Six Degrees of Separation – Slavery

Today  I was reading  Nolichucky Roots  She was writing about the degrees of separation between her and her ancestors who where slave owners.  It got me thinking about how many degrees of separation there are between me and my ancestors who were enslaved.  I have always felt that it wasn’t as long ago as some feel.  It turns out I am one degree from slavery 6 different ways.

  • My paternal grandfather, Albert born 1884 TN knew his parents, Lewis & Celia (Rice) Cleage born about 1852 & 1855 in TN into slavery.  One degree.    (photo 1 & 2 – Albert & Celia)
  • My paternal grandmother, Pearl born 1886, knew her mother Anna Allen Reed who was born about 1849 in KY into slavery. (photo 3 Pearl)
  •  My maternal grandfather, Mershell born 1889 AL, knew his parents William & Mary (Jackson) Graham b. Al, 1851 & 1852. One degree. (photo 4)
  • My maternal grandmother, Fannie born 1888 AL, knew her father, Howard Turner, who was born about 1863, AL into slavery.  One degree.(photo 5 – Fannie)
  • My maternal great-grandmother, Jennie born 1866  knew her parents, Dock & Eliza (Williams) Allen born in Ga & AL about 1839 into slavery.  One degree. (photo 6 – Jennie, 7- Eliza, 8-Dock)
  • My maternal grandmother’s first cousin, James born 1880 AL, knew his parents Edward & Mary (Allen) McCall born 1842 & 1856 AL who were born into slavery.  One degree.(photo 9 James, 10- Mary).

Eliza’s Story Part 2

In 1992  Margaret wrote back with corrections to my tree.

Dearest Kristin,
I’ve had this buried on my desk too long.  So to expedite information transfer, I’ve added to your lineage chart, the corrections I am sure of.  I can help you in time with dates (birth and death)  I certainly would like to help identify photos and perhaps I could share or exchange some with you.  I’m quite happy to have help in unraveling some of the family secrets.  Your interest will encourage me to start digging and tracing the Allen’s line again.  Doc and Eliza died in Montgomery, Alabama and are buried in Oakwood Cemetery there.  I’ll stay in touch with you.  Let me know if and when you visit Detroit.  Sincerely yours,  Margaret

1998 – At this time we lived at the end of a dead-end dirt road in Idlewild, Michigan.  We had two large dogs that ran lose in the fenced yard so people did not just walk up on the porch.  I looked out of the window one day I noticed two confused looking woman standing in the road.  I figured they were looking for someone else and went to see if I could help.  One of them turned out to be a friend of my cousin Margaret bringing me a folder full of information from her with  a note:

Dear Kristin,  your letter asking for information on our mutual family history acted as a stimulant to get me going at research again.  I had put my search on hold for (I can’t believe it) almost ten years.  Your interest got me going again.  I did not write then because I had no further information, but I decided to go to the LDS in Salt Lake City to try to get more information on Edmund and Jane Harrison.  I have not been able to establish the connections we are looking for (namely the ownership of Eliza and Dock Allen before 1864.  I am enclosing Xerox copies of census records and marriage records on the Harrisons.  I’ll share what I can learn as I go along.  My hope is that between us we can come up with some answers.  I did not learn a lot in Salt Lake City.  But I’m on the search trail again.  Love, Margaret

P.S.  Marion is a long time friend of mine who has done extensive research on family histories.  I asked her to contact you and deliver this material since she is visiting Idlewild.

Included in the folder was a copy of the 1870 Census with Dock and Eliza’s household.  There was also a list of the large slave holders in Lowndes County in 1860 and a copy of the obituary of Edmund Harrison’s wife, Jane.   Wait a minute…. she died surrounded by her loving family?  I thought (according to my mother’s story) that she was childless?  And I saw they lived not in Virginia but in Alabama, Lowndes County.

Marion proved to be a big help to me, giving me advice and recommending sources of information.  One,  gave me the names and husbands of Edmund Harrison’s three daughters.  Something was off with my mother’s story.

Somewhere in here I got my first genealogical software – family tree maker for mac.
In May of 2000 long time family friend Leontine “Teen” Smith died in Detroit.  I attended the funeral and met Cousin Margaret face to face for the first time since I was a child.  We got together and made plans to do so again.  For the next 7 years we shared information, photographs and ideas.

