On June 11, 1919 Mershell Graham and Fannie Mae Turner applied for a marriage license in Montgomery, Alabama. They were married by Rev. E.E. Scott at First Congregational Church in Montgomery on June 15. I have no photographs of the marriage or memories that were handed down. I could find no record of their marriage license in the Montgomery Advertiser. They seemed to have no section devoted to “News of the Colored Folk” as some newspapers did.
Soon after the ceremony my grandparents left and returned to Detroit where Mershell was working. I assume they took the train, which would have been segregated at that time. They roomed with friends from home, Moses and Jean Walker. There were other roomers, all of them saving up to be able to purchase their own homes.
I found several marriage related, handwritten poems in my grandparents papers and have printed them below. I wonder if they read these during the ceremony or exchanged them.
The gift Yes, take her and be faithful, still, and may your bridal bower, Be sacred kept in after years, and warmly breathed as now, Remember tis no common tie that binds your youthful hearts Tis one that only truth should breath and only death should part.
Remember tis for you she leaves her home and mother dear, To have this world with you alone, your good and ill to share, Then take her and may future years mark only joys increase And may your days glide sweetly on in happiness and peace.
The Brides Farewell
Soon, soon I’ll go – from those I love You, Mother, Sister, among the nest, Where I will often think of you, Far in the distant west.
Farewell, Mother, though I leave you Still I love you, Oh! believe me and when I am far away Back to you my thoughts will stray. Oft, I’ll think of you and home Though in other lands I’ll roam. Yes, though miles may intervene, I will keep thy memory green Mother, sister, from my heart Thoughts of thee shall never depart.
In 1940 my 75 year old great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Turner, lived with her daughters at 4536 Harding, Detroit, Michigan. She lived about 10 minutes by car (not that they had a car) from her oldest daughter, Fannie Graham and her family on Theodore. Her first cousin, James McCall, lived about half way between the two with his family on Parker. She was listed as a widow and retired with 6 years of schooling. Everyone in the house is identifed as “Negro”. Jennie gave the enumerator the information.
Aunt Daisy was 48 years old, single, with 4 years of high school. She was the only one in the house working outside of the home. She is listed as a stock girl at a retail fur company. It had been my understanding that Daisy was a seamstress but she was also listed as head stock girl at a fur store in the 1930 census so I guess she wasn’t sewing. My mother told me years ago that Daisy also collected numbers at Annis to supplement the family income. When she lived in Montgomery, AL, Daisy was a teacher for several years and worked in her Uncle Victor Tulane’s grocery store as a clerk.
Aunt Alice was 32 years old, single and had completed 9 years of school. This answered a question I had about Alice, did she finish high school after she moved to Detroit at age 15. I don’t think she did. If she started school at 6, she probably stopped when she moved to Detroit.
What education did your mother receive? Your grandmothers? Great-grandmothers? Note any advanced degrees or special achievements.
On My Maternal Side
My 3X great grandmother, Annie Williams, was born about 1820 in Virginia into slavery. According to the 1880 Census, when she was about 60, she spoke English and could not read or write.
Her daughter, my 2X great grandmother, Eliza Williams Allen, was born in Alabama about 1839 into slavery. She was freed by 1860. According to the 1910 census, she was about 67, spoke English and could not read or write
Her daughter, my great grandmother, Jennie Allen Turner was born free in Montgomery, Alabama in 1866. According to the 1880 Census, she was 13 years old, had attended school in the past year, spoke English and was literate. I found one of my favorite books at her house “Lydia of the Pines.”
Her daughter, my Grandmother Fannie Mae Turner Graham, was born in 1888 in Lowndes County, Alabama. She grew up in Montgomery. According to the 1900 census, she was 11 years old, at school, spoke English and was literate. My mother told me that when Fannie graduated from high school – State Normal, was offered a scholarship to Fisk but refused it and took a job in her uncles store, which she managed until she married in 1918. Also according to my mother, Fannie could quickly add long columns of numbers in her head.
My mother , Doris Graham Cleage, was born in Detroit in 1923. She graduated from Eastern High School in Detroit and received a full scholarship to Wayne State where she earned a BA with distinction as a Sociology major in June/1944. She returned to school in 1951 and earned teaching certification. In 1958 she became a masters candidate in education, completing her Master’s of Education Degree in the fall of 1958. She took postmasters classes in education during a sabbatical in 1963. She also took evening classes in 1968, when I was a senior at Wayne State.
My great grandmother, Emma Jones Turner (My grandmother Fannie’s paternal grandmother) was born about 1840 in South Carolina into slavery. According to the 1880, 1900 and 1910 census she spoke English and was literate. I wish I knew more about her. I never heard a story about her. After my grandmother’s father was killed when she was 4 years old, her mother broke all ties with her husband’s family.
