In 1951 our family moved from Springfield, MA to Detroit, where my father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., was called as pastor of St. Marks United Presbyterian Community Church at Twelfth and Atkinson. My paternal grandparents lived several blocks up Atkinson. The parsonage was right down the block from them. He was there until 1953 when there was a church split. My father and 300 members started a new church that became Central Congregational Church and finally The Shrine of the Black Madonna.
Recently my son James was in Detroit and visited many of the sites that were important in my life and my family’s life. He was lucky enough to have historian Paul Lee and Sala Adams as guides. I have matched photographs from the 1960s with some of the photos that they took last week.
Today’s photographs were taken at 5397 Oregon, on the West Side of Detroit. Ten years ago when I went around taking photos of places I had lived, there were people living here. Today the house and many in the area are wrecks. In one photo not shown here, I could see holes in the roof. The house on the left still has someone living there. The two houses to the right are also falling to pieces. It’s tragic.
I would never have imagined that this area would look like this when I lived there some 48 years ago. Today I’ve been looking at the house I live in right now and thinking about which parts would fall apart first if it were vacant for a decade. I doubt it would be in as good a shape as this one because it was built with much cheaper materials.
For the 4th and final wedding we celebrate the marriage of Paul Payne and Betty Ileen Shreve. They were long time family friends. Paul was born in Ohio but raised in Detroit. Betty was born in North Buxton, Canada. North Buxton was settled in 1849 by formerly enslaved Black Americans. I was told years ago that Betty was related to the Shreve side of my family. The Maid of Honor was Betty’s sister, Doris Mae Shreve. Unfortunately I do not recognized the Ring Bearer and Flower girl. I do recognize Best Man Louis J. Cleage. Always the Best Man, never the groom. He was Best Man at 3 out of 4 of the weddings I’ve shared this month. The wedding took place in Detroit on July 25, 1949. Betty was 18 and Paul was 28.
How do they fit into my family tree? Betty Shreve Payne is the second cousin of my uncle Winslow Shreve who was married to my aunt Anna Cleage Shreve.
I found another two articles about Eddie Evans and Gladys Cleage. This one tells a little more about what the happy couple was doing before the wedding. It also mentions more friends of the family, including Dr. Gamble and his wife who were old family friends of my grandparents. I came across my uncle Hugh’s birth certificate the other day and noticed that Dr. Gamble delivered him. He also signed the death certificate for my grandmother’s brother George Reed when he died in Detroit in 1945. Dr. Gamble died later in 1948. Here is a link to a speech my grandfather delivered at his funeral service.
My father’s sister, Gladys Helen Cleage was married to Eddie Warren Evans on Thursday, March 25, 1948 at Plymouth Congregational Church by Rev. Horace White in Detroit, Michigan. There were descriptions of the wedding gown and of the brides maids gowns. Unfortunately the last several lines of the article have been lost to the passage of time so we have to guess at the color and particulars of the brides maids dresses. It was mentioned that the grooms sister wore a violet gown. I wonder if the brides sister’s dresses were rose because the theme of roses and violets. But would they dress in rose and carry red roses?
The article misspelled Cleage as “Cleague” a few times, while also spelling it correctly several times. A typo made Paul’s last name of “Payne”, “Cayne”.
I recently became aware of some DNA cousins with links to Edgefield, S.C. Although I have several ancestors who were born in South Carolina or who had parents born in South Carolina, they were all born during slavery and I had no way of knowing where in South Carolina they were born. There is no oral history to give a hint. Below is a picture of our match on Chromosome 16. The blue is European DNA and the maroon is African. He matches me right where that little bit of blue is on his chromosome.
Last night I was reading the book “Our Ancestors, Our Stories”. This is a collaborative book by by Bernice Alexander Bennett, Ellen LeVonne Butler, Ethel Dailey, Harris Bailey (Jr.), and Vincent C. Sheppard who all have ties to Edgefield, S.C.. As I was reading the Introduction, which gives an historical overview of this county, I realized that although I did not know where in South Carolina my ancestors came from, I did know of at least one person among the slave holders who came from Edgefield. Her maiden name was Frances A. Moseley. She was married to Wiley Turner and it was in his probate records that I found my 2X great grandfather Joseph Turner listed among the enslaved.
Frances A. Moseley was born in 1814 in Edgefield South Carolina and died in 1870 in Lowndesboro, Lowndes county Alabama. Her father was James Alexander Moseley who was born around 1768 in Orangeburg South Carolina and moved to Edgefield before his marriage to Mary Ann Wooten in 1796. He remained there until his death in 1828.
In his Will, James Alexander Moseley named the enslaved persons that he left to his wife and children. They were
Sarah and her three children, Mariah, Caroline and Hester to be sold immediately after his death.
Fanny a Negroe that I lent to my daughter Sally that I give her the said Negroes.
Beck a Negro woman and her children that I lent my daughter Mary
Pomply, a negroe man to son John.
Arnal, a Negroe man to son Middleton
Bob to my son Clement.
Son James a Negroe boy Lewis
To daughter Frances a negroe girl Milly
Daughter Harriet a negroe girl Judy
Daughter Patsey a negro girl Kize and Nance
I give to my daughter Lizar a Negroe girl Silva.
To beloved wife Mary, a negroe woman Luceleathey and a Negro man Buck. He also left her the balance of his slaves.
Moesely and other family members appear in the book “Slave Records of Edgefield County, South Carolina” by Gloria Ramsey Lucas among the salers and buyers.
I don’t know who the bride and groom are. I only recognize my uncle Louis Cleage and the woman second from the right, Velma Payne. I miss being able to send these mystery photos to my aunts for identification. I wrote about Louis as one of the 7 in a boat.
