Watch Night – Born into Slavery and Died in Freedom

Angela Walton-Raji of the blog My Ancestor’s Name suggested that tonight we observe Watch Night by naming our ancestors who were born into slavery but lived to see freedom. I decided to join her.

I have no photograph of Annie Williams (mother of Eliza Williams Allen) who was born about 1820 in Virginia and died after 1880 in Montgomery, Alabama.

I do not have a photograph of  Matilda Brewster (mother of Dock Allen) who was born in Georgia.

Eliza Williams Allen B. Alabama 1839 – 1917
Dock Allen B. Georgia 1839 – D. Alabama 1909










Eliza Williams Allen was my great great grandmother. She was born in Alabama about 1839 and died free in Montgomery, Alabama in 1917. She was a seamstress.  You can read more about Eliza here A Chart of the People in Eliza’s Life and Eliza’s Story – Part 1 with links to the other 3 parts.

Dock Allen was my great great grandfather. He was born a slave in Georgia about 1839 and died free in Montgomery, Alabama in 1909.  He was a cabinet maker. You can read more about Dock Allen here Dock Allen’s Story.

I have no photographs of  my great grandparents William Graham who was born about 1851 or his wife Mary Jackson Graham born about 1856. Both were born in Alabama and died dates unknown.  William Graham was a farmer. They were my grandfather Mershell C. Graham’s parents. I know very little about them but I have been gathering information which I will post soon.

I do not have photographs of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner Graham’s paternal grandparents.  Her grandfather Joseph Turner was born in Alabama about 1839. He died in Lowndes County, AL in 1919. He was a farmer and owned his own land. His wife Emma Jones Turner was born about 1840 in South Carolina and died about 1901 in Lowndes County Alabama.  You can read more about them here,  Emma and Joe Turner of Gordensville, Lowndes County, Alabama.

Celia Rice Cleage Sherman with grand daughter Barbara Cleage.
Celia Rice Cleage Sherman with grand daughter Barbara Cleage.

Frank Cleage was born around 1816 in North Carolina. He was enslaved on the plantation of first Samuel Cleage and then his son Alexander Cleage.  I do not have a picture of Frank Cleage and have no stories about him. His name appears on my great grandfather, Louis Cleage’s death certificate.

In the 1870 Census he was living with his wife, Judy and six children, including my great grandfather, in Athens, Tennessee. I also have a marriage record for Frank and Judy dated 20 August, 1866.  I don’t know if they were married before and the children are theirs or if they came together after slavery. Judy was born about 1814.

Frank is mentioned in a work agreement between Samuel Cleage and his overseer in this post – Article of Agreement – 1834.

They were both born in slavery and lived most of their lives as slaves but they lived to see freedom and to see their children free.

No photograph of Louis Cleage B. 1852 in Tennessee and died 1919 in Indianapolis, IN.  Louis and Celia were my grandfather Albert B. Cleage’s parents. Louis was a laborer. You can read more about Louis Cleage here – Lewis Cleage – Work Day Wednesday.

Celia Rice Cleage Sherman was born into slavery about 1855 in Virginia.  She died about 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. She was a cook. You can read more about Celia Rice Cleage here Celia Rice Cleage Sherman.

I do not have photographs of my great grandmother Anna Allen Reed who was born about 1849 in Lebanon, Kentucky and died in 1911 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  She was my grandmother Pearl’s mother.

Anna’s mother Clara, my great great grandmother, was born 1829 in Kentucky and died after 1880 in Kentucky.  I need to write them up. You can see some of their descendents here My Father’s Mother’s People.


10 thoughts on “Watch Night – Born into Slavery and Died in Freedom

  1. Throughout the past two years and more, I have been inspired by your work
    of finding and sharing information and photos of your ancestral family. The
    artistry of your method, the sepia tinted vintage pictures spread a glow on
    my page, where your posts faithfully arrive, after you have researched, edited,and labeled, verified and sent the stories out, I feel so honored to read and enjoy Your love and appreciation of your ancestors is always a good feeling to me, knowing how much effort you have given to find and share. Your ancestors will rise up and bless you for your generosity, and you will live in their memories. I thought the last
    day of this year 2012 a good time to leave a thank you reply. caite bonham

  2. This moves me deeply. How wonderful, how brilliant, how worthy. Thank you for your work, and for this lovely, practical, profound idea and example. This can become an annual ritual. All good wishes. Thankful for your work and spirit. Thinking tonight of people gathered in public and private places, large groups and small, 150 years ago and ever since, watching and waiting for the lifting of the cruel weight from their shoulders and the beginning of the new chapter where their worth and freedom were officially seen and known.

  3. I remember that picture of Eliza from when she used to appear on one of the ”badges” for your blog. Great reminder as we end 2012. Thinking of you, Kristin.

  4. Dear Angela Your work has always inspiration to me, not to mention the amount of work
    needed for these articles! Keep them coming!

  5. Inspiring. That was sentimental in all ways. Happy New Year! and I’m glad I’m going into 2013 with you. That reminds me of my Ancestors who were born into slavery and died FREE!

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