On My Paternal Side
My great grandmother Celia Rice Cleage Sherman was my grandfather’s mother. She was born about 1855 into slavery in Virginia and brought to Tennessee as a child. She was about 10 when freedom came. In the 1880 census she could neither read nor write. By the 1930 census she spoke English and could read but could not write. I wonder if my grandfather or his siblings taught her to read when they went to school.
My 2X great grandmother, Clara Green was born into slavery about 1829 in Kentucky. She was my grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage’s grandmother. In the 1880 census she was listed as about 55, spoke English and could not read or write.
Her daughter, my great grandmother Anna Allen Reed was born about 1849 in Kentucky into slavery. According to the 1910 Census she spoke English but could not read or write. Anna’s four older children were illiterate while the four youngest were literate.
Her youngest daughter, my grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage was born in Lebanon, Kentucky in 1886. In the 1900 census she was 16 and where it says if you were or were not in school it says “Book 1” I don’t know what that means. At any rate she was literate and spoke English. My Aunt Barbara told me she finished high school. I remember my grandparent’s house being full of books.
Alice was my grandmother, Fannie’s youngest sister. I knew that Alice was my grandmother’s half sister and had a different father but all I’d ever heard was what my mother wrote me about him,
“Grandmother stayed single until she was about 37 or 38 when she married someone Mother hated – looked Italian, hardly ever worked. Liked a good time. Fathered Alice and left when she was very small. Somehow when mother spoke of him I had the feeling he would have like to have taken advantage of her. She was about 20 and had given up two college scholarships to stay and help Grandmother.”
And then his name on the chart my mother wrote out for me that has “Wright” squeezed in after my great grandmother Jennie’s name. At one time I was hopeful of finding him with the family in the 1910 census since Alice was born in 1908 in Montgomery. But, no, he was already gone. I looked for Wright’s nearby and there was a Sallie Wright on the same page but I couldn’t find any connection to her and a Mr. Wright. I sent for Alice’s death certificate and her social security application hoping for more information about Mr. Wright.
I received the Death Certificate first. My Aunt Mary V. was the informant. I saw that Alice’s father’s name was given as “Howard Wright”. I doubted it. Jennie Allen Turner Wright’s first husband was Howard Turner. Possibly Mary V. didn’t remember his actual name and so put in Howard. I looked for Howard Wright and found none born in North Carolina and in Alabama during the time.
A few days ago Alice’s Social Security Application arrived. It looks like my grandmother Fannie helped or corrected Alice’s form. By the time she filled this out, Alice’s mother and other sister, Daisy, were dead. She was living with my grandparents, Fannie and Mershell Graham, on Theodore. Her schizophrenia had been recognized or surfaced and perhaps she applied in order to receive social security payments since she had not worked under social security. At any rate, there is a whole name on the form – John W. Wright. I looked for him and found a few John W. Wrights born in NC in Montgomery and the right age range, but no marriage record and never with my great grandmother. The search continues.
Seamstresses at Annis Furs in Downtown Detroit. Taken in the 1920’s. My great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner is in the second row, far left. Her daughter Alice is next to her. Skip the next woman and her daughter Daisy is there, 4th from the left. The three of them got jobs at Annis Furs soon after moving to Detroit from Montgomery, Alabama about 1924. I remember a little teddy bear Daisy made for my younger cousin Marilyn Elkins out of scraps of real fur. To read more about my Great Grandmother Turner, click Jennie Virginia Allen Turner.
Below is a photograph from the Burton collection at the Detroit Public Library. The Annis Fur Company is in the corner building. Although this was taken in 1917 I think the area looked pretty much the same 7 years later. To see a photograph of the Woodward Ave in 1910 click at Shorpy. You can see Annis Fur Post and Grinell Bros Pianos on the left, looking down the crowded street, past the Eureka Vacuum sign.
For more photos of crowds of women and other fascinating subjects, click Sepia Saturday.
I posted this chart last year for Labor Day. Here is a chart showing 7 generations of workers from my 3X 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. You can see a similar chart for my paternal side HERE.
After reading My Grandfather was an Enumerator on the blog ABT UNK, I decided to write something about my grandmother Fannie M. Turner who was an enumerator for the 1910 US Census in Montgomery, Alabama. She was 22 and lived with her mother and younger sisters in Montgomery, although not in the district she enumerated. Her grandmother Eliza Allen lived in the district. It was looking at the entry for Eliza that I first noticed that my grandmother was the enumerator. Recently I found a newspaper article online about the appointed census takers that said in part:
“Montgomery – City – Whites: Albert S. Ashley, E.F. Davis, James C. Westbrook, Leopold Loab, Thomas Robinson, R. Brownlee Centerfit, Charles S. Spann, Louis Lyons, Edgar W. Smith, Mrs. Fannie B. Wilson, Handy H. McLemore, Thomas M. Westcott, Alto Deal, Miss Gene Finch, Frank G. Browder. Negroes–To enumerate negro (sic) population only–Gertrude V. Wilson, Eli W. Buchanan, Fannie M. Turner, David R. Dorsey.”
