my family photos.

The Midget Band

This photograph is from my grandmother, Fannie Turner Graham’s album. On the back, my mother wrote “Cousins on mother’s side Annie Bell is first cousin (see her & husband on left – rest are their children!)” 

"Martin Marching Band"
Edward Napier Martin, Anabel McCall Martin, and chlidren Estil Edwin, Edward Napier, Jefferson, Anna Marie, Edward McCall, Geneva, Thelma. In Florida.

Until yesterday, I never found any information about the family band. Today I want to share two articles and what I learned from them about the family. Anna Belle is variously known as “Annie Belle”, “Anabel” and “Anna Belle”.

The Emancipator was published by James Edward McCall, Anna Belle’s brother, in Montgomery, Alabama from October 1917 to August 1920. While looking for the name “Martin” in The Emancipator, I found this item –

· Sat, Oct 18, 1919 – 4 · The Emancipator (Montgomery, Alabama) ·

“Mr. and Mrs. E.M. Martin and their Midget and arrived in the city Sunday night en-route from Florida to Kentucky making the trip by road in their motor car.”

A mention of the band!   I also found when the family moved from Florida to Kentucky and that they traveled in their own car.  Next, I searched for “Midget Band”. Several articles come up, all in The Emancipator. The best was the one below, which included a photograph of the family. One thing that disturbs me about both photos is the forlorn look of all the children. Why don’t the boys in the photo below have on shoes? A barefoot marching band? Were they getting enough to eat?

In the article I found that their son, Edward McCall Martin  was born in Alabama because his father was teaching there. The article says that Edward Napier Martin had taught at the State Normal School six years before. That was the year young Edward was born – 1913.  All of the other children were born in Tennessee or Kentucky, while Edward McCall Martin was consistently listed as born in Alabama. I wondered why and how. Now I know.

· Sat, Jul 5, 1919 – 7 · The Emancipator (Montgomery, Alabama) · Newspapers.comMontgomery, Alabama, July-

“The musical, social and intellectual circles of the city are congratulating themselves upon the appearance of one of the most unique and highly interesting musical organizations that has ever visited Montgomery, namely Prof E.N. Martin’s Band which is composed almost entirely of midget musicians, the youngest being only three years old. It is the musical miracle of the age.

Prof. Martin, who six years ago was one of the teachers at the local Normal School, is a band master of rarest ability. He is accompanied by his wife who was formerly Miss Anabel McCall of this city, and their seven children ranging in age from three to eleven years. they are all trained musician and read notes at sight. They carry with them a brass band septette and two drums and is a revelation to listen to their music. Their director is only four years old and is a wonder. They are in the concert work and are already booked for a number of engagements in this city.

Prof. Martin’s Band carries with it many strong endorsements from some of the prominent citizens and musicians of our country. For example, Bishop Laine, founder of Laine College at Jackson, Tenn., says of them:- “I have never seen anything like this in my life, and in it I see the finest lessons in home-training that has ever come to my notice, and I have traveled all over this country.

While the band was giving an open air concert in Montgomery, some one asked of their nationality, whereupon Dr. M.B. Kirkpatrick who has offices are in the Bell Building, said “It matters not about their nationality. Just listen to the music.  It is the sweetest I have ever heard.”

They carry souvenirs from musicians of note, such as Sousa’s Band, Hawaiian Singers and others, who testify as to their talent and efficiency as musicians. Visit some of their concerts and be convinced.

Prof. Martin is a traveling representative for the Emancipator, the South’s leading Negro newspaper, which is being read all over America. This wonderful band will be in Montgomery for the next three weeks and churches or individuals wishing to have them fill engagements in near-by towns should write to Prof. E.N. Martin, 336 S. Jackson St., Montgomery, Ala. or in the care of the Emancipator.”

Other Posts about this family.

Oh, Dry Those Tears

Police Surprised “Uncle Ed”

More About Annabell’s Family

Click for more Sepia Saturday posts.

Howard Turner Killed in Lowndes County, Alabama

Killed In Lowndes

Howard Turner of This City Killed at a Colored Folks Picnic.

