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.
Yesterday I posted a chart of 7 generations of my maternal side of the family’s work history. Today I’m going to do the same with the paternal side of the family. I have found Lewis and Judy Cleage in the 1870 US Census. I also found their marriage record. I am not convinced that all the children listed living with them are their children, if their ages are correct. But having no other information, I put them in. I do not know what work the children did in the future. I think I will look for them again. Annie Green Reed had two husbands and four more children but I left them off of this chart. They were all laborers or farmers or housewives. Both Buford Averitt and Robert Allen come to the family tree as white men who did not acknowledge their black offspring as far as we know. Oral history and records of birth, marriage and death account for their making it onto my chart. I’ve pinpointed Buford but there are several possibilities with Robert so he has no job here. My direct line is highlighted in yellow. You can see the same chart for my maternal line here Maternal Family Tree of Workers.
After working on the collage I uploaded yesterday for Labor Day, I kept thinking about the work that family members had done over the generations. Here is a chart showing 7 generations of workers from my great-great-great-grandmother to my children. My direct line is highlighted in yellow. The women with children combined whatever else they did with cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and raising the children. The first generations started their work life as slaves in Alabama.
I made the chart using Microsoft Word. That resulted in a very crowded chart. I then imported it into Photoshop where I cut and pasted and moved things around and added the highlights. I later thought I should have added places of birth and death, but I didn’t. Next time. The paternal side chart is available HERE.
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
This is partial transcription of a very long interview that my cousin Margaret McCall made with her Aunt Stella Brown McCall in 1986. Margaret was Mary McCall’s granddaughter. Mary McCall was Eliza Williams Allen and Milton Saffold’s daughter. Stella Brown McCall was married to Margaret’s father’s brother. Margaret’s father was James McCall and his brother was Roscoe McCall.Louise was Stella and Roscoe’s daughter. Joe was Margaret and Stella’s cousin.
Margaret: I’m doing family history now and I’m on the McCall side. And I want to learn as much as I can because there are some gaps in things that I have been able to find. Stella: Well, I don’t know too much about the… Louise: She doesn’t know about the McCall side because she’s given me all the memories of her side. I have all those you know…
Margaret: On the Brown side? Stella: Yes. Louise: Oh yes. Margaret: But it’s the McCall side I’m interested in. Louise: Mother you can tell her one thing I remember you told me about the McCall side, you told me that Daddy, that Daddy’s father was a jailor Stella: He worked at the jail, the Montgomery jail down in Montgomery. Louise: and they used to have him…he was the whipper and, you know, he was supposed to whip the prisoners, you know the black prisoners. And he would pretend that he was whipping them and you know, make them yell and he would make the whip sound. Isn’t that interesting? I can just picture that. Stella: Well he had to pose to keep from whipping the prisoners. Louise: Oh and mother you can also tell her about how Daddy was getting that man out of Montgomery for looking at the white girl. And then they were going to hang him and Daddy had to take him out on that lonely road and get him out of town. And … Stella: they got stopped on the road. Louise: The police, the posse, don’t they call it a posse? Or whatever. Stella: Yes. Louise: came after him and then when they shined the light on Daddy. They were in a field and they saw that it was Mr., your grandfather McCall’s son and they said “Oh Rossie…” Stella: Because his father, not cutting you off, Ross’s own, father had worked at the jail and had charge of the colored prisoners. They would have him punish the colored prisoners and he never punished not one. Because he could do it like he wanted to do it. He just posed… Had a whipping place and made the noise like he was whipping them but he didn’t touch a one of them. Margaret: So this incident of Uncle Ross in the field, what happened? Stella: They stopped him, right at that field. Louise: No mother, start with how they were standing outside the drugstore… he and that other one, that Watkins boy and the white girl came by and she told her boyfriend that they had, that this Watkins fellow had winked at her and that started a riot in the city. Stella: Winked at her. Margaret: Is that right? Stella: A riot. Margaret: Well, how did Uncle Ross get him out of the city? Stella: Out of the city? Margaret: You said that they were in the field and the police came and said… Stella: Now all before this started, Ross had a friend out in the country. This man was a good friend of his and they would go hunting out there. And that’s why he knew the man… his name… I can’t think of his name… what was his name…anyway, well he had a home down in the country and he would go down there every summer you know, just take a week off and hunt and… Louise: A good place to hide out. Stella: To hide out. Yes. Margaret: That’s all? Stella: And there was a railroad train coming out of Montgomery going on to Atlanta and Ross got this man out of Montgomery and had this porter on this train to stop at this little station down there in the country and nobody would ever think a train would stop there and he stopped just like he got him to do and he put this man on this train in the back and had a place for him to stay and stay shut up and he did that until he got to Atlanta and he was safe. Margaret: And did he stay in Atlanta or did he leave Atlanta? Stella: Oh he left Atlanta. We didn’t hear any more of him. But Ross saved his life! They were going to lynch him uh huh, oh yes. Ross had some narrow escapes in that time. Margaret: He did? Stella:Yes, because you see this one was taking him for that and that one was taking him for this and it was terrible.