Fannie M. Turner began work April 15, 1910 and enumerated her Aunt Abbie and her Grandmother Eliza on pg 2. She finished on April 26. Mrs. Fannie B. Wilson (white) completed the enumeration of Montgomery, Ward 4 by counting the white residents on several pages after that. As noted in the newspaper article, Negro enumerators could only count Negros. I wonder how that worked. Did my grandmother go to the door, note that they were white and tell them someone else would return to count them later? Did the neighbors alert her? Since she was already familiar with the neighborhood, did she already know where the white people lived or did all the white residences live in the same area?
My grandmother was a working woman who managed her Uncle Victor’s grocery store from the time she graduated from State Normal School until she married my grandfather in 1919. Wish I knew the stories she must have had to tell about that two weeks of counting the citizens in Ward 4.
Reading left to right 1. Herman C. King 2. Naomi Tulane (my grandmother’s cousin) 3. A??? Forbes 4. Alfred Young (?) 5. Fannie Turner (my grandmother) 6. ??? McDonald 7. ?? McDonald ???? behind Holly Springs
Dock Allen was born around 1832 into slavery in Georgia. He died free in 1909 in Montgomery Alabama. He was a carpenter. His mother, Matilda Brewster was born in Georgia into slavery. I don’t know when or where she died.
Eliza Williams Allen was born into slavery about 1839 in Alabama. She died free in Montgomery Alabama in 1917. She was a seamstress. Her mother, Anne Williams was born into slavery in South Carolina about 1820 and died free in Montgomery before 1900.
Dock and Eliza’s daughter Jennie Virginia Allen Turner was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1866. She was a seamstress. She died in 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. In 1887 she married Howard Turner. He was born in Lowndes County Alabama in 1864. He was murdered in Alabama in 1892. His father, Joe Turner, was born into slavery in Alabama about 1839. He was a farmer. He died free in Alabama in 1919. Howard’s mother, Emma Jones, was born into slavery in South Carolina about 1840 and died free in Alabama in 1901.
Jennie and Howard’s daughter, Fannie Turner Graham was born in Lowndes County, AL in 1888. She died in Detroit, Michigan in 1974. She managed a grocery store before her marriage to Mershell C. Graham in 1919. Mershell and both of his parents were born in Alabama. Mershell moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1918. In 1919 he returned to Montgomery to marry Fannie. They both returned to Detroit immediately following the wedding where they roomed with friends from Montgomery for several years. Mershell worked at Fords Motor Co. in the parts section. When they were ready to buy their own house they sent for Fannie’s mother, Jennie and two sisters. All of Fannie and Mershell’s children were born in Detroit. In 1946 Fannie’s Aunt Abbie came up from Montgomery and lived with Mershell and Fannie until her death in 1966.
By the 1960s all of Dock and Eliza’s children and grandchildren had left Montgomery and were living in Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin and New York City. Mershell’s relatives remained in Alabama but contact was lost and we don’t know what happened to them. Joe and Emma’s children stayed in Lowndes County, some moving to Montgomery and Birmingham by the 1930 census. Because my grandmother lost touch with them before leaving Alabama I only know by following the census where they went. I believe some eventually moved to Chicago but I’ll have to wait for the 1940 census to verify.
My cousins and I grew up in Detroit surrounded by family on both sides, who had left Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee to end up there. Of my grandparents five granddaughters, two remain in Detroit as do their children and grandchildren. One now lives in California where the majority of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were born and live. My sister and I, along with most of our children and grandchildren live in Atlanta Georgia.
Amanuensis Monday was started to encourage transcribing and sharing documents, letters etc. that we have. I am sharing a letter from Victor Tulane to my grandmother Fannie after her family moved up from Montgomery to Detroit. Soon after she and my grandfather bought a house her mother and her two sisters joined them. They had two children under 5 and my mother was on the way. Read more about Victor Tulane here and about my grandmother here.
Rents Collected Homes Bought Loans Negotiated And Sold Estates Managed
REAL ESTATE AND INSURANCE
SCOTT BUILDING 123 MONROE ST.
Montgomery, ALA., Nov. 23, 1922
Dear Fannie, I am enclosing check from this M.R. & Ins. Co; for ten dollars which the sec’y should have mailed you some time ago.
We are winding up the affairs of this company and will send you another payment on stock acct. pretty soon. I think that the company will be able to pay off it’s stock holders dollar for dollar.
I trust this will find all well and getting along nicely.
Your mother’s things were shipped yesterday. Trust they will arrive on time and in first class condition. Remember me to all the folks. Tell the kids hello! Let us have a line from you when convenient.