BOTH BURIED in Plot 40

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.

Late last 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.


Abraham/Abram Cleage, Amanda’s husband, died at the Long Beach City Hall in April 1908. A newspaper account is below. He was buried in the Long Beach Municipal Cemetery in a well attended funeral. His granddaughter, Avalon Pierce, age 14 who was being raised by Amanda and Abram, died of tuberculosis in October of the same year. She is buried in the same plot as her grandfather. I received some comfort from finding that they were buried close together. His gravestone was vandalized some years ago. There is now talk of replacing it.

Map of lots in the Long Beach Municipal Cemetery.
Click to enlarge
His father’s name was Jim Hurst (not Hearse) but Abram went by Cleage
Click to enlarge

Died at Work at City Hall

Aged janitor afflicted with acute indigestion and heart failure.
Long Beach Press, April 14, 1908
Had Long Served City
Abram Cleag, Colored, Friend of Many Administrations, Suddenly Stricken

A few minutes before seven o’clock this morning Abram Cleag, of 903 East Eleventh street, the old colored janitor who for many years has served the city most acceptable and faithfully as janitor of the city hall, died in the office of the tax and license collector where he had been taken by members of the police department and Dr. J. W. Wood who had been called a few moments before to attend him.

Mr. Cleag was not well this morning and feeling unable to do the work of sweeping and cleaning up around the city hall was accompanied to the building by his wife and granddaughter who were doing the work.

When Officer McMillan came to headquarters a few minutes before six o’clock he found the aged colored man sitting on the front steps of the building. He was very sick at that time and said so in response to McMillan’s greeting. But he did not want a doctor. A little later he went inside and sat on a chair and soon became so much worse that a physician was called regardless of the sick man’s desires. It was less than half an hour after the arrival of the physician that Mr. Cleag had died, suffering considerably before his death. His death was due to acute indigestion and heart trouble. The body was taken to Allen Walker’s undertaking parlors.

Members of the city hall force contributed to a fund this morning to buy flowers for the funeral of Mr. Cleag as a tribute to his faithful service at the city hall as janitor.


Abraham Hearse (Hurst) was the real name of the man who was born in slavery at Athens, Tennessee, about 1840. He served in slavery until the emancipation proclamation of Present Lincoln freed the slaves and immediately thereafter enlisted in the heavy artillery at Knoxville, Tennessee, serving through the war and being mustered out at Chattanooga at the close of the war.

Soon after the war he was married and came west, stopping first in Texas and later coming to California. The family owned a home in Los Angeles which they sold about four years ago and bought the home in which they have been living here.

Hearse (Hurst) was drawing a pension from the United States government on account of his service in the war.

Deceased went by the name of Cleag because he was owned by a man of that name in his slave days.


Yesterday’s post Amanda Cleage talked about Abram’s wife.

11 thoughts on “BOTH BURIED in Plot 40

  1. We are all a sum of our ancestors, yet we are our own unique selves. I love finding out where I come from. What a fascinating history you’ve discovered! Thank you for sharing.

  2. That’s so tragic that both the grandfather and granddaughter passed away so quickly and suddenly. Must have been a shock for Amanda. Life was so precarious even a hundred years ago! Well, it still is I guess, only we feel a little more in control most of the time.

    1. Yes, it was. Avalon (the granddaughter) helped her begin filling out the forms to receive her pension. I think that Amanda and Abram had a lot of hopes for her future. She signed one of the documents and had beautiful handwriting.

  3. Did I read that right – the wife and granddaughter came to do his work for him? If so, we know his true character from that. That is dedication! I must say though, referring to him as “Hearse” is rather funny in a twisted way given the circumstances.

  4. He was obviously much appreciated by his colleagues. So very sad he was suffering considerably before his death.
    I found it interesting that they acknowledged his birth name as well as the name he used.
    Although this history existed and was known about at the time it happened I think it is important that people’s lives are remembered 110 years later. It tells us so much more about our past to know about the diversity of people who lived.


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