Katie Cleage’s Children

This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations with them.

This year I ordered the Civil War Pension files of the Cleage men who served in 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during that war. Through these files I learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the pension files for this years challenge.

During her hearing, Katie mentioned that she had two children at home – a boy born in 1883 and a girl born in 1886. She never gave their names, which made it almost impossible to locate them.

The children I have had since my husband died are both living. One of them will be seven the first of next June, and the other five on the first of next April. I have had sexual intercourse with but one man since my husband died, and he is the father of these two children. This man is a married man. He is a colored man, and has a wife living. He was not married at the birth of the first child. I had no intercourse with this man after the birth of the second child. I had the man arrested and tried to get him to support the children and every once in awhile he would bring me some money. This man’s name is John Washington and he lives here in Chattanooga. No, I was never married to Washington. I had him arrested for bastardy. I never lived with him at all. I cohabited with him just long enough to have these two children. They put him in jail when they arrested him; and I didn’t know what they did with him.  I swear positively that the only man I ever married was Philip Cleage. I have never got any bounty or back pay, but have made application for both.” Katie Cleage Deposition C, March 1, 1890.

I looked for a Cleage man born in 1883 and found Will Cleage. I first found him in the 1910 census. He was about 29, living with his wife, Lizzie and his mother-in-law Carrie Anderson. He lived in Hogan’s Alley and worked as a plasterer. His wife worked as a laundress and his mother-in-law as a maid. Lizzie had birthed two children and one was living, but not in that household and may have been born before their marriage.

He didn’t appear in any other censuses, although he did appear in the city directory. On June 6, 1928 Will Cleage, age 45, died in Chattanooga of unknown causes. His wife was the informant. The names and information about his parents was unknown.

In the 1900 census I found 13 year old Joella Cleage living as a border with the family of Jackson and Lucinda King. Joella was attending school. By 1910 she was not with the King family. I looked for a marriage record and a death record but found none.

Perhaps these were Katie’s children but there is no way to prove it. And thus ends the story of Katie Cleage as told through her Widow’s Pension File and supporting records.


This information is from Katie Cleage’s Widow Pension file and Ancestry.com.

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

In “I have had two children…” she talks about the children. In “She has always been steady.” Edmonia Charlton talks about the oldest child.

17 thoughts on “Katie Cleage’s Children

  1. I’ll go back to your earlier posts Kristin -when time permits – to better understand your motivation behind your research. It sounds extensive and intensive –

    1. I started researching the other people who were enslaved on the same plantations with my ancestors. I started with the names I found on documents from the Cleage families – Wills, letters, bills of sale and then went to the 1870 census and from there to the pension files. I believe that getting a picture of the community my people were a part of, both before and after slavery, will help me to know them better.

    1. I posted her whole file before the A to Z because it was so intense and extensive with testimony from so many people. Her claim dragged on for 10 years.

  2. This woman gave back as good as she got!

    It makes me sad and also very thankful for how women’s lives have changed since then. As always your research blows me away and I hope you’ll be able to trace Joella somewhere else, some other time.

    1. Unless Joella’s descendant shows up, I doubt it and then she may belong to another Cleage family.

      Katie Cleage lived a very hard life. It wore her down and I’m not sure she gave as good as she got at all.

      some women’s lives are still pretty hard.

  3. Seven years of A to Z – congratulations.
    Going into more depth with the pension files is a great theme.

  4. The photo is lovely, I realise it is not of these people but it is so atmospheric.
    Sometimes genealogy has to work on hypotheses and you keep testing until proved wrong. If not proved wrong and in the absence of other possibilities your conclusions are likely.

    1. When I was working on Katie’s file, I found several pages with photographs that often just fit the posts, even though they weren’t of the actual people.

      I like to think I am right about Will and Joella. And hope proof shows up.

      1. I hope so, too. Do you find that sometimes, while concentrating hard on all the connections in your research, you happen upon something like Joella Cleage, the right age, boarding with another family (had Katie died by then?) and you make a guess, but an educated, even an inspired one?

        1. I went looking for Joella and William – that is I looked for Cleages their age living in Chattanooga, not living in a Cleage family and not step children to either parent. And Joella and William were the only ones I found. Katie died of pneumonia in 1893. Her children were 10 and 7. There was an orphanage in the neighborhood and I thought they might have been taken there, but there was no way to find out as I could find no list of names. In one of her testimonies she said that a niece lived with her, but she doesn’t name her and I don’t know if she was still around then and hadn’t married and changed her name. I also looked in Athens for children in Cleage households that could be Katie’s children to no avail.

  5. I wonder if it was difficult being that honest. It sounds like you might have found her children. Can you tell whether the people they lived with were related in any way? Were they neighbors, maybe?

    1. The boy was out on his own when I found him. And his wife and her family were nobody I had seen before and didn’t live that close to where Katie lived. I found a wonderful map of Chattanooga that has all the houses and streets and alleys. Better than Sanborn maps, so I can tell who lives where.

      The people Joella lived with were not neighbors. They weren’t related. I was not able to find Katie in any censuses during her lifetime. She lived in back of a grocery store, on a side alley in a small house that made it into the directories, but I guess the census taker never went down there. If they had, the children would not have appeared until 1900 anyway, because of the lose of the 1890 census.

Comments are closed.