Category Archives: A-Z Challenge 2013

Q is for Questions, Questions and More Questions

a-to-z-letters-qThis is the seventeenth post for the April A-Z Challenge.  Finding a small New Testament, inscribed to Jacob Graham, in my grandfather Mershell C. Graham’s belongings, raised questions that I am still trying to answer. To read what I wrote earlier, follow this link, Jacob Graham. Today I am going to write about Zachries and Abraham Graham. Annie will get her own post soon. There is not much to write about Zachries, because  I can’t find Zachries, Zakries, Zakery or Zak* anywhere, before or after 1900.

Abraham Graham

My grandfather, Mershell Graham.
My grandfather, Mershell Graham.

My first thought after finding Jacob Graham in the 1900 census in the household with Zachries, Annie and Abraham, was that, maybe Abraham was my grandfather being called by another name. I began to track him through the census records.

Abraham Graham was born about 1887 in Elmore County, Alabama, although he always listed place of birth as “Montgomery”.  He completed 8th grade before moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked in various jobs as a laborer.  He was light enough to be mistaken for white, of medium height, slender, with grey eyes and dark brown hair.

My grandfather’s description in his WW1 registration:  white, medium height, slender with grey eyes and dark brown hair.

Perhaps Abraham met his future wife, Pinkie Dorothy Holt while living in Nashville, where she was born and grew up. Or they could have met after both moved to Cleveland, Ohio. At any rate, in 1923, they were married in Cleveland, Ohio. He listed his parents as William Graham and Mary Jackson on the Marriage License.  My grandfather listed William Graham and Mary Jackson on his delayed birth record as his parents.


Abraham continued to work as a laborer. He and his wife rented a house at 2278 E. 87th Street, where they lived for over ten years. They turned it into a boarding house, Dorothy ran it while Abraham worked as a truck driver. The house was full of her family and four or five lodgers.  In 1940 there were 11 people living with them. They didn’t have any children. Follow this link to see them in the 1940 census.

In 1942, Abraham filled out his WW2 draft registration card from the Edwin Shaw Sanatorium. He was already  suffering with the tuberculous that eventually killed him. He was described as 5 ft 11 in, 140 lbs with a sallow complexion, blue eyes and black hair. Race was first listed as “white”, crossed out and a check placed by “Negro”.

My grandfather’s description on his WW2 draft registration card: Race is checked as “white”. He complexion was light, height was 5 ft 9 in., weight 135 lbs with gray eyes and brown hair.

In May of 1943, Abraham’s wife, Pinkie Dorothy died of atypical pneumonia, sometimes called “walking pneumonia”.  Katie Mayhue, one of the lodgers, was the informant on the death certificate.

On October 29, 1948 Abraham Graham died of tuberculous at the Edwin Shaw Sanatorium.  His parents are, again, listed as William Graham and Mary Jackson.

abraham graham death certificate

He was buried in Mt. Peace Cemetery in Akron, Ohio on November 6, 1948.  Was he my grandfather’s brother?  What happened to William and Mary Graham? Where was my grandfather in 1900? What happened to Annie Graham, the other child in the 1900 Census?  Stay tuned.

I used census records, draft registration cards, death certificates and marriage licenses from, Family Search and my personal collections in writing this piece.

P is for Poultry – Sepia Saturday #173

a-to-z-letters-pThis is the sixteenth post for the April A-Z Challenge. Today I am going to combine A-Z with the Sepia Saturday prompt, which shows a young man holding up two fowl.  I do not have anybody holding dead poultry, but I do have several photographs of family members with living chickens.

In 1975, we moved to Simpson County, Mississippi and got some chickens and goats. We did kill the chickens for food, as well as keep some for eggs. If I had known about this prompt, I would have taken a few photos of the headless chickens.

Jilo with a hen. 1973, Mississippi.
Jilo with a hen. Simpson County, Mississippi – 1976.
My grandfather, Poppy, in Detroit, 1919. On the photo my grandmother wrote “Shell with his pets. Jeans.”

My Graham grandparents married in 1919 in Montgomery Alabama and immediately came to Detroit, where my grandfather had been living and working for a while. They roomed with friends from home, Aunt Jean and Uncle Mose, until they could afford to buy their own house.   This is their backyard. Not sure who owned the chickens. When they got their own home, my grandfather kept chickens and raised a big garden. By the time we grandchildren came along, the chicken house had been cleaned out and was a storage shed for tools and our outside toys.

 For other stories about my life in the rural, try these posts.


To see other fowl posts, CLICK.