Velma was born on August 4, 1919 and passed away in 2010 at the age of 90. She was the wife of George W. Payne. They had two children. She was a librarian in the Detroit Public Library system for 32 years. She was a librarian at the Oakman branch library when I used to go there as a child. I remember one evening going there after school with my mother and sister and finding the book “Bed knob and Broomstick: or How to be a Witch in 10 Easy Lessons.” It turned out to be one of my favorite books.
After posting yesterday about the children in this boat, I looked at different view of the same boat, same children plus dog. I think that the baby is Hugh, not Barbara Cleage. That means it was taken about 1919.
Hugh Cleage, the baby, was the 4th son of Dr. Albert and Pearl Cleage. He was born in June 1918. Hugh took a course at Michigan State University in agriculture. During WW2 he and his brother Henry farmed as a conscientious objectors. After the war, Hugh worked at the post office. In the late 1950s, Hugh and Henry started Cleage Printers where they printed far into the night putting out flyers for grocery stores, books of poetry and radical newsletters. Hugh ran on the Freedom Now ticket in 1964. After the 1967 Detroit riot, many of the stores that they had printed flyers for went out of business. Henry went back to law. Hugh continued to run the printing plant for several years, but eventually closed it down. He spent many years being care taker for his mother after she broke her hip and became more and more frail. Later he helped his nephew Ernest, on his farm in South Carolina. Hugh died in South Carolina in 2005.
Looking at this photograph, I wondered about the lives of the children in the boat. Here are their lives in a paragraph.
Evelyn Douglas, seated on the left in the first row, was born in 1910 in Detroit. She was the only child of Dr. Edward and Louise Douglas. Her father was a dentist. Her mother was a dressmaker before Evelyn was born. Evelyn graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a graduate degree in education. She married Charles E. Beatty, Sr., a pioneering educator, in 1935. He was the first black principal of Perry Elementary School in Ypsilanti, MI which later housed HighScope Perry Preschool program. She taught for 30 years in the Detroit Public Schools. Evelyn was the mother of three children. She died at age 93 in 2003 in Detroit.
Cornelius Langston Henderson, who sits in the middle of the first row, was born in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. He was an only child and grew up several blocks from the Cleages on Detroit’s Old West Side. Cornelius was named after his father, Cornelius L Henderson Sr., also born in Detroit. Like his father, Cornelius Jr became an engineer. His mother, Gertrude, born in Virginia and taught in the Washington DC public schools before she married. The younger Cornelius graduated from Howard University in Washington DC with a degree in civil engineering. He later took postgraduate classes at the University of Michigan. He worked for the City of Detroit as a civil engineer for over 30 years, where he helped design sewer systems. He was married and raised two sons and a stepdaughter. He died in November of 1993 in Detroit and is buried in Detroit Memorial Park.
Albert B Cleage, Jr, my father, seated on the right end of the first row, was the oldest of the seven children of Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr and Pearl Reed Cleage. He grew up to be a black nationalist minister and organizer around political and civil rights issues. He founded Central Congregational Church which became Central United Church of Christ and finally the Shrine of the Black Madonna. He had two daughter, my sister and me. He died in 2000.
Directly behind my father is his first cousin Helen Mullins. Born in 1899 in Indianapolis, Indiana, she was the oldest of the 12 children of James and Minnie (who was my grandmother Pearl Cleage’s sister) Mullins. James Mullins held various jobs through the years, including that of fireman, carpenter and laborer. Helen completed highschool. She married Otto Mitchell. They raised four children. In the 1940 census Helen was a telegraph operator for Western Union while Otto worked on the assemble line of an automobile factory in Detroit. They owned their own home. Helen died in 1982.
Helen is holding Barbara Cleage, my aunt. Barbara was the 5th child and first daughter of Dr. Albert and Pearl Cleage. She completed a year at Wayne State. She married Ernest Martin and had one son. Unfortunately the marriage didn’t work out and she returned to Detroit. Barbara worked as a receptionist in her father’s doctor’s office, at Cleage Printers doing layout and finally her true talent came to the fore and she organized and managed the bookstores and cultural centers for the Shrine of the Black Madonna. She was amazing at it. Barbara is 96 and lives in South Carolina.
Next, in the back row middle, we have my uncle Louis Cleage. Born in 1913 he was the 2nd of the seven children. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a medical doctor, sharing an office with him for some years. Besides having a medical practice on Lovett Ave. in Detroit for many years, he was active in the Movement. He wrote Smoke Rings for the Illustrated News and ran for office on the Freedom Now Party ticket in 1964. He maintained a cottage in Idlewild where the family spent many happy summers. Louis died in 1994.
Last we have a partial, ghostly image of my uncle Henry Cleage. He was the third child born in 1915. He graduated from Wayne State in Detroit and became a lawyer. During WW2 he and his brother Hugh farmed as a conscientious objectors. (Where was Hugh when this picture was taken? Click to read) Henry later left the law and started Cleage Printers where he and Hugh printed far into the night putting out flyers for grocery stores, books of poetry and radical newsletters. He ran for Prosecuting Attorney on the Freedom Now ticket in 1964. After the 1967 Detroit riot, Henry returned to the law and worked for Neighborhood Legal Services until he retired to Idlewild, MI where he fine tuned his Status Theory. He died in 1996.
The photograph in the boat was taken the day of this picnic, summer of 1919.
I used news articles, census and other records from ancestry.com to fill in the lives of Evelyn Douglas and Cornelius L. Henderson, who are not related to me.