On July 12, 2002 I joined Ancestry.com.  Whooo Hooo!!  I spent a lot of time at first finding information about Edmund Harrison.  I ran into some people researching because they were Harrisons and hoped they had found some slave records, some photos, something.  But no, they did not.  They had suggestions though.  One was to check and see if Jane Harrison had a will.  I didn’t think so since she was married.. Another suggestion was that I find the records from the church the Harrisons attended because some of them listed the slaves that attended.  I spent months online in 2002 and 2003 trying to find records that would give me proof that Annie and Eliza came from the Harrison’s plantation.  To no avail.  I also looked for Dock and Eliza Allen in the 1860 census in Montgomery.  They weren’t there.  I looked in Lowndes County because Edmund Harrison had a large plantation there.  I looked for  Annie and Eliza Harrison Could find none of them.

In 2003 I sent for and received death certificates for Dock and Eliza Allen, hoping to find the names of their father’s.  Nope. Their mother’s names were there but the space for father’s names were empty.  Margaret was certain that Edmund Harrison was not Eliza’s father.

Margaret sent me several tapes she made.  One was a tape done in 1985 with her uncle Roscoe’s wife, Stella McCall.  Roscoe was Aunt Mary’s son. Stella and Margaret discussed life in Montgomery at the turn of the last century….and Mary McCall, Eliza and the other sisters. Partial transcription below.

Margaret:   Now, did her mother and father live near where they lived?  Did Dock Allen and Eliza…?
Stella: Who?  Did who live?
Margaret: The Allens, Mary McCall’s mother and father.  Did you ever know them?
Stella: Now Miss McCall’s father was white.
Margaret:  Who?
Stella:  Miss McCall’s father was white and then her mother married this man that she had.  Oh yes he was white.  That must have happened way back in, I’d say, near the time of slavery days because she was quite old.  Quite old.
Margaret:  Who was quite old?
Stella;  Miss McCall.  Oh yes. I couldn’t guess her age. She was very quiet about it anyway.(laughs)

Margaret:  She never talked about her mother and father? And her real father.  She only acknowledged this one, the stepfather.  But Eliza was her own mother.?
Stella: Who?
Margaret:  Eliza Allen, that was her mother?
Stella: Eliza, yes Miss Allen.  You know there were five of those girls. Five of them.  Miss Willie and Abbie Allen and…
Margaret:  Jennie.
Stella: Jennie and … name another one.
Margaret:  Willie.
Stella: I named Miss Willie back here.  I get confused.  There was another…
Margaret:  There was Anna.
Stella: Oh, Anna was the one who first made the move to Chicago and when people weren’t even traveling to Chicago.  Oh it was a great thing anybody go to Chicago at that time.  Ohhh it was a big deal.  Well, this Anna, one that was in Chicago, she would come down one time a year and see her mother and they never heard from her because she didn’t write because she had a white husband up there and that’s the way they worked that, but that’s it. (note:  she doesn’t appear in Montgomery in the 1900 census)
Margaret:  Now you’re saying Mary the oldest one had a different father from the others?
Stella: Now yes, that’s what my mother told me.  She said.   Oh no, Miss McCall was the top of the bunch.  She was as blue eyed as she could be. She had blue eyes and no trace of any darkness.  So she was the first child.  The other’s now Aunt Jennie she had a different one. You could look at her and tell.  And Abbie, the same thing. Willie, oh yes, Miss Willie she had black hair.  She was more of an Indian type. I don’t know who her daddy was but they were all different.  Back in those days they paid no attention to difference (laughs) That’s right. No, they didn’t.  They really didn’t.
Margaret:  So you feel, you know, that Mary’s father, was white?
Stella: I don’t feel, I know it (laughs)
Margaret:  But you don’t know who?
Stella: I know the people that know about her… yes she’s white.  Looks to me like she’s all white.  (laughs)

Mary Allen McCall

About this time Margaret asked me to look for a connection between Milton Saffold, a lawyer and son of Rueben and Mary (Phillips) Saffold who had a big plantation (Belvoir) in Dallas County and Edmund Harrison.  She had received some information that Milton Saffold was her grandmother’s father.  Was there a way Saffold could have come in contact with and fathered Margaret’s grandmother Mary?