Margaret: Now tell me, you and Uncle Roscoe married in Montgomery? Stella: Montgomery, yes I married in Montgomery, Margaret: Where did Uncle Roscoe go to school? Stella: At State Normal School in Montgomery. And he went to the senior class and some girl got him in trouble and he had to jump out and go and that’s why he didn’t get his papers, you know. Margaret: How did she get him in trouble? Stella: Well she was… I guess something was wrong with her…. pregnant. That’s why he had to leave Montgomery. He left Montgomery. Margaret: And where did he go? Stella: Where did he go? New York. Louise: Who are you talking about Daddy? Stella: And then later he came on down. Louise: Married you. Stella: yes came back. Stayed away a long time though. I didn’t hardly…I was his little sister’s dearest friend and I didn’t know anything about him. Nothing. I’d heard of him because he was my brother, he was the age of my oldest brother Scott. Joe: Was Jeanette your friend? Louise: Um hum. Jeanette was your friend. Stella: Jeanette was my best friend all the way from the first grade. And I didn’t know anything about him. I didn’t know there was a brother because he was away. Finished the senior class and everything and gone. Got in trouble and gone. Margaret: Where did you go to school? Stella: Same place he did – State. Margaret: You went to State? Stella: Yes, same thing. Same school but many years later, you know. Margaret: Afterwards. Stella: Now I was Jeanette, his sister’s age, his baby sister. And I didn’t know anything about him (laughs) he came on the scene later. And we were swept away (laughs again. He’d come to the house everyday.. Margaret: Uncle Ross would come to the house everyday, uh? Stella: Everyday. Every evening. I can see him coming now.(laughs) Well, and that went on so far and we decided to marry. Margaret: How did you happen to leave Montgomery? Stella: Oh people were leaving Montgomery like mad at that time. Margaret: Why? Stella: There was kind of a thing going then, getting out of the South. That’s when all this uproar started down there. Started changing schools and everything and getting the different things in order for the blacks to go to one school and the whites to another school and they had to fight that and different things and it made an uproar in the city. And then many many of the… all the important families in the city just packed up and said they were going to leave the city and that’s what was happening.
Margaret: When you were going to school, where did you go before Normal? Stella: One school for me. One school for him. Same school. Margaret: What was that? Stella: State. Margaret: No, but before State Normal for your early education where did you go? Stella: The only education they had from the cradle to the top floor. Margaret: Oh, State went all the way. Stella: Yes, they had buildings on the big grounds and the grammar school buildings were around on the circle ad then the juniors and then the seniors. Margaret: Now was it integrated then or was it all black or… Stella: All Black Margaret:All Black
Stella: All black. Margaret: Okay, what about the teachers. Who were the teachers? Stella: White. They started off with all white. Now I remember when I was down in the grades there was one teacher that they had kept, teacher name of Mrs. Foster and she was an excellent first grade teacher. And they kept her. But then later on they started putting the white people in and they’d keep them in, then they’d kick about it and then had to give them recognition you know and finally they got the school like they wanted it and then they… it was a black school. Had it turned black, see, but in the beginning it had all white teachers. Yes because when Ross was there now he graduated, well I’d say, a good eight or ten years before I was in there and he had a teacher that I remember a Mrs. Stuart. She had been teaching there from the beginning and she was there until the end. She was from up North. They brought those teachers down from the north. That’s the way they did. The whole school was white but then finally turned right back because they were fighting it so. They wanted colored teachers in there. Margaret: Who are they who were fighting? Stella: The people. Margaret: The black people? Stella: Yes, that’s who fought. They had… I can remember the teachers, they were crazy about Ross. He was always such a good friend to them. (laugh) Getting in with everybody. He always was on the good side. Yes, Ross was a sight. Joe: You remember…one day…he was the first one I ever did see ride a motorcycle. Louise: That’s right. You know everything. Stella: Nobody had a motorcycle in the city but Ross. Louise: You remember that? Joe: First time I ever remember seeing him. Margaret: Where was this, Montgomery. He had a motorcycle?
Stella: He used to ride that motorcycle out to my house everyday and ride it back downtown to the drugstore where he was working. They had opened up a drugstore. Margaret: Who had opened up a drugstore? Stella:Mr. Tulane, his uncle and they all were working in it It was a nice big, good business and everybody would be so congenial and everything when you would go in. You remember the drugstore? You used to hang out around the drugstore every Sunday. You could find anybody you wanted at the drugstore (laughs) when you’d court.
