From Left to right My grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, peeking over my greatgrandmother’s, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner’s, shoulder. My grandmother’s sister Daisy Turner. Behind and between Aunt Daisy and Aunt Alice Turner, is my aunt Mary Virginia Graham Elkins, although she was not yet an Elkins. At the end, behind Alice, is my mother, Doris Graham Cleage, although she was not yet married a Cleage either.
They are posed in Grandmother Turner’s backyard on the East Side of Detroit at 4536 Harding. The house is gone now. They look like they just came from Church, at Plymouth Congregational, however the photo is dated July 4, 1939 on the back. July 4 was on a Tuesday that year. Maybe they went on a church picnic. My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham took the picture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1866 October 1 – Jennie Allen Turner born (Alice’s mother) 1888 March 12 – Fannie born (Alice’s oldest sister) 1890 May – Daisy born (sister) 1905 Jennie married Wright (according to the 1910 census) 1910 Census – 7th Precinct, Montgomery 19 April 1910
Top of the page is Sallie H. Wright, a widow and a teacher
Address 712 E. Grove Street
Jennie T. Wright – age 40 2nd marriage, 5 years Dressmaker – 3 children, all living (44)
Fannie Mae Turner – age 20 book keeper (22)
Daisy Turner – age 17 clerk (20)
Alice Wright – age 2 father born North Carolina (after this census Alice’s last name is always given as “Turner”, Jennie’s first husband who died in 1892.) 1918 – Daisy taught school at Booker Washington Elementary 1919 – Daisy taught school at Booker Washington Elementary 1920 Census – Precinct 7 (part of) 19 January 1920 Montgomery Alabama
Address 712 Grove Street
Jennie Turner – age 52 – Widow Seamstress (54)
Daisy Turner – age 25 clerk at grocery (30)
Alice Turner – age 11 – attended school, can read and write. 1921 July 31, photo taken in Windsor, Ontario with Beulah and Robert Pope 1922 Nov. 23 Letter from Victor Tulane, he’s shipping Gr.Turner’s things to Detroit. 1924 Oct 11 – Certificate of Survey for Theodore applicant Fred L. Marsh 1920’s – Undated photograph of seamstresses at Anis Furs. Jennie, Daisy and Alice are all in the photo.
1930 Census – Precinct 57 3 Apr 1930 Detroit, Michigan
Address 4836 Harding
Jennie Turner – age 62 – owns home. Worth $7,000 Widow. Not working (64)
Daisy Turner – age 30 – single Head portreress at a Fur Store (40)
Alice E. Turner – age 21 – single. Not working 1954 March 28 – Mother Jennie dies. Alice continues to live with sister Daisy in same house. 1961 November 24 – Daisy dies after a days illness. Alice moves in with her sister Fannie and her husband Mershell.
During this time Alice is diagnosed with schizophrenia. 1963 SSN issued 365-48-4560 1964 August 18 – Alice made her best/last cake (Entry in Fannie’s bible) 1966 April 18 Alice’s Aunt Abbie becomes ill and is moved to a nursing home. Dies on this date. 1968 Summer – Family moves to a flat with Doris (Fannie’s daughter & Alice’s niece)
1973 September 6 – Brother-in-law Mershell Graham Sr dies (Alice’s brother-in-law) 1973 – Sister Fannie has a stroke and is moved to a nursing home. Alice is moved to senior housing.
1974 August 13 – Sister Fannie Mae Turner Graham dies. 1974 September 27 – Guardianship of Alice Turner, a mentally incompetent person, to niece Doris 1982 April 30 – Niece Doris dies and guardianship turned over to niece Mary V. 1994 November 16 – Alice dies after being in failing health. 1994 November – Cremated and ashes buried in mother Jennie’s grave in Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery.
August 18 was my Great Aunt Alice’s birthday. I decided to do a quick post about her. Found a few photographs. Wrote out my memories. Something wasn’t right. I wrote a cousin and my sister asking for their memories. They both sent them and of course all of our memories both overlap and are different. I found my mother’s memories. I looked for more photos. I looked for documents. I realized some of what I “knew” I couldn’t document. So, I’ve spent the last week trying to figure Alice’s life out when there is no one left to ask about particulars. Now I’m working on a timeline to incorporate both the facts and the memories and the contradictions. Today I dug out a photograph I vaguely remembered as being of Alice and my great grandmother Jennie in Canada. As soon as I found it, I realized that the young man and one of the other women were also relatives. The woman behind my great grandmother was her youngest sister, Beulah Allen Pope and her son, Robert is the young man in the front. I recognized them because Robert’s daughter sent me a photograph of them that must have been taken the same day because they are wearing the same clothes. The photo is dated “July 31, 1921 Toronto Windsor, Canada.” I did not realize they were there so early. More wondering and looking. I have ordered Alice’s Social Security application and death certificate hoping to find more information.