O is for Off On a Tangent

a-to-z-letters-oThis is my fifteenth post for the April A-Z Challenge.  I began with the intention of writing about my first cousin twice removed, Alma Otilla McCall Howard. I started by going to my family tree page and pulling up her profile. I noted she was the 5th of 6 children and  that her wedding date was missing.  I opened my Reunion family tree software, hoping it was there. Her marriage date read 1911.   That couldn’t be right. Her husband’s son by his first wife wasn’t born until 1912. There was no date for that marriage either. In fact there wasn’t even a name for Otilla’s husband,  Joseph Howard’s, first wife.

Top row: Doorway to Otilla’s Chicago house. Siblings – Jeanette, Otilla, Roscoe, Annabelle, James.  2nd row: Students at Mississippi Industrial College(MIC) 1908; Otilla’s mother, Mary Allen McCall; postcard of the girls dorm at MIC; 1908 photo of MIC.  3rd row: Joseph, Jr. with drums and friends; Otilla’s apt house in Chicago; Otilla and her husband Joseph Howard about 1939.    4th row: MIC building now; my grandmother Fannie and friends in Holly Springs.

I searched on No luck. Tried Family Search, no luck. Then I remembered listening to an interview that my cousin Margaret McCall Ward did with Otilla’s step-son, Dr. Joseph H. Howard, JR, about his amazing drum collection. Maybe there was something there.  Looked for the interview in my itunes list and listened. Unfortunately, he speaks sort of quiet at the beginning when he is telling us his mother’s name and I can’t quite get it. I think he said “Evie” and then changed and spelled it out as “Dama”. Turned that off.

Joseph Jr.’s drum collection sounds interesting. Maybe there is something out there with biographical information. I google Dr. Joseph Howard drums. Several articles come up. I read them and learn the extent of his collection, his wife’s name and his two children’s name. And there are even photographs of him. Nothing about his mother.  Unfortunately, he isn’t even actually related to me and none of this is about Otilla.

I remember another interview that Margaret did with her Uncle Roscoe’s wife, Stella. Stella’s daughter and Joseph Jr. were both there and putting in comments. Maybe the information is there. It only takes a few minutes to find the transcript of the tape on my computer and open it up. Yay! That is what I was remembering. Right at the start of the interview, Margaret starts talking to Joseph and he tells where he was born and how his parents met in Guyana.  His mother lived there and his father was working on a ship. He gives his mother’s name and even spells her last name, Sempert.   I try looking for her using first name of first Evie and then Dama, hoping to find a death record. Nope.

About this time I decide to check in on facebook. I find that I was chosen by Family History Magazine as one of the Top 40 Genealogy Blogs! I was shocked and thrilled. I spent some time going to the Family History Magazine website, congratulating other bloggers I know who were on the list and thanking others for their congratulations.  But, eventually, I had to get back to the post.

Later in the transcript, Joseph talks about how his step mother, Otilla and his father, Joseph Howard met. She was teaching at Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs, MS.  Joseph Howard SR was a physician and I don’t know if he was practicing in Holly Springs or if he was in school.  Unfortunately, just as Margaret was getting ready to go deeper, she stopped herself and got back to her task of trying to find out where her grandfather was buried. I wondered what Mississippi Industrial College looked like? I googled and found a few photographs from 1908, a brief history, and a lot of information and photographs of how the beautiful, historic buildings are falling down before our eyes. There doesn’t seem to be any money to save them. An architect who worked on a rehabilitation project years ago writes about how he hated to stop when the funding ran out. Someone warns about walking up the steps of the auditorium and finding themselves looking two stories down to the basement.

Having read some articles about “ruin porn” while I was off on a tangent when writing a different post, I tore myself away from the wrecked buildings. Holly Springs? I remember a photograph of my grandmother and some of her friends that was taken in Holly Springs. I wonder if they were visiting Otilla? I find the photo and find nothing except place and names on the back.

I remembered an email exchange with my cousin, Ruth about her memories of Otilla and her large house in Chicago.  I go back and find the emails and re-read them for any interesting information. She talks about her parents bringing her home from the hosptial to that house and the other family members who lived there. It was a multi-unit dwelling. I found a photograph of the house on google maps when I was going to write Otilla and family up for the 1940 census. There was some confusion about whether the house I found was actually the house. I looked up the address on the 1940 census and googled it. I found several real estate descriptions and photographs of the house. I’m satisfied I found the right place.

At that point I started thinking about all the side roads I took and decided to write about that. I still owe Alma Otilla McCall Howard a post.  It shouldn’t be too difficult because there can’t be any other side roads to go down, right?


