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.

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Today’s testimony is from Amanda Cleage’s Widow’s Pension File.

Deposition B

Mrs. Mattie Davis
56 years old
1239 Birch Street, Lost Angeles, California

I am the wife of Mason Davis.  I was born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, and lived in the state of Texas before coming here to California to reside. I have been living here in Los Angeles with my husband for 21 years, having come here from Austin, Texas.

I had lived in and about Austin, Texas ever since I was a baby and never lived in any other part of the state. I first became acquainted with Abram Cleag, the soldier, and his wife, the claimant, Amanda Cleag, when they first came to Dr. Phillips plantation near Austin, San Marcos, Texas, to which place they had gone with the Tucker family from Athens, Tenn., as they told me after I became acquainted with them.

I can’t state exactly what year it was that the Cleags came to Dr. Phillips plantation near Austin, Texas, but I knew them in and about Austin, Texas all of twenty (20) years.

The Cleags had rented land from Dr. Phillips and farmed it. My husband and I were also farming land which we had rented from Dr. Phillips, and we were the first people that the Cleags got acquainted with near Austin.

They remained on the plantation all of a year, and there worked in and about Austin, and at times worked for Dr. Phillips. After the Cleags left Austin, Texas to come here to Los Angeles, we followed them within a few months afterwards, and met them here and have known them ever since up to the time of Abram Cleag’s death in Long Beach, Calif., about a year ago. We used to visit back and forth and Mrs. Cleag and I do yet since they went to Long Beach from this city.

I know of my own knowledge, from association and observation, that the soldier, Abram Cleag, and his wife and widow, this claimant, lived together as man and wife all the time. I knew them in Texas, and all the time I knew them in Los Angeles, and Long Beach, Cal., up to the time of the soldier’s death, as aforementioned.

I personally know that they were never separated, never lived apart, and were never divorced during all these 40 odd years I knew them as man and wife, and I personally know that claimant has not remarried since the soldier’s death.

During his lifetime – Abram Cleag told us that he had been in a Tennessee regiment during the war, and it is my understanding that he was drawing a pension for his army service


Mattie and Mason Davis were born into slavery. They raised seven childen. One died in infancy. They farmed in Texas. After moving to Los Angeles, Mason Davis worked as an express man, driving a delivery truck. For awhile, Mattie worked as a laundress.

The whole family was literate by the 1900 census. Both of them registered to vote. After Mason died in 1919, Mattie lived with her sons until her death in 1927.

Mattie and Mason’s great grandsons played “Farina” in the Little Rascals”.

Something I was surprised to learn about the family was that Mason and Mattie Davis’ great grandson, Allen Clayton Hoskins played “Farina” in the original Little Rascals.

15 thoughts on “RENTED land

  1. Amanda and Mattie’s friendship was one of things that we didn’t have time to talk about in last year’s cem tour but this year we can have Avalon talk about it. Friends get us all through a lot of tough things and that had to be true for Amanda and Mattie.

    1. I’m sure their friendship tided them over deaths and births and everything in between. I think that friends moving together must have made going so far from the known into the unknown bearable.

  2. I love the way these two families became and remained close, the Davises even following the Cleages when they moved from Texas to California, and then the two women staying close after Abram Cleage’s death. This is the way migration often works, isn’t it? So good to have friends nearby when one is breaking new ground.

    1. That is the way both sets of my grandparents moved to Detroit, as part of the migration of their friends and family who came before and then more followed them. I believe it’s a fine sample of chain migration. And the way we moved from Michigan to Atlanta, come to think of it.

  3. Such a fascinating treasure trove of information on ancestors. You could write endless stories from one document alone. I always get excited over any new bit of evidence.

  4. I am still jealous of all these lengthy depositions. But now I can say I know someone who knew someone who knew someone close to fame! Now to get the story of how he got the part of Farina.

    1. I love those lengthy depositions and wish my particular widow had also had them. She filed right after the Civil War. The good ones were in the 1890s. Perhaps the passage of time made the ask for more information.
      The story of how he got the part is right there on I bet you could just google him and find it. I read it, but no time to recall it, got to finish up the alphabet.

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