Howard Turner and Jennie Virginia Allen were married in June of 1887. Howard’s father, Joe Turner gave them land to farm in Lowndes County, Alabama. Joe wanted the land to stay in the family forever. By 1892 Joe and Howard were arguing constantly about Howard and Jennie’s desire to sell the land and move to Montgomery. The day of the fateful bar-b-que the arguments had been particularly violent. Jennie was in Montgomery visiting her parents , with their two young daughters, when word came that Howard had been shot dead at the bar-b-que.
Jennie moved back to her parent’s house with her children, Fannie and Daisy. She took the title to the land to a lawyer and asked him to make sure all was in order so she could sell. When she returned the lawyer told her that the title was not clear and she didn’t own the land. Jennie believed that her father-in-law had paid the lawyer to get the land back for himself. She cut ties with the Turners and went to work as a seamstress, the trade her mother Eliza had taught all six of her daughters.
Many years later, when Fannie was grown, she ran into one of her Turner cousins. She asked the cousin about what her mother believed – that Joe Turner had his son killed to keep the land. It wasn’t true. The lawyer had stolen the land for himself. They didn’t know who killed Howard.
Fannie was my maternal grandmother. Howard and Jennie were my great grandparents. Joe Turner was my great great grandfather. I didn’t know his or wife’s name, nor any of Howard’s siblings names until I found them in the 1870 and 1880 census in Lowndes County, Alabama when I began to do online research in the 1990s. Joe and Emma Turner lived on the farm with their children, Lydia b. 1862, Howard b. 1863, Fanny b. 1864, Joe b. 1867, Anna b. 1869, Alonza b. 1873.
I found my greatgrandmother’s autograph/memory book in an envelope in a box where my mother saved little notebooks, wallets etc. The first part of the book, including the cover have vanished. Going by what is left I think my greatgrandmother started the book when she was 19 years old.
Transcribed entries numbering from top left down column, over to second column, etc.
Miss Virginia Allen
Mom passed aged 84
Mar 28 1954
When I am far away
From you believe
Me to be your
Dear brother Dock Allen Montgomery Ala Mar 14th/86
Jennie’s brother, Dock, was born in 1862, four years before Jennie. He worked as an errand boy and a barber – he drowned in 1891 on Aug. 30 Trying to “walk the moonlight path.”
Miss Jennie May you live long and prosper in this live And your last days be thee best Is my prayer. Yours Respectfully, J W Saffold Montg Ala Jan 7th 1886
The secret of happiness, is love Your true friend N.C. Lambert Montgomery, Ala. Sept. 29, 1884
Dearest Janie I wish you would Remember they creator In the days of thy youth when the evil Days are not nor the years draw nigh When thou may sayeth I have no Pleasure in them M.A. McCall Montgomery Ala/Jan/16th 1885
M. McCall is Jennie’s oldest sister Mary.
May flowers cheer your Path way through Life may life be a comfort unto you Compliments from R. Allen
R. was Jennie’s brother Rance.
Dear Jennie Remember me as your loving little Daughter when I am gone to come No more Compliments of Fannie M. Turner Montgomery Ala Mar 16 – 18/97 – Age 11
Fannie was my grandmother.
It’s better to trust and be deceived and reapthat truste , an that deceiving. Than doubt the heart, that if believed Would bless your heart, with true believing! Obediently V.B. Harris June 24th 1884
Grandmother Turners “Memory” Book – Note the entries written by DockAllen and Dock Allen, Jr. – they are probably the same – grandmother’s brother
This was added years later by my mother, Jennie’s granddaughter.
Dear Jennie There are few friends in this wild world that love is fond and true. But Jennie when you count them over, place me among the few J. M. Nesbitt Montgomery, Ala
To Miss V. Allen I hope that your future live may be such, As to permit you to be worthy of A welcome in heaven. Your well wisher Through life Montgomery April 4/22 Ala ThMC Logan
You may be wondering when I am going to find Eliza. I decided to post the information in the order that I received it. We’ll get there eventually. Today I am posting another writing by my mother. I also posted the personal parts of the letter she wrote to give you some idea of my mother as a person.
5 Nov 1980 by Doris Graham Cleage Dear Kris, Election Day! Did you ever? Here is a joke that sums it up for me: Man, traveling on horseback down a road toward a certain town, comes to a farmer working in a field. Just ahead was a fork in the road. The man hollered to the farmer, “Does it matter which road I take to _______, ” and he named his destination. “Not to me it don’t, ” said the farmer, who hardly looked up from his work. You don’t get it? That’s OK. It gives us a good laugh every time we tell it.
