Escape – Dock Allen

While watching “Many Rivers to Cross” this week, an episode full of stories of resistance, escape and fighting back, this is the family story that came to mind.

Dock Allen
Dock Allen – tintype with frame attached.

It had been a wet spring, that 1861 in Dallas County, Alabama. Dock Allen was 21 years old and already a good carpenter.  He was a white man’s son, but the man who now held him in slavery was not his father.  His owner was known as a cruel man who kept vicious dogs to instill fear in his slaves. He wanted them to be afraid to run.  When Dock made up his mind to escape, he had a plan  to throw the dogs off of his track. There was a swampy area where wild ramps grew. He rubbed himself with them, poured the water on himself and rolled around in the field so the strong onion odor would hide his own human smell.

He had been running and running. He was bone tired. He could hear the dogs tracking him in the distance when he came to a small farm near Carlowville.  He couldn’t go any further. He climbed up into the hay loft, covered himself with hay and lay there barely breathing.  The dogs came into the hay room. He could feel their breath as they walked over him, but they didn’t smell him because of the ramps.  Eventually they left.

Eliza
Eliza

This was the same place where Eliza and her small daughter Mary, lived. Eliza had been freed several years before. She lived on the farm of Nancy Morgan.  Did Eliza hear the dogs and see Dock stumble into the yard?  Did she silently direct him to the hide in the hay?

Later Dock decided to give himself up. Nancy sent a message to his master.  It wasn’t long before he came to the house. He said that no one had ever out smarted his dogs and that any man who was smart enough to do that deserved to be free and he freed Dock.  Dock stayed on that place and he and Eliza married.  They stayed together until he died in 1909.  He was 69.

Doc Allen in the record.

dockelizagrave
Dock and Eliza (Williams) Allen’s grave.

I found Dock Allen in in the 1867 voter registration database living in Montgomery, AL.  He appears with his family in the 1870, 1880 and 1900 census in Montgomery.  According to the records he was a carpenter born in Georgia.  He owned his own home.  In the 1900 census he and Eliza had been married 40 years which puts the beginning around 1860.

I have three addresses for him, 237 Clay street, 216 Holt street and finally 444 S. Ripley street where he lived for the five years before he died March 29, 1909 of “inflammatory bowels” after being ill for several weeks.  His mother is named as Matilda Brewster on his death certificate.  No father is listed. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery.

I don’t know if this is exactly how Dock Allan escaped from slavery.  This is the oral history that we have. I never knew this story until my cousin Jacqui Vincent and I made contact years ago.  Dock and Eliza (Williams) Allen were my 2X Great grandparents.  I’ve written more about Eliza’s story in these posts.

Watch Night – Born into Slavery and Died in Freedom

Angela Walton-Raji of the blog My Ancestor’s Name suggested that tonight we observe Watch Night by naming our ancestors who were born into slavery but lived to see freedom. I decided to join her.

I have no photograph of Annie Williams (mother of Eliza Williams Allen) who was born about 1820 in Virginia and died after 1880 in Montgomery, Alabama.

I do not have a photograph of  Matilda Brewster (mother of Dock Allen) who was born in Georgia.

Eliza
Eliza Williams Allen B. Alabama 1839 – 1917
docallen
Dock Allen B. Georgia 1839 – D. Alabama 1909

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eliza Williams Allen was my great great grandmother. She was born in Alabama about 1839 and died free in Montgomery, Alabama in 1917. She was a seamstress.  You can read more about Eliza here A Chart of the People in Eliza’s Life and Eliza’s Story – Part 1 with links to the other 3 parts.

Dock Allen was my great great grandfather. He was born a slave in Georgia about 1839 and died free in Montgomery, Alabama in 1909.  He was a cabinet maker. You can read more about Dock Allen here Dock Allen’s Story.

I have no photographs of  my great grandparents William Graham who was born about 1851 or his wife Mary Jackson Graham born about 1856. Both were born in Alabama and died dates unknown.  William Graham was a farmer. They were my grandfather Mershell C. Graham’s parents. I know very little about them but I have been gathering information which I will post soon.

I do not have photographs of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner Graham’s paternal grandparents.  Her grandfather Joseph Turner was born in Alabama about 1839. He died in Lowndes County, AL in 1919. He was a farmer and owned his own land. His wife Emma Jones Turner was born about 1840 in South Carolina and died about 1901 in Lowndes County Alabama.  You can read more about them here,  Emma and Joe Turner of Gordensville, Lowndes County, Alabama.

Celia Rice Cleage Sherman with grand daughter Barbara Cleage.
Celia Rice Cleage Sherman with grand daughter Barbara Cleage.

Frank Cleage was born around 1816 in North Carolina. He was enslaved on the plantation of first Samuel Cleage and then his son Alexander Cleage.  I do not have a picture of Frank Cleage and have no stories about him. His name appears on my great grandfather, Louis Cleage’s death certificate.

In the 1870 Census he was living with his wife, Judy and six children, including my great grandfather, in Athens, Tennessee. I also have a marriage record for Frank and Judy dated 20 August, 1866.  I don’t know if they were married before and the children are theirs or if they came together after slavery. Judy was born about 1814.

Frank is mentioned in a work agreement between Samuel Cleage and his overseer in this post – Article of Agreement – 1834.

They were both born in slavery and lived most of their lives as slaves but they lived to see freedom and to see their children free.

No photograph of Louis Cleage B. 1852 in Tennessee and died 1919 in Indianapolis, IN.  Louis and Celia were my grandfather Albert B. Cleage’s parents. Louis was a laborer. You can read more about Louis Cleage here – Lewis Cleage – Work Day Wednesday.

Celia Rice Cleage Sherman was born into slavery about 1855 in Virginia.  She died about 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. She was a cook. You can read more about Celia Rice Cleage here Celia Rice Cleage Sherman.

