“X” Their Mark

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.I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out an “X” name or word when I realized that almost all the witnesses and claimants signed their names with an “X” because they couldn’t write. Below is testimony from Sarah Cleage Morrison, Amanda’s mother. She sign’s with her X mark.

Deposition B Case of Amanda Cleag – Sarah Morrison          

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

22 July 1909 Athens, McMinn, Tennesse

As near as I can tell – I am 102 years old. I live in Athens Tennessee.

Amanda Cleage who lives at Long Beach, California is my daughter. I haven’t received word that anyone was examining or was to examine her pension claim- I haven’t heard anything about it.

Amanda has been married twice – only twice. Her first husband was Lon Deadrick and her other husband was Abram Cleage.

Abram was raised up here and I knew him all the time until he went away. He and Amanda went away with old man Tucker’s family soon after the War. They went to Texas and I visited them in Austin, Texas. They had been gone from here for some years when I visited them – their oldest child was then eight years old at that time. Amanda and Abram were living as wife and husband and they recognized each other as wife and husband. They were married after they left here and I don’t know where they were married.

Abram had no wife here. He had no slave wife and he had no wife after the war until he had gone from here with the Tuckers.

Abe, Amanda and myself all belonged to the same man, old Alec Cleage.

There is none of our folks living who were in Chattanooga at the time Amanda went through there on her way to Texas.

I understood the foregoing as it was read to me by the examiner and it is correct.

Sarah (her X mark) Morrison

Annie B. Reynolds
Cora M. Cox

18 thoughts on ““X” Their Mark

  1. I have so many Xs in my ancestors’ documents that it is cause for celebration when I find an actual signature.

    1. We would have a much more blurred picture of our ancestors. I wish all my ancestors had such a file. This person, Sallie, testified in just about everybody’s pension file.

    1. Yes. In the pension hearings probably pretty safe to do so after they read it to you and you would agree that that was what you had said. But in other court cases, land deals and so forth, you might be signing away your land and not know it.

    1. Looking at her age over the years through the U.S. census , the years that her children were born and her age on her death certificate in 1914, she was closer to 91 than to 104, but it impressed the government people when she testified. Either way, she was certainly a survivor!

  2. It’s fascinating to read her testimony. I remember reading once that when people get very old that they tend to over-estimate their age.

    1. From the 1880 U.S. census to the 1900 U.S. census her age jumped from 41 to 84. Of course you can’t believe census ages, but you can believe she didn’t age 40 years in 20 years.

  3. Great testimony, but I always ask myself if the transcription is correct. Writting what people is saying is not easy, as they will not say what they would have wrote (if they have known to write). I did transcriptions for my Master’s thesis, and I had to transcript eeeeeeevry word, very faithfully, and the result is not easily readable ;))

  4. I live in Austin, so as I read your posts about Amanda and Abram coming here, I can’t help but wonder where they walked about and how their time here was spent.

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