“I remember the claimant as a former slave of my fathers”

Deposition C

John H. Cleage
Chattanooga, Tennessee
13 June 1890

I am 43 years of age, a merchant and my post office is No. 17 Market Square, Chattanooga, Tenn.

I remember the claimant as a former slave of my fathers. I was living home during the late war. The claimant was a house servant, a seamstress I think. She was not married during that time, if she married it was after she left us, I do not know what became of her. I knew Philip Cleage, he was a slave belonging to my father. Philip was one of the farm hands. I didn’t know that he was especially a coachman. Katie and Philip did not live together as man and wife, no doubt they were together some, but they did not live together.

I think it was in 1863 that Katie left us, it was about the time Longstreet went through. Philip left about the same time. I do not know that Katie had any children before she left my father’s, she certainly had none living. I think I would know it if my father married Katie and Philip, under the old slave laws. I do not know how old Katie was but she is older than I am. Philip was older than Katie. I do not remember her and Philip living in the cabin back of our house, if she did I do not remember it.

I think she did have one or two children but they did not live. Whose they were, I do not know. They might have been Philip’s, I could not say as to that. I have no knowledge relating to her since she left our house during the war, until the last few years I have seen her in Chattanooga.

I have no interest in this claim for a pension. I have fully understood all your questions and my answers have been correctly rendered.

J. H. Cleage

13 June 1890


A bit about Forest Hill Academy. Click to enlarge

John Henry Cleage was the 7th of the ten children of Alexander and Jemima (Hurst) Cleage. John Henry Cleage and Katie Cleage were both born in 1846 in McMinn County, TN. Although John thought Katie was older than he was and Katie thought that John was younger than she was, they were actually the same age. When the Cleages bought Katie from John’s uncle Lewis Hurst, at age 13 to act as household seamstress, John was also 13. He attended school, probably Forest Hill Academy in Athens. In 1869 and 1870 John attended Washington college in Virginia.

In 1875, 28 year old John H. Cleage married Elizabeth Tipton Bradford. They had four children that survived to adulthood. Over the years John worked as a clerk at Tankesley grocery store and then as manager of Chattanooga Installment Furniture House.

Click to enlarge

John’s wife gave birth to their last child in June of 1891. In August of the same year she died of tuberculosis. John died in 1929 at the age of 82 in Mobile, Alabama. His body was brought back to Chattanooga and buried with his wife in Citizen’s Cemetery.


I found the information for this post in Katie Cleage’s Civil War Pension file, in documents found ancestry.com, familysearch.org and newspapers.com.

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

2 thoughts on ““I remember the claimant as a former slave of my fathers”

  1. It is all so real and so recent. These testimonials bring back slavery as if it were but yesterday. The carelessness with which he speaks is the hardest to read, I think.

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