G is for Grandmothers

a-to-z-letters-gThis 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:

  • The Woman of the Future  by Thomas A. Edison: About the wonders that electricity will bring to women and final enable them to be raised up to the level of the superior male mind because their housework will be negligible and actually engineering.
  • Mirandy on the Love Test  by  Dorothy Dix:  An article written in what is supposed to be the dialect of a black woman, gives advice. I could not get through the whole article for being irritated.
  • Practical Eugenics – letters responding to an earlier article which I could not find. Mostly talking about stopping the birth of “imperfect” children or to stop children from being born to “imperfect” parents.
  • The Ideal Suburban Home of the Near Future: by Sarah  Louise Arnold, talks about ideas for communal apartment living that may come before moving to that ideal small house in the suburbs.
Click to enlarge for reading.
Click to enlarge for reading.

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 Cleage and baby Albert"
Pearl Reed Cleage and baby Albert. 1911 Indianapolis, IN
Fannie Turner before marriage - 1909.
Fannie Turner before marriage – 1909.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

My Grandmother Fannie Mae Turner Graham’s Birthday Today

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 Fannie, my grandfather Mershell and my mother Doris. I am standing on the table.
My grandmother Fannie, my grandfather Mershell and my mother Doris. I am standing on the table.  1948 – Detroit, Michigan.

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.

Questions I Wish I’d Asked

Thanksgiving with Mershell and Fannie Graham - 1963.
In these photograph: Me, Aunt Abbie, Mershell C. Graham, My grandfather carving the turkey, I am eating and my sister is next to me on the other side of the table is my mother, my grandmother Fannie, her younger sister, Alice. My uncle Henry took the photographs.  Click to enlarge this photo.

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.

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To read more stories about oral history from the Carnival, CLICK the icon.

This was written for the Blog Carnival “The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On”.

Mershell Graham and Fannie Mae Turner Marriage License – June 11, 1919

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.

Mignon, Jean, Hattie, ?,?,?,Emma Topp, Mershell, Fannie
Moses McCall on Belle Isle.

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.

To read Mershell’s letter of proposal read  The proposal To read Fannie’s letter of acceptance read –  The acceptance 

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.

Fannie Graham’s Journal Entries -1940

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 7, 1940 Doris received $100 scholarship from the Deltas today… Isn’t that grand! It served 2 years.

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.

1940 Census – Where We Lived in Detroit

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.

1940 Census – The Grahams – Supplemental Material

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.

The Enumeration District is outlined in red. My grandparents house is the “A”. The yellow line traces the route to the elementary school.

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.

The site of my grandparents house. Now a storage area.

Unmaintained side alley next to the house site.

The factory across the street from my grandparents house.

Thomas Elementary school. The school my mother and her siblings attended. Now deserted and burned.

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.

1940 Census – The Grahams

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.

Mary Vee 1940 – In front of Plymouth Congregational Church.
Doris 1939. In front of Plymouth Congregational Church.

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.

Getting An Education – Fearless Females

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.

Eliza - my 2x great grandmother

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

"Jennie Allen Turner in hat"
Jennie - my greatgrandmother

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.”

Fannie - my maternal grandmother

 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.

Doris - my mother

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

Celia - my great grandmother

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.

Pearl - my paternal grandmother

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.

 

 

My Social Butterflies – Fearless Female

My mother and my grandmother turned out to be more sociable in their youth than they were by the time I knew them. Here are a couple of photographs I found of them being social butterflies.

Progressive Twelve Club – Montgomery, Alabama – 1911

Some of the young women in the Progressive Twelve Club were relatives. My grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner wrote the song. Daisy Turner was her sister. Naomi Tulane and Jennette McCall were first cousins. Some of them are also in the photo below. The information on the back of the photo was stuck to the album page so I’m not sure who is who.  The purpose of the Progressive Twelve Club seemed to be sewing. I wish I could have heard them sing this song.

"Fannie and friends"
Fannie and friends at Holly Springs, MS

Progressive Twelve Club Song
Composed by F.M.T. 1914

 (1)

It was a bright September day
In dear old 1911;
our club of 12 was organized
An hour to needlework given
We hear the name “Progressive 12”,
As you’ve already seen;
the Kilarney rose adorns us
Our colors are pink and green.

(2)

Chorus
We’re loyal to our motto
with it we like to delve;
See…hear..speak no evil
as do the Progressive Twelve!
We’re loyal to our motto.
With it we like to delve
see no–hear no–speak no evil,
Oh you! Progressive Twelve!

(2)

On Thursdays to our meetings
In sunshine or in rain:
We go to greet our hostess,
and new inspiration gain.
We’ve carried a record high and fair
on which we look with pride
Not only in art but in music,
we’re noted far and wide.

Chorus

(3)

Mesdames Campbell and Dungee sing,
Washington and Miller too,
McCall and Tulane join in,
(while) Laurence and Wilson sew.
Mayberry makes the music
Jones and the Turners two
just work and think of our motto,
with hopeful hearts and true.

Chorus-

_____________________________________________

 The Social Sixteen – 1937 – Detroit, Michigan

My mother, Doris Graham is in the back row center with the flowered dress on.  Her sister, Mary V. is seated in the very front. First man in the back right is Frank “Buddy” Elkins who Mary V. would later marry. My father’s sister, Barbara Cleage is seated on the far right, front. I don’t know what exactly the Social Sixteen did but my Aunt Barbara told me that the only reason they had her in the club was because of her 4 older brothers.  The young woman at the other end of the couch was my mother’s best friend, Connie Stowers. We used to go visit her once a year. Which I still don’t understand because she lived across town, not in another city.

"The Social Sixteen"
The Social Sixteen – 1937