My mother wrote about her mother’s life in these posts:
This is my seventh post for the April A-Z Challenge. I am going to write about my grandmothers and Good Housekeeping magazine’s October, 1912 issue about their “Composite Reader”. I read a post over at Shery’s blog, A Hundred Years Ago, this morning. It got me thinking about my grandmothers and also wondering what the rest of the article said. I found it in the Cornell University Home Economics Archive. Some other articles in the magazine were:
Some of these articles reminded me of a book my grandmother Fannie had called “Ideal Home Life” which was written in 1909. There were article in The Indianapolis Recorder written during that time that also talked about simplified and gracious living. Instead of eugenics, they concentrated on “uplift” and had articles about ways to teach those who didn’t know the proper way to keep house and raise children, how to do it.
What were my grandmother’s doing at this time?
Pearl Reed Cleage was born in Lebanon, KY in 1884. In October of 1912, she was 28 had been married for almost two years to Albert B. Cleage Sr. Her mother, Anna Allen Reed, died the previous year. Pearl had one son (my father) who was about 17 months old. They lived in Kalamazoo, MI where my grandfather had opened a medical practice. While they lived in Indianapolis, IN, my grandmother’s name appeared in the newspaper quite often for singing at church and civic events. I found no such articles in the Kalamazoo papers. Her growing family probably put an end to that. I hope she was still able to sing in her church choir. My Uncle Louis was born in August of 1913.
Fannie Turner Graham was born in 1888 in Hayneville, AL and was 24 years old in 1913. She moved to Montgomery with her mother and sister when she was four and was still living there in 1912 with her mother and two sisters. She was managing her Uncle Victor Tulane’s grocery store. In 1911 she was a member of the Progressive Twelve Club. They seem to gather for sewing and socialization. She attended First Congregational Church services with her family. It wouldn’t be until 1919 that she married my grandfather, Mershell Graham.
Fannie Mae Turner Graham would be 112 today if she had not died in 1977. This photograph was taken in my grandparent’s backyard during a trip home to Detroit from Springfield, Massachusetts in 1948.
My grandmother, Nanny is looking at me and smiling while I stand on the little table. My grandmother was 60 years old, 6 years younger than I am today. I turned 2 in August of that year. This was my first visit to Detroit. My grandmother came to help my mother when I was born, but she hadn’t seen me since. This was my grandfather’s first time seeing me.
My mother was several months pregnant with my sister Pearl. We traveled by train. When I got back to Springfield, I came down with a case of roseola. There were no lasting effects for me or for my yet to be born sister.
The generations gathered around my Graham grandparents dining room table in 1963 for Thanksgiving dinner. There was turkey with cornbread dressing cooked by my grandfather. There was white rice, cranberry jelly, green beans, corn pudding and sweet potatoes. There was my grandmother’s finely chopped green salad and her homemade biscuits with butter and with a relish plate holding olives, sweet pickles and carrot sticks.
One thing there wasn’t, was talk about the old days. My grandparents were born in 1888. My grandmother was born Fannie Turner in Lowndes County, Alabama. My grandfather was born Mershell Graham in Elmore County, Alabama. They met and married in Montgomery. My great great Aunt Abbie was born in 1877 in Montgomery, Alabama and was the second to youngest child of Dock and Eliza Allen. My mother told us stories she had heard from her mother, mainly about Dock and Eliza and their children. I remember once my older cousin was trimming Aunt Abbie’s toenails when Aunt Abbie mentioned that she used to trim her grandmother’s toenails when she was a girl. And that her grandmother also had arthritis. I have always remembered that, but I didn’t ask any follow up questions about her grandmother, Annie Williams who was born a slave and was full grown and the mother of a fully grown woman when she was freed. And Aunt Abbie didn’t say anything else about it.
My grandfather, who we called Poppy, was a mystery. My mother only had little parts of stories she had gotten from her mother, things that just made the mystery deeper in most cases.What were his siblings names and what happened to them? Are the ones I’ve found that I think are his siblings, really his siblings? In 1900, I found these possible siblings living with a man who is listed as their father but has a name not listed on any of their death certificates, was he their father with a different name? And where was he, my grandfather, in 1900? Why wasn’t he there, or anywhere else I can find? Where was their mother? What was the name of the little white girl he was servant too when he was a boy? The one he slept on the floor outside of her bedroom door? The one who changed his name from Michele to Mershell because Michele sounded too “foreign”? How did he learn to read? Did he go to school? Did he know his grandparents and what plantation did his parents come off of? There was a photograph of his sister and her children in the album. I would like to ask him what their names were. Are they the ones I’ve found in the census?
I would like to ask my grandmother some of the same questions about her father’s family. Howard Turner died when she was 4 and her mother moved away from that community and went back to her family in Montgomery. I was able to find her father’s family because I knew his name, his age and the community he came from but I have no stories about his parents and siblings or what plantation they came off of. I only know that his father, Joseph Turner of Hayneville, Lowndes County was a farmer and owned his own land and had given his son some land which he didn’t want him to sell and the two of them argued about it.
When we went by my other grandparent’s house for desert I would ask where my grandfather’s mother, Celia Rice Cleage Sherman is buried. And why my grandmother Pearl thought her grandmother was Cherokee.
Unfortunately, I can’t go back to 1963 and sit around the table and steer the conversation around to who was where and when and how and why. I can only use the information I do have to keep looking and hope that one day some cousins from those mysterious lines will turn up and perhaps have some of the answers to my questions.
This was written for the Blog Carnival “The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On”.