While going through my grandmother’s photographs awhile ago I noticed that they had photos of people lined up in the backyard. When I looked closer I found some of the relatives I had not realized we had pictures of. One lingering question is why was cousin Alphonso the only relative I met?
Left to right: Abbie Allen Brown, Mershell Graham (my grandfather), Alphonso Brown(Abbie’s son), me, Doris Graham Cleage (my mother) Back – Fannie (my grandmother) Henry Cleage (my uncle & step-father). Abbie was my 2 x great aunt and Dock & Eliza’s daughter.
Left to right: Roscoe, Fannie, Stella, Abbie. Roscoe McCall was Mary Allen McCall’s son. Stella was his wife. Mary was Eliza’s daughter.
John Wesley Allen was Ransom Allen’s son. Ransom was Eliza and Dock’s son. Abbie was Dock and Eliza’s daughter. Alice was my grandmother Fannie’s youngest sister. Daisy was my grandmother’s sister. Bobbie was John’s wife.
Ruth is Beulah Allen Pope’s granddaughter. Abbie and Beulah were Dock and Eliza’s daughters. Fannie and Alice were Dock & Eliza’s granddaughter. August 1963.
My grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s father was named Howard Turner. She did not have a photograph of him but said he looked like her grandfather, Dock Allen and my grandfather, Mershell Graham. When my grandmother was four, her father Howard was killed at a barbeque. Her parents, Howard and Jennie (Allen) Turner had been talking about selling their portion of the Turner land and moving to Montgomery. Howard and his father had an argument before the barbeque and my great grandmother, Jennie, believed that Howard’s father had him killed so that he could not sell the land. Jennie took the deed to a lawyer and asked him to look over the deed because she wanted to sell the land. When she returned he told her the title wasn’t clear and she didn’t own the land. She figured her father-in-law had gotten it back. Jennie moved back to her parent’s home in Montgomery with her children and went to work as a seamstress. You can read her story here. Years later, my grandmother met one of her cousins on the street and learned that her grandfather did not get the land after all and had not had her father killed. This is all the information I had.
When I began searching online all I knew about my Turners was that they lived in or near Hayneville, Alabama: that my great-grandfather owned his farm: that my great grandfather’s name was Howard and that he was born about 1864. The 1880 census was available with an all name index through Family Search and I found Howard Turner, age 16, living with his family in Hayneville. He was a clerk in a store. It was a very emotional moment to find my great, great grandparents names. Joe and Emma Turner. The family included Lydia 18 born about 1862, Howard 16, born about 1864, Joe age 13 and ‘at school”, Annie 11 and Alonza 7. Joe senior and Emma were listed as 39. Below is the family sheet for Joe and Emma Turner.
With this information I was able to find them on Ancestry in the 1870 census, which was indexed only by head of household at that time. They were enumerated In Hayneville Beat 1, Lowndes County. Emma was and her parents were born in SC. Joe was born in Alabama. Joe was a farmer with $300 worth of personal goods. Neither he nor his wife Emma could read or write. The children were Lydia, 8, Howard 7, Fannie 6, Joe 3 and Annie born in August of that year. Joe Turner is in the 1866 census with 5 in the family living in Lowndes County, AL. From son Joe’s death record I learned that Emma’s maiden name was Jones. Or so the informant said.
In 1900 Joe and Emma owned their farm. Two of their grandchildren, Anelyzor (Annie) and Joseph Davis were ennumerated with them. Emma had given birth to 11 children and only three were still alive. Those three were Joe, Alonza and Lydia parent of the above Annie and Joe. They had been married 39 years, which would place their marriage before slavery in 1861.
Emma died soon after the 1900 census. Joe remarried in 1902 to Luella Freeman, 40 years his junior. They went on to have 8 children – John, Anna, Daniel, Buck, Josephine, Talmudge, Luella, and Selena who was born after Joe died February 7, 1919 of “prostatic trouble and old age.” Luella died in Chicago in July of 1977. I think, but I need to send for the death certificate to check. Below is the family sheet for Joe and Luella Turner.
Now I need to find estate records, a will…. something that will give me names and places. I want to look at land records too. And newspapers from Lowndes County, Hayneville from 1892 when Howard died. This means a trip to an archive. Something I have never done. I need to check something else too, in Mildred Brewer Russell’s book “Lowndes Court House” it says that Joe Turner was one of a number of “prominent Negro politicians” during reconstruction. I have yet to find anything else about this, such as what office he held. It would be great to meet some of Joe Turner’s other descendents too – hopefully with some photos and able to tell me where Moss cemetery is since it seems to be no where but on their death certificates. I picture a lonely, deserted place in the woods with no markers. Just sunken areas.