Today I’m going to write about Grandmother. Grandmother Turner was born about 1872, nine years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Don’t know if she finished high school – but she did go. Her mother taught her to sew and it was a good thing she did because grandmother worked the rest of her life supporting herself and her children at sewing. That is, she worked after husband Howard Turner died. They married when she was about sixteen. Don’t know his age. He looked something like grandmother’s father and also like my father, mother said. He was a farmer’s son from around Hayneville, AL, but he preferred the big city – Montgomery. His father had three sons and planned to give each one a large share of the farm when they married. Howard and Jenny received their farm, but neither one liked the country. One day they were in Montgomery. He was at a Bar-B-Q. She was at her parents with their daughters, Fannie Mae, 4, and Daisy Pearl, 2. someone brought word that the had been shot dead. Apparently no one ever knew who did it, but mother always said grandmother thought his father had it done because he was angry that Howard would not farm and had even been talking about selling his part. The father did not want the land sold, but wanted it to stay in the family forever. (Bless his heart!). He and the son had had some terrible arguments before they left to come to the Bar-B-Q. I often wondered why he was there and grandmother wasn’t. She always seemed to like a good time.
I remember her laughing and singing and dancing around the house on Theodore. She was short, about five feet I guess, with brown eyes, thin dark brown hair that she wore in a knot. She was very energetic, always walking fast. She always wore oxfords, often on the wrong feet, and never had time to change them. We used to love to tell her that her shoes were on the wrong feet. (smart kids!)
She never did thing with us like read to us or play with us, but she made us little dresses. I remember two in particular she made me that I especially liked. My “candy-striped” dress – a red white and blue small print percale. She put a small pleated ruffle around the collar and a larger one around the bottom. I was about Deignan’s (note: that would have been about 5) size, I guess, and I really thought I was cool! The other favorite was an “ensemble” – thin, pale green material with a small printed blue green and red flower in it – just a straight sleeveless dress with neck and sleeves piped in navy blue – and a three – quarter length coat of the same material – also straight -with long sleeves and lapels – also piped in navy blue. She never used a pattern. Saw something and made it! She taught us some embroidery which she did beautifully but not often. She never fussed at us – never criticized – and I think she rocked me in the upstairs hall on Theodore when I was little and sick. The rocker Daddy made stood in that hall. I remember lots of people rocking in that chair when I was small.
Grandmother went to work when her husband was murdered – sewing for white folks – out all day fitting and sewing – and sewing all night – finishing while mother and Daisy stayed with their Grandfather Allen, who would tell on them when Grandmother came home and she would spank them. Mother said she remembered telling Daisy to holler loudly so Grandmother wouldn’t spank them hard or long and it worked!
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.
Sometimes after her husband’s death, Grandmother took the deed to the farm to a white lawyer. (was there any other kind?) and told him to sell it for her. He went to see it and check it out – told her to forget it – her title wasn’t clear, but he never gave the deed back and she figured he made a deal with her father-in-law.
Aunt Abbie said the father-in-law built Grandmother and Howard a “shotgun” house on the farm. She would turn up her nose as she said it. You know that is a house like this – no doors on front or back, you could shoot a gun through hall without damage. Animals (pigs, dogs) would wander into the hall and have to be driven out. Aunt Abbie only stayed there when the plague was raging in Montgomery. Yellow fever (malaria) and/or polio every summer. Many people sick or dying. Huge bonfires in the streets every night to ‘purify’ the air”, and closing the city if it got bad enough – no one in or out. More than once they fled the city in a carriage through back streets and swamps because they were caught by the closing which was done suddenly to keep folks from leaving and spreading the “plague”
In Detroit, when they came in 1923 when Mother and Daddy had bought the house on Theodore and had room for them (room? only 5 adults and 3 children!) Grandmother, Daisy and Alice got good jobs, (they were good – sewing fur coats, clean work and good pay.) at Annis Furs (remember it back of Hudsons?) and soon had money to buy their own house much farther east on a “nice” street in a “better ” neighborhood (no factories) on Harding Ave. While they lived with us I remember violent arguments between Alice and I don’t know who – either Grandmother or Daisy or Mother. Certainly not Daddy because when he spoke it was like who in the Bible who said, “When I say go, they goeth. When I say come, they cometh.” Most of the time I remember him in the basement, the backyard or presiding at table. Daisy and grandmother were what we’d call talkers.
Maybe here a word about Aunt Daisy. Look at her picture, sweet, soft, pretty, taught school awhile in Montgomery (with high school diploma) loved Congregational preacher named Duncan Erby who loved her and waited for her for years. Had the church in Buffalo, NY. Whenever she really considered leaving, Grandmother did the old guilt trick “How can you leave me to take care of Alice all by myself?” and “No man in this world is good enough to touch your little finger. They are all no good except (maybe) Shell.” and Daisy listened and stayed and played numbers, studied dream books and drank a little apricot brandy. I always found their house light, cheerful, full of magazines (McCall’s, Journal, etc.) which I loved to read, full of good things to eat. All three were super cooks and they had always just had a bunch of friends to dinner and to play cards or just about to have.