N is for a Nostalgic Interview with Henry W. Cleage

a-to-z-letters-nIn my fourteenth post for the April A-Z Challenge, I am going to share a Nostalgic interview I did with my Uncle Henry Cleage in 1994. I’ve done several posts about the Freedom Now Party before. At that time I didn’t know how to embed the actual audio interview. I figured it out yesterday and so, here it is!

I wish my interviewing skills had been better when I recorded this.  Obvious things like, turn off the radio and go to a quiet room. I edited out as much of the extraneous noise as I could. Henry and I were sitting in the living room of my house in Idlewild, MI. You can hear the sounds of the kids getting dinner on the table and hollering at the dog in the background. In 1994 my youngest 4 were all at home and we were homeschooling.  Henry lived about 4 miles away and often had dinner with us.

An interview with Henry Cleage about the Michigan Freedom Now Party.

Henry W. Cleage
Henry W. Cleage

You can read related posts at these links:

M is for the Music of Hubert Averette

a-to-z-letters-mThis is my thirteenth post for the April A-Z Challenge.  M is for music, and in this case, the music of my second cousin, Hubert Averette. We never knew each other because my grandmother, Pearl’s, and her brother, Hugh’s families were out of contact for over 80 years.  When Hubert’s son, Alex let me know  that there was a 45 with two songs that his father both wrote and sang, available on Ebay, I decided to buy it. My sister and I listened to it on her record player and enjoyed it.

Hubert was a teacher by profession.  Although his love of music didn’t lead to a musical career, he didn’t let that stop him from performing and enjoying music. His son Alex described the making of the record and his father’s love of music to me and I want to share the story in his own words. At the end of the post, you can listen to both of the songs.

“Rock Star” photo of Hubert Averette wearing a silver lame shirt sewed by wife, Janice, from his own design. It was used as the cover photo for the record.

My Dad was a prolific songwriter and singer. He even tried a shot at becoming a rock star in the early ’70s. He could sing just like Elvis and he was a huge fan but, on those two songs, ‘Another Way’ and ‘There’s a Time and a Place for Everything’, he was using his own singing voice.  He played piano and guitar, but not on that record. The band that provided musical accompaniment and backup vocals on my Dad’s record was only hired for the record. My father wrote the two songs on the 45. He had picked those out from 24+ songs he had written up to 1970.

The band that backed up Dad at the nursing homes and concert halls was none other than our family. We sang in nursing homes for free, music halls for donations in late ’77 and raised a total of $1,000 for the heart fund research by doing it.  Dad did vocals and guitar, Mom played the piano, I played the drums, and my sister played the rhythm sticks and the xylophone.  We had such fun and enjoyment doing this together as a family; my sister and I cherish these memories, as well as many others growing up. My Mom and Dad were such wonderful loving parents and friends to us. My Mother was such a good caring person and my father was such a brilliant, talented man, the world missed out on it, but our family didn’t, that’s for sure!

There’s A Time And A Place

Another Way

Long Ago – House War Workers March – 1942 Detroit

a-to-z-letters-lThis is the twelfth post in the April A-Z Challenge and also in response to the prompt for Sepia Saturday #172.  I am posting about a long ago march held in Detroit in 1942.  I remembered this photograph in my Cleage family collection after seeing the post on Tony Zimnoch’s blog, The Last Living Rose, which he did in response to Sepia Saturday and the death of Margaret Thatcher.

There is no information written on the photo about when or where it was taken. When I first looked at this photo, I thought that the signs were saying house war workers, as in people who worked in the house. I soon realized the march was about housing for war workers, after reading several articles about the housing shortage in Detroit during World II.

March in Detroit in support of housing for black workers during WW 2 in the Sojourner Truth Housing Project.
March in Detroit in support of housing  black workers in the newly built Sojourner Truth Homes during WW 2.

When thousands of Southern workers, black and white, flooded into Detroit to take jobs in the auto industry, they found a city with both highly segregated housing and a lack of housing. Most African Americans were crowded into a 30 block area, with inadequate housing, and rates of pneumonia and tuberculous that were much higher than those for whites.

In 1941, the Federal Housing Commission authorized the building of a housing development for black workers. It was to be called the Sojourner Truth Homes after the abolitionist and former slave, Sojourner Truth. They decided to place it in a white neighborhood. The residents were not happy. They were even angrier when they found that the FHA would no longer guarantee loans to houses near the Sojourner Homes.  White reaction caused the Federal Housing Commission to change it’s mind and announce Sojourner Homes would be a white housing project. The idea of an integrated project never entered anyone’s mind, as far as I can tell. Detroit Mayor Jefferies spoke out on the side of keeping the project black. That is why, in the march above,  banners say, “Support the Mayor”.

