Several years ago I made a picture to place on a clock face by printing photographs of my grandmother Fannie on a piece of acetate and cutting it to fit on a clock. I removed the plastic cover, took the hands off and lay the photo on top of the face. The numbers showed through. I replaced the hands and cover and it was a fully working clock.
I was reading a post over at Georgia Black Crackers about fried chicken and as I was getting into my third paragraph in the comment section I decided to just write about my chicken memories here.
Fried chicken used to be the main part of my favorite meal along with mashed potatoes and green beans. I grew up in Detroit, without chickens in the yard, but I remember going to the poultry market several times with my maternal grandmother, Nanny. Crates full of live chickens were piled around the walls. My grandmother would pick her chicken and they would kill it and dress it there. When she cooked chicken she always smothered it in gravy. Perhaps she bought the cheaper old birds that were too tough for frying. It was delicious.
Every Saturday my mother drove us all across town to my grandparent’s house. She and her sister would be in the front and the four, eventually five, of us cousins would be in the back. No seat belts in those days. We spent many happy hours playing in the backyard where our yard toys were kept in the old chicken house. Of course it was free of all signs of chickens. They were gone by the time we were there but I remember the story of the mean rooster that attacked my little uncle Howard and ended up as chicken dinner. And of chickens running around the yard with no heads after they’d been chopped off.
Nanny was a great cook. She didn’t know how to cook when she married at age 29, my grandfather taught her. Where he learned to cook so well I am not sure. Working in the dining car on the railroad? I’ll have to ask my cousin and see if she knows. He always cooked the turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
When my sister and I were very small someone gave us three chicks for Easter. We lived in a combination parsonage/community house. It was huge. We kept the chicks in a box in the basement and thinking back I don’t remember a heat light which may be the reason that, one by one, the chicks died. I remember my mother throwing their bodies into the basement incinerator.
My Uncle Henry told a story about chickens from the time that he and his brother Hugh were conscientious objectors during the 2nd world war had a farm near Avoka, Michigan where they raised chickens and milked cows. One day it rained and they hadn’t put the chickens up. He said they piled up in the yard with their mouths open, just sat there and drowned from the rain running down their throats.
When I was grown living with my husband and children in rural Simpson County, Mississippi keeping goats and chickens, I learned first hand about killing, plucking and cutting up chickens. From my yard to the table. I wasn’t really that good at the killing part. In fact, I only remember one time that I actually killed a chicken. My husband was a printer working in nearby Jackson, MS. It was time to fix dinner and there was not much food in the house. He had the car so no chance for a trip to the store in town. I decided to kill a chicken. With the help of my two oldest daughters, who must have been about 9 and 12 at the time, we did it. Each of them held a clothesline tied to either the chicken’s head or feet and I chopped off the head. I would have gotten better I’m sure, but luckily never had to do it again.
One last memory. It’s really my husband’s memory, but I’ve heard it so often I can see it as if it were mine. Once during the annual family trip back to Dermott, Arkansas a relative gave them a chicken to take back home. They were living in Carr Square Village in St. Louis, MO at the time. They kept the chicken in the newspaper wagon long enough for it to become big enough to eat. His name was Speckle because he was black and white. One day they came home and they had a real treat, chicken sandwiches. Nobody asked why chicken in the middle of the week, they were too busy eating it. Later they found it was poor Speckle.
Another interesting assignment from Randy Seaver – Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – The Time Machine
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:
1) Determine which event in your ancestral history that you would love to be a witness to via a Time Machine. Assume that you could observe the event, but not participate in it.
2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or in a comment on Facebook.
Although it took me until Sunday morning to decide, I chose to be present when my first female ancestor from Eliza’s line appears, enslaved, on these shores. I want to know where she landed and where she came from. Was she a Mende, as my DNA test suggests? Were any of her people with her? I want to be there when she was sold to see what plantation she was taken to and who her first owner was. I want to know what her family named her and what slave name she was given.
Since I’m working on my ongoing project, a photograph quilt of babies in the family, I thought I would share it. Maybe that will help me to continue quilting and finally finish it. I started about three years ago. I have made many baby quilts over the years, crib size quilts, but I never completed a full sized one. I can design and put them together but finish, no. So when I saw the class listed at the local arts center for photo quilting I decided to do it. It is double bed size. I have added the outer edging which is the same brown print you see. I have two rows left to quilt before I finish the outer edge. I am hand quilting because using a machine on this one didn’t seem right. Here are the people on my quilt from top left corner across, row by row. I will give parents names and dates of birth and death for the children only. Maiden names only. Mostly.
1. Annie Lee Pope – daughter of Beulah Allen and Robert Pope. Born 1903 Montgomery, AL. Died 1971 Milwaukee, WI
2. Alice Wright – daughter of Jennie Allen and unknown Wright. Born 1908 Montgomery, AL Died 1994 Detroit, MI.
3. Charles Gilmer – son of Annie Lee Pope and Ludie Gilmer. Born 1922 Milwaukee WI. Died 1992 Los Angeles, Ca.
4. Stella holding Roscoe McCall Jr.- son of Stella Brown and Roscoe McCall Born 1918, Montgomery, AL. Death date unknown.
1. Margaret McCall – Daughter of James McCall and Margaret Walker. Born 1919 Montgomery AL. Died 2007 Detroit, MI.
2. Jennie holding Daisy, Fanny beside her. Daughters of Jennie Allen and Howard Turner. Daisy born 1890. Died 1961. Fannie born 1888. Died 1974. Both were born in Lowndes County, AL and both died in Detroit.