Hayneville, June 30. -[Special.]-  Last Saturday the colored people had a picnic across Big Swamp near Hayneville. The result is Howard Turner, who came from Montgomery was killed by one Phillip McCall.  Too much whisky and too many pistols. Phillip surrendered this morning.”  The Weekly Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama) Thursday, July 10, 1891 Page 2

We were always told that my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s father was killed at a barbeque when she was four years old. After years of being unable to find any documentation, I found this news item on Newspapers. dot com today.  I was just looking for various people in the newspapers when I came across it.

Howard Turner’s widow with their daughters. Jennie Virginia Allen Turner holding Daisy Turner (my great grandmother) and my grandmother Fannie sitting there holding her hat.

I have found so much new information since I started this blog that I feel the need to go back and put it all together for the various branches. My project for 2018.

The Celebrated Tulane Coffee

Naomi Tulane about four years old. 1904. (Copyright Jacqui Vincent)

This photograph of my grandmother Fannie’s cousin, Naomi Vincent was printed on the cans of Tulane Coffee.  This was one of her father Victor Tulane’s many projects, which included real estate, founding a Penny Bank, and owning Tulane’s Grocery. He was also on the Board of Directors of Tuskegee Institute and a generally active citizen of Montgomery. I found the advertisement below in the Montgomery Advertiser.

V.H. Tulane, Prop. was married to my great grandmother’s sister, Willie Lee (Allen) Tulane. Miss Fannie M. Turner, Mgr., was my maternal grandmother.

Years later, he traveled North selling Alaga Syrup. Naomi traveled with him and it was on a trip to New York City that she met her future husband, Dr. Ubert Vincent.

Alphonso Brown, Victoria McCall, 1970 photo of former Tulane Grocery, More recent photo of empty building.


A blog post about an exciting night at the Tulane Grocery Store  He Had Hidden Him Under the Floor

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Merrie Christmas and Happy New Year

A Christmas card from my Grandparent’s ( Mershell and Fannie Graham) collection, date unknown.  I read on a post by Pauline on Family History Across the Seas  about the people who sent Christmas Cards. It started me thinking about the cards I had from my grandparents collection with photographs of people I only knew were friends of the family, but nothing else about them. I wondered what I could find out. I picked this one out because, unlike some of the others, it had a name and a street address, although there was no date and no city. My grandparents lived in Montgomery, AL before moving to Detroit in 1919, so I started there.  Here is what I learned from the census and Montgomery Directory about Addie Smith.

Addie Smith "Ma Smith"
Addie Smith  “Ma Smith”  is written on the shingles near her face level.
"Merrie chtsmas and happy New Year. Your Addie Smith 105 Hutchinson St."
“Merrie Christmas and happy New Year. Addie Smith 105 Hutchinson St.”  My mother wrote “Don’t know date- friend”

Addie was born in 1869 in South Carolina to parents also born in South Carolina. In 1888, (the year my grandmother was born), Addie married Fountain Smith, a laborer about 14 years her senior.  This was her first marriage. Fountain may have been married before.  They had no children.

bankrupcyBy 1906 Fountain and Addie were living at 105 Hutchinson Street in Montgomery. She would live in this rented house for the rest of her life.  A Fountain Smith filed for bankruptcy in 1906. Over the years Addie Smith worked as a char woman/janitress in the Post Office. She may have also worked in that capacity in other public buildings.

At 53 years old, on October 26 in 1922, Addie Smith died. She is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery.  Fountain lived another 8 years, dying on November 3, 1930.  He would have been about 62. Because Addie died in 1922 and my grandparents moved to Detroit in 1919, I am guessing that this card was sent in 1920.

Fannie and Mershell soon after their marriage in 1919.
My grandparents Fannie and Mershell Graham soon after their marriage in 1919.

Looking at a map of the 4th Ward in Montgomery in I found that Hutchinson street no longer had houses below #800, However, my great Uncle Victor Tulane had a grocery store at Ripley and High street. My grandmother Fannie managed the store for a number of years before her marriage. This store would have been several blocks from Addie and Fountain Smith’s house. I am supposing that this is how they met.

For more Sepia Saturday Posts, CLICK!
For more Sepia Saturday Posts, CLICK!