In January, after the housing was completed and black families were preparing to move in, over 700 white men turned out to bar the way. They blocked cars, they stoned vehicles and they refused to let the people move in. The police were unable or unwilling to stop it.  Meanwhile, back in the black community, word came and black men came to support the  people moving in. A riot ensued and over 200 people were arrested, almost all of them black, although the violence had largely been on the white side.

In February, 1942 Federal troops were called out to make sure black residents were able to move in. Eventually 168 black families lived there. The violence was over for the time being.

Flyer to protest the decision to make the Sojourner Truth Homes for white workers and exclude black workers.
A flyer asking white men to come out and keep black people from moving into the Sojourner Truth Homes.
From Life Magazine - March 16, 1942.
From Life Magazine – March 16, 1942.

A short video about the Sojourner Truth Homes Riot.

To see other Sepia Saturday Posts – CLICK.

K is for Kindergarten


This is the eleventh post in the April A-Z Challenge.  I am posting a painting that I did in kindergarten. The newspaper I painted on is dated Sunday, September 30, 1951.  It is a want ad page from the Detroit News. A page full of bungalows for sale, not in my neighborhood, but further out in the suburbs.

There are two things that I remember clearly about kindergarten.  I remember walking, as a class, down the block to the playground and playing in the sandbox with several other children. I remember painting on the easel on newspapers every chance I had.  The teacher spoke to my mother about it because she was concerned that I didn’t try other things. My mother told her that I could do everything else they had in the classroom at home.


You can read about my life as a kindergartener in the post A is for Atkinson, from the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.

Kris and Pearl about 1951.
Kristin and Pearl about 1951.

J is for Jacob Graham

a-to-z-letters-jThis is the tenth post in the April A-Z Challenge.  I am going to write about what I know about Jacob Graham.  I had planned to write about family Jewelry but when I looked at the locket below and saw the initials were J.H.G. I started thinking about Jacob Graham again.  I don’t believe the locket was his because men don’t wear lockets. I wonder who it belonged to and who the two women are.  But, that isn’t today’s question.


Several years after my mother’s death, I found a cigar box full of unidentified things – pocket watches, big buttons, lockets.  The locket in the picture above had the note inside saying “? In locket in Daddy’s things”.  I don’t know who the women are.  The initials on the front seem to be J.H.G.  My grandfather’s name was Mershell C. Graham. In the box was a small New Testament inscribed to Jacob Graham.


The Little New Testament

“Given to Jack Graham 1913.
Jacob Graham was born Aug 18 – 1892. Died June 30 1913.”

“Elias Hopkins
presented to him by his brother + sister in law
James + Elizabeth Canfield
July 4th 1875

When I read these words in the small New Testement, packed away in a small box of my grandfather, Mershall Graham’s things, I wondered who Jacob Graham, Elias Hopkins and  James and Elizabeth Canfield were and how they were related to my grandfather?

My Grandfather – A Mystery

My grandfather is a mystery. From his delayed birth certificate I learned that his parents were Mary Jackson and William Graham and that he was the forth child born about 1888 in Coosada Station, Elmore County, Alabama.  From my mother I heard that he had an older brother named William who went west and that he had a sister named Annie who had several children.

1900 and 1910 Censuses

In 1900, Jacob Graham was ten years old and living with a 60 year old widower named Zacharia, who is identified as his father, and two siblings, Abraham and Annie.   All of the children were attending school.  There is no William and no Mershell in the household. I cannot find my grandfather in 1900.

In 1910, I couldn’t find Zacharia or Jacob. Annie was a widow with three children working as a servant for Oscar and Emma Barron and still in Elmore County. Abraham was living in Nashville, Tennessee.  My grandfather, Mershell, was working on the railroad .

Jacob’s Death Certificate


On Jacob’s death certificate, I found that he died in June, 1913 of tuberculosis at the Fresh Air Camp in Montgomery County.  Unfortunately, no parents names were listed. The Fresh Air Camp was founded in 1911 by the Montgomery Anti-tuberculosis League. They held regular 2 week sessions during the summer for  women, children and men to try and build them up so they wouldn’t get TB.  The leading cause of death in Alabama in the late 1800s, early 1900s was tuberculous. There were efforts all over the state to fight the disease.  The Fresh Air Camp was one of them.

