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.
It was glimpsing W. R. Sherman’s name on the papers below that alerted me to Susan Rice Ragan being my xxgreat grandmother.
William Roger Sherman was born into slavery in 1846 in Maryland. His mother’s name was Charlotte Blackwell. He ended up in Athens Tennessee and that is where he was at the end of the Civil War. On October 31, 1866 he married Jane Ewing. They had three children – Mary, Marsha and John. Sherman was a house carpenter. In 1870 he had $100 worth of real estate and $100 worth of personal property. Both Sherman and his wife could read. Seven year old Alice Cleage lived with them and attended school. As his children grew old enough, they also attended school.
William Roger Sherman is listed as the architect for First United Presbyterian Church, an historic black church in Athens, Tennessee built in 1892. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. It was the church that my family in Athens attended through the years.
William Roger Sherman married my great grandmother Celia Rice Cleage, in Athens, Tennessee on April 25, 1897. He was 51. She was 45. It was a 2nd marriage for both. In 1900 all of his children were in homes of their own. I found two – Mary was a seamstress and John was a brick layer. Three of Celia’s children – Edward, Henry and Albert (my grandfather) were students and living at home. Everybody in the household was literate. Celia’s daughter Josie and her family lived in the house next door. William’s son John and his family lived next door to Josie’s family.
In 1910, Sherman was 64 years old. He rented his house, which seems kind of sad for a carpenter. He hadn’t been out of work at all the previous year. Celia was working as a cook. Celia’s son Charles and his family were sharing the house, as was her son Henry’s eight year old son Richard. Charles and his wife ran a restaurant. I imagine that is where Celia cooked. Richard was in school. Everybody except the 2 year old and the infant were literate.
By 1920 the household had broken up. Sherman, age 75 had moved in with his daughter Mamie Kennedy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was not working. Mamie was a steward (a person responsible for supplies of food) at a local school. She was the widow of Frank Kennedy and owned her own home. Also in the household were two of her stepsons and her brother John’s daughter. All of the young people were high school or college students.
Six months later, William Roger Sherman died of tuberculous of the bowels. He had been sick for a year before he died. His daughter was the informant on the record.
My great grandmother Celia lived in Detroit with her son Albert and his family in 1920. She died of a stroke in 1930. According to their death certificates, both William R. Sherman and Celia Rice Cleage Sherman are buried in Athens, Tennessee. I have been unable to find in which cemetery (or cemetaries) they are buried.