Katie & Philip Cleage

Philip Cleage was born into slavery about 1843 on the plantation of Alexander Cleage in Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Philip was the third child of the four known children of Julie Ann Evans. He grew up to work on the farm. Sometimes he drove the coach.

Katie Cleage was born on the Hurst plantation in Mouse Creek, McMinn County, Tennessee. She was the fourth of the seven known children of Hulda Hurst. When Katie was 13, Alexander and Jemima (Hurst) Cleage bought her from Jemima’s brother, Lewis Russell Hurst. She was put to work as the seamstress.

In 1862, when Philip was 19 and Katie was 16, they were married by the slave holder, Alexander Cleage. They had two children together. The first was stillborn. The second died soon after birth.

When Sherman’s army came to the area, Philip and other men from the Cleage plantations joined the 1st U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery (USCT).

As the confusion of war intensified, Katie decided she would leave too. She first went to Cleveland, Tennessee and after working a variety of sewing jobs, eventually ended up in the USCT camp in Chattanooga. She lived on the base with her husband until he died of smallpox on 9 February 1866. In 1883 Katie filed for a widow’s pension. Her life story is told in her depositions and those of members of her community, including others who had been enslaved on the Cleage plantations, neighbors, men who served in the same unit as Philip and members of the slave holding Cleage family.

Using these testimonies and related information I will reconstruct Katie’s life in the coming series of blog posts.


For links to the other posts in this series, click this link – Katie Cleage’s Pension Hearing

20 thoughts on “Katie & Philip Cleage

  1. Kristin, I am so very excited about this story! Your cousin Janice told me about you searching for Katie’s gravesite! I am so very excited to read what you’ve been able to reconstruct of her history and how you found her grave! I’d love to hear so much about your research of your side of the Cleage family. My mother often spoke of your ancestors in McMinn County. Do you ever give lectures on your research? I would love to have you come to Athens.

    1. I’m thinking about coming to Athens this summer, but nothing definite right now. I have not given lectures on my research. I would love to know what your mother told you about my ancestors!!

    1. Thanks Andrea! The more I looked at Katie’s life, the more I wanted to know. I guess that’s true of most of the people I research.

  2. Hi Kristin. I am also looking forward to hearing more about your ancestors. What is the relationship to you? I am guessing they might be 2 or 3 times great grandparents.

    1. Katie Cleage was actually not my ancestor. She was contemporary with my great grandfather, Louis Cleage and his parents Frank and Juda. They were all enslaved on the same plantation – that of Alexander Cleage. My direct ancestors were not in the United States Colored Troops and hence no pension files. I have learned so much about life on this plantation from the six pension files I have. Katies was the most complete because her husband was dead at the end of the war and because his relatives stole his muster out pay and were fighting to prove she was never married to him.

      1. WOW, sad. But due to the pension records – may names listed/found for your family/….. this is wonderful info. I know CW record/pensions – can be a hit or miss… but with arguments in the records – more names/locations/families appear.

        1. Her story is sad, but she keeps on going. And yes, I have made may connections among the original families I started out with due to these records.

Comments are closed.