I do not have photographs of my great grandmother Anna Allen Reed who was born about 1849 in Lebanon, Kentucky and died in 1911 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  She was my grandmother Pearl’s mother.

Anna’s mother Clara, my great great grandmother, was born 1829 in Kentucky and died after 1880 in Kentucky.  I need to write them up. You can see some of their descendents here My Father’s Mother’s People.

 

Visit to Oakwood Cemetery – Montgomery, Alabama 2009

Entry to Oakwood Cemetery. Office on the left.

On Sunday, February 9, 2009 my daughter, Ife and I drove over to Montgomery, AL. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive from Atlanta.  She had to pick up some art work and I wanted to see if the store my Grandmother Fannie managed before she married was still standing.  I also wanted to find Eliza and Dock Allen’s graves in Oakwood Cemetery.

Oakwood Cemetery layout from Google Maps. The older section has Dock and Eliza’s graves. The Newer one holds the Tulanes. The Tulane housing projects, named after Victor Tulane, are across from the cemetery.

First we picked up the art.  The artist’s husband gave us directions to the cemetery and the store.We found the cemetery easily.  It was open and there was a man walking into a little office near the entrance.  Ife parked and I went in and showed him the information I had, a location for the grave site of Victor Tulane.  He told us to follow him to the place we could look.  it was out of that one and around a few blocks and over the tracks to the newer part of the cemetery, which he drove up into, us following. He finally stopped and said it should be there in, that area, waving vaguely around.

Ife and I got out and started looking.  There were old graves, some newer ones from the 60’s and even 70’s and some from the 1800’s.  we walked up and down hills and probably over graves and couldn’t find it.  He came back with a map and asked if we’d looked further down.  So we went in that direction. I told him I had some death certificates and asked if he could tell me where the graves were located if I gave him the names.  He said I should bring them up to the office and he would copy them and look in the file.

We continued to look and finally Ife saw this grave with the name we were looking for “Tulane”. It was a child’s grave. On the other side it said “Alean”. She looked next to it and there was the grave we had spent all that time looking for. We had walked by that place several times but there was an upright grave marker that said “Ophelia M. Peterson” so we just went by without looking at the flat, cement slab, which was the grave we were looking for. I still don’t know why Ophelia’s stone is right up above it or who she was.

We then went up to the office and I took my death certificates in.  He copied them and asked if he could copy Dock Allen’s photograph, which I had stuck in the mylar pocket with the death certificate.  After making copies, he got out his file drawers and found Victor Tulane and two children, age 2 and 10 months.  My mother used to talk about how spoiled their daughter Naomi was, but she never mentioned or maybe even knew that they had lost two babies. I think that might help explain the spoiling.  He found Dock and Dock Allen (father and son) and Eliza.  He said they were buried on that side in Scotts Free Burial Ground – when it started they let people bury for free.  He drove ahead of us and showed us the section where the graves were and we walked around and finally found the grave marker for Dock and Eliza.  We regretted not bringing flowers or something to leave but we hadn’t expected to even get in.

 

 

Ife standing to the right of Dock and Eliza’s grave. Tulane Homes in the background.

As we were leaving the Cemetery, wishing we had brought some flowers or an offering of some kind, I noticed a name out of the corner of my eye, “Sallie Baldwin.” It was like finding another relative. A cousin of a cousin and I spent weeks, months figuring out how our families connected and about her relatives. Her mother  was alive then and kept giving us information that my friend didn’t believe but it always turned out to be true. James Hale, a well known and well to do black Montgomery businessman contemporary with the Tulanes, was her son-in-law and is buried here also.

Sallie Baldwin and family.

When we left the cemetery we drove down Ripley Street towards the store. Ripley runs next to Oakwood Cemetery.  The block where my grandmother and her family lived with Dock and Eliza Allen is now paved over for parking lots and government buildings. The store is still there and looking good.  I feel that it’s time for another trip to Montgomery.

The Tulane building in 2009.

Dock Allen’s Story

Dock Allen’s Story
As told to me in a phone conversation with my cousin Jacqui Vincent

Dock Allen was a white man’s son but not the one he ran away from.  His owner was a mean man who kept vicious dogs so that the slaves would be afraid to run.  Dock decided he was going to escape anyway but he did some things to throw the dogs off of his track. He walked through a wet field of wild ramps. He rubbed himself with them, poured the water on himself and practically rolled around in the field so the onion smell would hide his own.

Further along he came to a farm.  By that time he was very tired so he climbed up into the hay loft and covered himself with hay.  The tracking dogs came and he could feel their breath as they walked over him, but they didn’t find him because of the onion odor.  Eventually they left.

This was the same place where Eliza lived.  Later he decided to give himself up and the white people at the house send a message his master.  When he came to get Dock he said that no one had ever out smarted his dogs and that any man who was smart enough to do that deserved to be free and he freed him.  Dock stayed on that place and married Eliza.

Doc Allen in the record.

I found Dock Allen in in the 1867 voter registration database living in Montgomery, AL.  He appears with his family in the 1870, 1880 and 1900 census in Montgomery.  According to the records he was a carpenter born in Georgia.  He owned his own home.  In the 1900 census he and Eliza had been married 40 years which puts the beginning around 1860.

I have three addresses for him, 237 Clay street, 216 Holt street and finally 444 S. Ripley street where he lived for the five years before he died March 29, 1909 of “inflammatory bowels” after being ill for several weeks.  His mother is listed as Matilda Brewster on his death certificate.  No father is listed. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery.

I would like to find information about a runaway matching his description in the Dallas/Lowndes county area around 1860.  Probably that will have to wait until I am able to go to Alabama and do some research there.