I started looking on Ancestry.com and the web to see if I could find anything that would tie them together.  I found earlier that Milton Saffold married Edmund Harrison’s daughter, Martha.  I found Martha with her parents in the 1850 census.  I found from the online marriage record that Milton Saffold married Martha in 1851.  Mary was born about 1856.  I looked for Saffold and Martha in the 1860 census but they were not together. I found Milton with several children and a new wife living with his sister and her family.   I couldn’t find Martha at all.  I found on Ancestry.com that Milton had married Georgia Whitting in 1857.  I assumed Martha was dead.

2003 – In October I received a letter from my sister Pearl. Janis and her mother Sayde Harris had come up to her at a book signing in Maryland and given her a chart showing connections between our family and theirs.  They were related, they said, to our cousins Margaret and Victoria through Milton Saffold.  I emailed Janis Mercer.

 

 

Two Newspaper Articles 1908 and 1960 – Pearl Reed Cleage

 May 8, 1908   The Indianapolis Star, Friday       Sings in Concert at Simpson Chapel

 Miss Pearl D. Reed The violin recital of Clarence Cameron White will be given this evening at Simpson Chapel under the direction of the Colored Y.M.C.A. Orchestra.  He will be supported by the best local talent.  The following program will be given:
Overture – “Northern Lights,” Y.M.C.A. Orchestra
Violin – Hungarian Rhapsodie, Clarence Cameron White
Song – “Oh Dry Those Tears,” Miss Pearl D. Reed.”
Piano – “Vaise in C sharp minor (b) Polanaise in A major.  Mrs. Alberta J. Grubbs.
Violin – (a) Tran Merel: (b) Scherzo, Clarence Cameron White
Intermission
Orchestra – “The Spartan,” orchestra
Vocal – :Good-by”, Miss Pearl D. Cleage
Readings A.A. Taylor.
Selection – “The Bird and Brook,” orchestra

1908    May 16 The Freeman An Illustrated Colored Newspaper page 4 “The Cameron White Recital” 

Clarence Cameron White ably sustained his reputation as a violinist at Simpson Chapel church last week under the auspices of of the Y.M.C.A. Mr. White plays a clean violin; he gets all out of it there is – dragging his bow from tip to tip, and more if it were possible.  He did not attempt any of the great big things – the big concertos, and perhaps for the best.  Yet he showed his capability for such work and at the same time satisfied his audience.  His encores as a rule were selections that the audience recognized and through the beautiful renditions it could easily form some estimate of his playing ability.  Mr. White was a decided success.  Seldom is has a good class of music been so thoroughly appreciated.  He was supported at the piano by Samuel Ratcliffe whose playing was commendable.  Miss pearl D. Reed proved an acceptable contralto singer.  The orchestra under Alfred A. Taylor did some very effective work.  Mr. Taylor proved a reader of ability; he read several of his own selections.  The audience was magnificent and paid the utmost attention to the renditions.”

 The Detroit Free Press – about 1960

Celebrating my Aunt Barbara’s 90th birthday

90 years old today.

Tomorrow we’ll be driving over to SC to help celebrate. My aunt was born in Detroit in 1920, the fourth of the seven children of Pearl and Albert Cleage. Barbara attended what is now Wayne State University for several years and then acted as receptionist for her father and brother at Cleage Clinic on the old west side of Detroit. She eloped with Ernest Martin in 1950. They have one son, Ernest Cleage Martin and two grandchildren.  In 1970 the Shrine of the Black Madonna opened the first of what would eventually include three Cultural Centers. The stores had collections of African and African American art, books and other cultural objects. Barbara became buyer and manager for all three. She made various buying trips to Africa over the years. She also visited Mexico with her brother Louis who spoke fluent Spanish and often traveled there. Barbara has a wonderful sense of style both in dress and in decorating. Looking forward to seeing her tomorrow celebrating her 90th birthday and hearing some family stories.

Eliza’s story – Part 1

Mary Allen McCall back row left, her son James, his wife Margaret. Grandaughters Victoria and Margaret in front. Late 1920’s. Jennie Allen Turner seated left, Mary Vee, Fannie, Doris.Back Mershell holding Howard. Early 1930’s. Detroit, MI

“My mother was the first child of my grandmother who was one of seven children born to Dock Allen, a free man and Eliza, a woman freed from slavery at seventeen. Before being freed this woman, my mother’s grandmother had been trained as a seamstress in the “big house” of the white master, Colonel Edmund Harrison, who was her father. Her mother, Annie, was the slave seamstress in the “big house”. For three generations, in slavery and in freedom, each mother taught her daughters to sew. My grandmother earned her living as a seamstress for white folks in Montgomery, Alabama. But she never taught my mother or her other two daughters to sew.”

