Several years after my mother’s death, I found a cigar box full of unidentified things – pocket watches, big buttons, lockets. This locket had the note inside saying “? In locket in Daddy’s things”. I don’t know who the women are. The initials on the front seem to be H.J.G or maybe J.H.G. My grandfather’s name was Mershell C. Graham. His story is sketchy.
I find bits and pieces – unidentified photographs, old notebooks… If I could find him in the 1900 census with his family. He was born in Coosada Station, Elmore County, Alabama about 1888. He chose to celebrate his birthday on Christmas day because he didn’t know the actual day. By the time I found him in the census in 1910 he was working on the railroad. He moved to Detroit in 1917, married my grandmother in 1918 in Montgomery and they immediately removed to Detroit. He worked at Ford Motor Co. for years. He was a founder and trustee at Plymouth Congregational Church in Detroit. He always grew a large, wonderful garden with cabbage, collards and tomatoes. He could, and did, fix anything that needed fixing. He taught himself to read so I assume he never went to school. There is a story that he was a child servant and slept outside the little girls door at night. The other story is that his parents came one one rainy day (from work?) to find him and his brother digging sweet potatoes out in the garden. They had the measles. I’m thinking they were very hungry. Who feels like digging in the rain when they have the measles? There were at least three children older than he was according to his delayed birth certificate. There could have been younger siblings too. Those mentioned were a sister named Annie, and a brother named Bill who went west. My cousin, Margaret, told me that was a way to refer to relatives that passed for white. Perhaps the Jacob, named in front of the little Bible that was also in the box was a brother.
Elias Hopkins presented to him by his brother + sisterinlaw James + Elizabeth Canfield July 4th 1875 Youngstown Ohio (Initials that I can’t make out. First seems to be Y)
Who are these people and how did they happen to give Jacob Graham the Bible in 1913? It is a small pocket size New Testament. The edges of the pages are golden. It has a flap that used to open and close but it is all starting to fall apart. I don’t want to handle it more then I can help. But here is one last scan.
I have not found out how these people are connected to my grandfather Mershell Graham.
So much for wordless….
After posting this I decided to go look for Jacob Graham at Family Search. I used the pilot program and found a death record for Jacob Graham who died June 30, 1913 at the Salvation Army Fresh Air Camp. I googled the Fresh Air Camp and found several photographs in the Alabama Archives about Fresh Air camps the Salvation army ran in Montgomery for Old men and others for poor women and children. I also found a google book “By Alabama. Dept. of Archives and History”, Thomas McAdory Owen, an entry that mentioned under the section Benevolent Insititutions in Alabama, that the Salvation army had a Fresh Air Camp on the upper Wetumpka Road, founded in 1911 conducted by the Montgomery Anti-Tuberculosis League for tubercular cases.( Alabama official and statistical register.) I’m sending for the death certificate.
Dear “Shell” – From my early acting in answering your letter, you may know or imagine how proud I was to receive a letter from the boy. I have thought of you often and wondering at the same time, if I was just to receive a postcard from you; for as you have said about me, I consider you one of my closest and most trusted worthy friends. It doesn’t seem that one can realize the feeling that exists until a separation, but after looking into the proposition, knowing that you had to get located, being in a new land, and being among strangers would consume lots of your time. I am certainly pleased to know that you are so well satisfied with Detroit and the surroundings. Yes, I would be tickled to death if I could be up there with you, for I am sick and tired of this blooming place. I know it must be an inspiration to be where you can breathe a little freedom, for every body down here are beginning to feel that slavery is still existing in the south. The Teacher’s Association has been in session here from the 4th to the 7th and quite a number of visitors are here. The boys thru my chivalry managed to give a subscription dance, and believe me I came in an inch of being fagged out. You know how you have to run a “jinke” down to get a $1.00 from him. We had quite a success as well as an enjoyable one. Cliff was to make the punch but on account of his training being too late for him to even come to the ball, it fell my time to do something and I did wish for you but managed to brave the situation and tried to follow as close as I could remember my seeing your making punch and for a fact I really made that punch taste like “a la Shell punch”, and it turned out to be perfect class. Alabama Medical Association will convene here on 9 and 10 and they are giving a dance at Tabors Hall on Randolph and Decatur Sts. No, not a full dress affair, so I think I shall attend. Sam Crayton is here from Chicago and he is very anxious for me to return with him, but I am afraid he will have to go and I come later. Well, the U.S. is really in War with Germany and we can’t tell what the next war may bring. It will mean suffering for humanity, and we people down here especially. I am just as neutral as can be and expect to stand pat in the idea. Yes, people are leaving here in droves for all directions and now you can miss them off of the streets. As many people that hung around the drug store on Sunday, you can scarcely find a dozen there now. I have seen Miss Turner but once and that was down town. I know she keeps you well informed of herself. There is no news of interest. My sister Jessie was married in February and is now living in Pensacola, so you see so far 1917 has been lucky for me. Now old boy, I shall expect for you not to allow such long gaps between our writing each. All of my family sends the best of wishes to you and Mrs Wyman and Hubby. The boys and girls join in with me and send their share.
My grandfather, Mershell Cunningham Graham was born in Coosada Station, Alabama about 1888. He didn’t know his exact birthday and chose to celebrate Christmas day. His parents were William and Mary Graham and he had a brother named Bill and a sister named Annie. Aside from that and a few stories about digging sweet potatoes in the rain and sleeping outside the bedroom door of a little girl he was servant to, I don’t know anything about his childhood. He taught himself to read. Eventually worked in the dining car on the railroad. He moved to Montgomery where he met my grandmother, Fannie. He lost an eye in a hunting accident. During WWI he moved to Detroit where there was already a contingent from Montgomery, and got a job at Fords Motor Company. He proposed to Fannie by mail and I still have the letter she wrote back accepting his offer of marriage. He could fix anything and make most things. He always had a wonderful vegetable garden and flowers in the yard.
I can’t find him until the 1910 census when he is single and living in Waycross Georgia with Irwin and Mary Warren’s family as a boarder. He was working as a car repairman in a railroad shop. June 4, 1917 according to his WW 1 draft registration card he was single, responsible for his father, living in Detroit and working as a steward for the D & CAN Co. on the Lakes. Jun 11, 1919 he and Fannie Mae Turner were married in Montgomery, AL. In the 1920 census he and his wife Fannie are boarders in the house of Moses and Jennette Walker in Detroit. He worked as an inspector at an auto factory. By 1930 he owns his home and lives with his wife Fannie and three children, Mary, Doris and Howard on Theodore St. in Detroit. He was a stock keeper in an auto factory. Mershell Graham died peacefully in his sleep at home, September 6, 1973 in Detroit, Michigan.
Today I am posting some entries from his little notebook. Although everything isn’t dated, it begins in 1934. He writes the person’s name first on jobs. Completed jobs are marked through with an X
Daisy – 1 set of shelves for attic stairway – 5 ft tall 12 “ wide
Gwen – 1 table for basement 5 ft long 3 ft wide folding legs
Lottie Brandon – 1 porch flower box
Mother – 1 bookcase for house – use any size
1 Bulletin Board for Church – 1934 2 1/2 ft x 2 ft 10 “ Glass Front Brown Board in Back clear glass 26 1/2 x 30 7/8
Car struck by M.C. (note: Michigan Central) engine Mar. 10th 1935 At 2:15 P.M. Doris in car with me. No one hurt very bad. Doris received small cut on left hand M.C. RR settled for $25.00 part cost on fixing car.
B.T. Washington Died Nov. 15, 1915 At Tuskegee Ala.
Social Security Act Account number 374-20-3906 12-21-1936