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.
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.
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.
I published a longer post that included this information (without the actual pages) along with entries from my grandmother’s other journals in 2010. I am only including information from 1940 this time.
Feb. 5, 1940
Dear God and Little Book: the mail has just brought us the long looked for letter from Wayne University and the Board of Education that Doris has received the yearly scholarship to Wayne… I shed tears of joy… for more reasons than one or even two and the main reason is she deserves it for being such a sweet little “trick”…even if we do say so ourselves.
February 12 – Doris’s birthday – 17 today. We had a nice dinner, cake, ice cream and gifts for her from all.
March 12, my birthday, among all a purchase certificate from JL Hudson’s from our daughters and dad
April 3 – Mary Virginia is 20 today. We had nice dinner cake and ice cream and gifts from us all – also Aunt Daisy never forgets with money.
Dad celebrates Christmas day.
April 12-The Grahams were enumerated. No mention in the Little Book.
June 10 — Mary Virginia has just gotten (through Jim and May) a good job at the County Bldg — God is so good to us. and today our Mershell Jr would have been 19 if he had lived – but we still say – God knows best.
Several days ago Cassmob’s of Family history across the seas blog had an interactive map of places she’s been writing about in Papua, New Guinea. I immediately went to Google Maps to figure out how to do it myself. Below is a map of places my family lived during the 1940 Census in Detroit. If you click on the blue markers it will tell you who lived there and how they are related to my grandparents.
View 1940 Detroit, Michigan – Where we lived in a larger map
Detroit is divided by Woodward Avenue into Westside and Eastside. My Cleages are all clustered close on the Westside, which is also where I grew up. The Grahams are more spread out on the Eastside. Plymouth had a vibrant youth group program in the 1930 and that is where my parents met. The old Plymouth Congregational Church was urban renewed in the late 1970s and moved location but in 1940 it was located at Garfield and Beaubien, right in the middle of what is now the Detroit Medical Center.
There is a way to insert pop up photographs too which I am going to figure out next.
After I finished writing about my Grahams in the 1940 Census yesterday, I looked at some maps of the enumeration district. Here are some photographs I put together from Google maps showing what the area looks like now and what streets were included in their enumeration district. My cousin Barbara and I visited the area in 2004 and it looked just like this.
An ariel view from google of my grandparents block. Their house was located where the “A” is. There used to be an alley but it is now overgrown as they don’t maintain alleys in Detroit any more. The Jordan house and the Graham house shared the enclosed space. There was another alley next to the Jordan house which is included inside the fence.
Looking down the street from elementary school toward the ruined Packard plant. My Uncle Mershell was hit and killed by a truck on the way back to school with his older sister, Mary Vee after lunch. I think she always felt she was somehow responsible.
The 1940 census was released yesterday. Today I was able to find both sets of grandparents, with my parents still living at home, the only great grandparent still alive, three families of cousins and my in-laws who were married and living in their own home with the first of their twelve children, baby Maxine. Today I am going to write about my mother’s family, the Grahams.
My grandparents were enumerated on April 12, 1940. They lived, as I expected, at 6638 Theodore Street in Detroit. The entire enumeration district was white with the exception of my grandparents and their next door neighbors, the Jordans. Just noticed my grandparents and family were enumerated as “white”. Among the adults over 40 was a mix of naturalized citizens from Italy, Poland, Canada, Switzerland, England, Germany and natural born citizens from the southern United states. There were a few people who had filed their first papers towards gaining citizenship and a few “aliens”. The younger adults and the children were almost all born in Michigan. The majority of people in the district had lived in the same place since 1935. Among the workers on my grandparents page were a janitor, two maids, a laborer at a spring factory, a bender at an auto plant, a checker at a dress shop, a grinder at an auto factory, a delivery man for a print shop, a stock clerk at an auto factory, a stenographer, a time keeper at a machine shop, a manager for a coal and ice concern and a salesman for a radio concern.
My grandmother, Fannie, was the informant for her family. She and Mershell were both 50. He had completed 8th grade. She and 20 year old daughter, Mary V., had completed 4 years of high school. My mother, Doris was 17 and had completed 4 years of high school and was attending college. Mershell had worked 52 weeks as a stock clerk at an auto factory and earned $1,720 during 1939. Mary V. was working as a stenographer at a newspaper office and had earned nothing in 1939. They owned their own home which was worth $3,500 and had lived in the same house in 1935.
Did I learn anything new from this census? This was the first time I looked at the whole enumeration district which gave me more of an overview of the neighborhood. I did not know that my grandfather completed 8th grade. I always heard he taught himself to read because he never attended school. I wonder which is true, did he teach himself to read and my grandmother just said he completed 8th grade or did he go to school. No big surprises, mostly seeing in the record what I already knew.
For more information about the Grahams, their enumeration district and photographs of what the area looks like now Supplemental material about the neighborhood. A photo of my mother, aunt and uncle – Bird’s Eye View, 1940 photograph. My grandmother’s mother and sisters – 1940 Census – Jennie Virginia Turner. A map of where my family lived in Detroit during the 1940 Census – Where We Lived. My grandmother Fannie’s 1940 Journal Entries. My mother at Wayne State University in 1940.
Source 1940 U.S. Census. State: Michigan. County: Wayne. City: Detroit. Ward:15. Enumeration District: 84-862. Household: 331. Sheet Number: 16-A. Date: April 12, 1940. Head of Household: Mershell Graham. Informant: wife, Fannie Graham. To see the census sheet for the Graham Family – click.
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.