My mother wrote me this as part of a piece she was writing about her own mother, Fannie Turner Graham. We grew up hearing it. There was also the part about Colonel Harrison’s wife. She was so angry about her husband having this child, my great great grandmother Eliza, with a slave that she was cruel to both Annie and and Eliza. Col. Harrison, the story went, finally freed both of them and married Eliza to a free man, Dock Allen, who was a carpenter in Montgomery, Alabama.

Because he was always referred to as “Colonel Harrison of Virginia” I pictured him driving Annie and Eliza in a carriage from Virginia to Montgomery, finding a free carpenter and arranging a marriage between his daughter and the carpenter before returning to his plantation in Virginia. I wasn’t really clear on the distance or terrain between Virginia and Montgomery, AL but I wondered why he took her all the way to Alabama. Later I read that freed slaves had to be taken out of the state they had been enslaved in.

In 1980 my mother began writing down her memories and stories of all her great aunts, Eliza’s daughters. She wrote about her mother and about herself growing up too. She made duplicates and sent my sister and myself both copies.

In one she mentioned a strange phone call from her cousin Margaret McCall Ward, who was a librarian and a genealogist and a founder of the Fred Hart Williams Geneological Society in Detroit. The first black genealogical group in Michigan. My mother wrote:

“Note of recent strange happening here: Teen (note: a longtime family friend) is still working on her family tree and sees Margaret who works in that dept. of the library. Margaret kept sending word to me by Teen that she would be happy to help if I wanted to get the family history together….I never called….but finally did one day when Teen insisted….somewhere in the conversation Margaret said of course you know our grandmothers were not really sisters (Aunt Mary and Grandmother Turner whom I had always thought were Dock Allen’s children…had never heard a suggestion of anything else)..I said o really…how…she mumbled…I mentioned Dock…she said you’ve seen the sisters you know how different they looked…I knew she meant some were light like her grandmother and some were dark like mine… they had different mothers? I said..she mumbled again (I have never heard her mumble before …different fathers? I said, really intrigued by this deep family secret now to be uncovered…more mumbles..at any rate, I said, if they weren’t sisters, we aren’t cousins, right?…more mumbles…I let it go, said good-bye and crossed her off the family list….who needs her?…. then a few weeks ago (the other conversation on the phone was months ago) she sends word by Teen that as she was helping someone search records she came across a record pertaining to our family and it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that our grandmothers were sisters and we are cousins. I told Teen off again on again cousins I do not need and have heard no more…but I’m curious about what she was talking about in the first place and what she found in what records…I mentioned it to MV who had never heard it…she called Aunt Gwen (the only one left in that generation to talk to) who is the gossip of the group who said as far as she knew they were all full sisters and brothers (there were two of these.) I await further developments but not with baited breath…”

In 1982 my mother died of ovarian cancer. I inherited her photographs, scrapbooks and letters which she had inherited from her mother. In 1991 I wrote to my aunt, my mother’s only sister, Mary Vee and asked her to tell me about her parents and grandmother. She told me the little she knew and suggested I write to cousin Margaret asking for help with the family tree. I did. A year later I received a reply filling in blanks in the tree. She wrote that my letter revived her interest in looking at this branch of the family again, and be sure to look her up if I got to Detroit.

For other parts of the story

Saturday Night Challenge – Find one of your ancestral homes on Google Maps

910 Fayette Indianapolis Indiana (bluish/gray one) - Google maps

I decided to accept the  Saturday night challenge. After looking and not finding anything but parking lots and weed covered land where my ancestors used to live, I found 910 Fayette standing. My father, Albert Buford Cleage, Jr, was born in this house on June 13, 1911. His parents had married the year before after Albert completed his medical training and received his physician’s license. The little house must have been crowded with five adults and an infant. The three Cleage brothers, Jacob, Henry and Albert and wives Gertrude and Pearl shared the house until the following year when Albert opened a practice in Kalamazoo Michigan and moved his family there.