3. Celia Rice Cleage Sherman holding her granddaughter Gladys Cleage – daughter of Pearl Reed and Albert Cleage Sr. Born in 1922 in Detroit. Still living!
4. Hubert Vincent – son of Naomi Tulane and Hubert Vincent. Born 1923. Died 1994. Both in New York, NY.
1. Theodore Kennedy – son of Alberta Cleage and Theodore Kennedy. Born 1928 in Chattanooga, TN. Still living!
2. Albert B. Cleage Sr. and Jr. – son of Albert B. Cleage Sr. and Pearl Reed. Born 1911 in Indianapolis, IN. Died 2000 Calhoun Falls, SC.
3. Annie Willie holding Vennie Jean Williams – daughter of Annie Butler and Arthur Williams. Born 1921 Arkansas. Died 2008 Arkansas. My husband’s grandmother and Aunt.
4. Sadye and Virgil Harris. Sadye born 1917 in Birmingham, AL. Died 2008 in Maryland. Virgil born 1913 in Birmingham, AL. Died 1988 in AL. They are cousins of cousins. Sadye helped me greatly with my research.
1. Howard with big sisters Mary V. and Doris Graham – children of Mershell Graham and Fannie Turner. Howard 1928 – 1932. Doris 1923 – 1982. Mary V. born 1921 – 2009. All born in Detroit and died in Detroit.
2. Alberta, Ola and Helen Cleage – daughters of Mattie Dodson and Edward Cleage. Alberta born 1910 Athens, TN. Died Ohio 1956. Ola born 1916 Athens, TN. Died 1988 Athens TN. Born 1910 and died 1990 both in Athens TN.
3. Barbara Cleage – born 1920 Detroit, MI. Still living!
4. Pearl holding Albert B. Cleage Jr. – son of Pearl Reed and Albert Cleage. Born 1911 Indianapolis, IN. Died 2000 Calhoun, SC.
1. Pearl with Henry Cleage – son of Pearl Reed and Albert Cleage. Born 1916 in Detroit, MI. Died 1996 in Anderson, SC.
2. Theresa Reed – daughter of Hugh Reed and Blanch Young. Born 1914 Indianapolis, IN. Death information unknown.
3. Charles Gilmer son of Annie Lee Pope and Ludie Gilmer. Born 1922 Milwaukee WI. Died 1992 Los Angeles, Ca.
4. Naomi with Hubert Vincent – son of Naomi Tulane and Hubert Vincent. Born 1923. Died 1994. Both in New York, NY.
Nearly wordless. My grandfather Mershell C. Graham was one of the founders. He is standing behind his daughters, Mary V. and Doris (my mother). Their cousin Margaret is standing between them. They are in the front row, towards the left side of center. Elementary age. My grandmother, Fannie, had just given birth to their son Howard so was not there.
Clarence Elwood Reed was the youngest son of Anna Reed and the brother next in age of to my grandmother Pearl. When I was collecting stories about the family my aunts and uncles told me that Clarence was a good looking man who went to Chicago from Indianapolis, never married and lived a wild life.
Clarence missed the 1880 census in Lebanon, Kentucky where I found his mother and older siblings because he wasn’t born until 1882. His mother appears in the Indianapolis, IN city directory in 1893 and I assume that her younger children were with her, joining the older children who had relocated from Kentucky around 1885. Clarence would have been 11 years old. In 1893 he appears in the City Directory in his own right, still living at home at 529 Willard, with his mother and older brothers but now out working as a laborer. In the 1900 Census he is described as doing day labor, being literate and single at 18. The family has moved down the street to 225 Willard. In 1906 he has moved with the rest of the family north of downtown Indianapolis to 2730 Kenwood Ave. Clarence is still laboring. Unfortunately Willard Street is gone and 2730 Kenwood is a parking lot, so no photos of those houses.
In 1908 Clarence married Elnora Jackson in Chicago. I only found the certificate in the last week on Family Search. Clarence was about 22 and Elnora was 35. This marriage didn’t last long. They were divorced February 3, 1911.
In 1915 Clarence is back in Indianapolis, IN where he married Josephine Smith. She was born in 1888. I actually found this marriage record, which I sent for, before finding the first marriage. This record said that this was the second marriage and that the first ended in divorce in 1911. His job is listed as laborer.
In 1918 Clarence had moved back to Chicago where he was laboring at the Wilson Packing House. He is still married to Josephine, who he lists as the person to contact on his WW1 draft information card. He is described as Negro, short, of medium height with brown eyes and black hair.
I cannot find Clarence or Josephine in the 1920 or 1930 census anywhere in the United States. In 1942 Clarence turns up in the WW2 draft registration cards. He is described as a light complexioned Negro with black hair and brown eyes. His contact person this time is Adela Reed. New wife? Daughter? I have no idea. Can’t find her in 1920 or 1930 either. He is laboring in Swift and Company Union Stock Yard and is 62, but actually 60 because they took two years off of the birth year that all the other records show and make it 1880.
In 1946 Clarence is mentioned in his oldest brother George’s estate papers as Clarence Reed, brother in Chicago Illinois. And that is the last I find for Clarence. So far no death record. And no photographs.
I plan to send for the application for a marriage license from his first marriage.
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.