Daisy took us downtown to the show every summer and to Saunders for ice cream afterward. And I always ended up with a splitting headache. Too much high living I guess. She and Alice would buy us dainty, expensive little dresses from Siegel’s or Himelhoch’s. They all went to church every Sunday, Plymouth Congregational. Daisy always gave us beautiful tins of gorgeous Christmas candy, that white kind filled with gooey black walnut stuff, those gooey raspberry kind and those hard, pink kind with a nut inside, and chocolates, of course! She loved to eat and to cook. Never seemed bitter or regretful about her lost love.
Grandmother got old, hurt her knee, it never healed properly. Daisy worked and supported the house alone. Alice only worked a little while. She had problems getting along with people. Grandmother was eventually senile. Died of a stroke at 83 or so. Alice spent years taking care of her while Daisy worked. Daisy added to their income by being head numbers writer at Annis!! Did I ever show you the picture of the “coloreds” who worked at Annis? Will send if you like. Looks like people from Mr. Polks book, were supposed to be the “best looking colored girls in Detroit” Mr. Annis had a colored mistress, of course.
15 Nov 1980 Dear Kris and Pearl, Figured I’d make a carbon of the stuff about the family and send you each one…this is a sort of wrap up of Grandmother….but first something the Snoopy cartoon (from Pearl) made me remember….about four blocks around the corner and down the street from Theodore was a vacant lot where for some years they had a small carnival every year…. I don’t remember the carnival at all… I never liked rides anyway… not even the merry-go-round..but I remember it being evening, dark outside…and we were on the way home….I don’t remember who was there except Daddy and I….he was carrying me because I was sleepy so I must have been very small…I remember my head on his shoulder and how it felt…the best pillow in the world…I remember how high up from the sidewalk I seemed to be…I could hardly see the familiar cracks and printings even when the lights from passing cars lighted thigs…which was fairly often because we were on Warren Ave. I remember feeling that that’s the way things were supposed to be. I hadn’t a worry in the world. I was tired, so I was carried. I was sleepy, so I slept. I must have felt like that most o my childhood because it’s still a surprise to me that life is hard. Seems that should be a temporary condition.
Now as to Grandmother and her sewing… you know how long and voluminous dresses were either side of 1900… how many stitches there were in one I hate to think… machines were available at that time but whether or not she had one I don’t know… this is what she did… she was a seamstress. Let’s say you could afford to have someone make your clothes and she was your regular person. Every July she came to your house and sewed for you and your children, making everything, including winter coats, suits, dresses, sleepwear, underwear, everything except knitted stuff like socks and hats. She might have made shirts for the man of the house too. She had no patterns. She made a pattern or just cut the material if it wasn’t complicated, basted it together, fitted it, made corrections, got it ready for final sewing. All this she did at your house, all day. When she finally went home about supper time, she took with her the things ready to be sewed and worked on them all night, because the faster she finished things the faster she got paid and the more jobs she could take. She did plain stuff if they wanted it or she could tailor a suit (easy tailoring, she always said, and she didn’t like it. Too exact, she said) Or she could make fancy like smocking, the gathery stuff across the front of little girls dresses or nightgowns or ladies fancy blouses, or embroidery or ruffles or lace trim. She could even make the lace (tat, that is), put fur collars and cuffs on coat or suit, she could do it all and she did it all all the time.
One thing she liked about her work, it was not dirty. She was not a maid of any kind. She could choose her customers to some extent, because she was good, I guess., and there were people for whom she would not work. Usually referred to as “white trash” meaning in this case I guess that they were rude to her since they could not have been poor and had a seamstress. Another thing she liked was that she could talk while she worked and she loved to talk. I remember her talking all the time when she lived with us. And Daisy was a talker too. Grandmother would talk sometimes about the folks she had sewed for. Some were Jewish. I remember only two specifics. One who advised her to cut her long hair because it would “sap her strength” and also not to take hot or long baths for the same reason the other was complaining about life and GM said (with a mouth full of pins all sticking out and her talking through them as I remember) “Well, when we get to Heaven we won’t have to worry about that any more” The lady was horrified and said “Surely, Jennie (her name was Jennie Virginia and I almost named one of you after her) you don’t think you and I will go to the same Heaven”. Grandmother always laughed at that story and said she wouldn’t mind dying so much if she would just remember that she would see that lady in Heaven and enjoy her consternation at seeing Grandmother there too with NO segregation. Mother and Daisy always shook their heads at this and said she shouldn’t talk like that about dying. Grandmother laughed some more. She liked to shock them.