Elias Hopkins and James Canfield

Elias Hopkins and James Canfield were both born in Wales. They both lived in Youngstown Ohio when the 1870 census was taken. James Canfield continued to live in Youngstown for the rest of his life. Elias Hopkins went to Australia. His son, Percy Isiah Hopkins was born there. By 1900 the family had returned to the US and was living in Jefferson County, Alabama.  In 1910 both Elias, who was a contractor and Percy, who was a physcian, were living in Dothan, Alabama, about 108 miles from Montgomery.  Dr. Percy Hopkins was associated with Frazier-Ellis Hospital in Dothan, which did care for some TB patients. He often traveled some distance to see patients. Perhaps he spent some time at the Fresh Air Camp, met Jacob Graham and passed the little book on to him.

A Question

A question for another day is – How did my grandfather get the book from Jacob? Were they siblings? Sounds like a question for Q(uestion) or S(ibling) to me.

I is for Inventions


This is my ninth post for the April A-Z Challenge. Today’s topic is inventions in the family tree. There are 6 people in the tree with patents for their inventions. Thomas P. Averette, Beauford Averette, M. Bennette Shaffer and Paco Flores are in Hugh Reed Averette’s line. Blair Hugh Evans is in my Albert Cleage/Pearl Reed line. C. Eric Fonville married into the Sarah Reed Busby line.  All the inventors are from the Reed line. There is one patent for each below.  They are arranged from newest to oldest.  Some have more than one.

Abstract page 1 of the Column Capillary Seal. Invented by Paco Flores.
Paco Flores April 22, 2008 Column Capillary Seal

Click for information about Paco Flores patents

M. Bennette Shaffer. March 11, 2003. Mobil Security System with cellular Transcewer Position.
M. Bennette Shaffer. March 11, 2003. Mobil Security System with cellular Transceiver Position.

Click for more information about M. Bennette Shaffer’s Patent.

C. Eric Fonville. July 15, 2003.  Engine Cover Balanced Isolated Support and  Seal.
C. Eric Fonville. July 15, 2003. Engine Cover Balanced Isolated Support and Seal.

Click for more information about this and other of C. Eric Fonville’s patents.

Blair Hugh Evans February 21, 1989. Computer Touch Screen.
Blair Hugh Evans February 21, 1989. Computer Touch Screen

Click for more information about Blair Hugh Evans patent.

Thomas Perry Averette. 1979. Lifts for Pedals of Musical Instruments.
Thomas Perry Averette. 1979. Lifts for Pedals of Musical Instruments.

Click for more information about Thomas Perry Averette’s patents.  Read more about Thomas and his other inventions here.

Beauford Averette. July 22, 1975. Selecting Device.
Beauford Averette. July 22, 1975. Selecting Device.

Click for more information about Beauford Averette patent

H is for Henry William Cleage

a-to-z-letters-hThis is my eighth post for the April A-Z Challenge. I am going to write about my Great Uncle Henry William Cleage. He was born about 1877, in Louden County, Tennessee, the third child of Louis and Celia (Rice) Cleage.   The family moved to Athens where he attended Athens Academy, which was organized by northern Presbyterian missionaries. His parents divorced before 1889, when Celia married Roger Sherman. 

Teachers at Athens Academy.

Henry W. Cleage

is a native of Athens. He entered and finished the course of the Athens Academy under Rev. Cook’s administration.  He then attended Knoxville College.  His teaching one year at Riceville gave him his first ideas of the practical side of the profession n which he is now engaged.  At present he is a member of the corps of instructors of the Academy of Athens.

Mrs. Minnie B. Cleage

is not in the profession now, but she finished the course at the Academy of Athens, and was a student at Knoxville several years.  She is now the wife of Henry W. Cleage.

From an unidentified Athens, TN newspaper 1900-1901.

In 1900 Henry married his first wife Minnie B. Loving, August 20, 1900. His son, Richard Henry Cleage was born the following year.  Minnie died between 1901 and 1905 and we find Henry Cleage living in Indianapolis, IN with his older brother, Jacob and Jacob’s wife.  Richard stayed in Athens, TN with his grandmother.

The small blue house is the one they shared.

Henry worked at the post office during most of the time he lived in Indianapolis. He and his brothers Jacob, his brother’s wife and his younger brother, Albert, shared the house at 910 Fayette for years until they younger men married and moved.

In 1918 Henry married his second wife, Ola Mae Adams. He met her while he was a postman  and she was living there with her sister.  They were married in her hometown, Danville, KY. and took a trip through Michigan after the wedding. His younger brother, Albert was married and living in Detroit, MI by that time.

While in Indianapolis, Henry Cleage was active in the founding of Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church and the colored Y.M.C.A.

Witherspoon Presbyterian Church
Witherspoon Presbyterian Church. Henry Cleage is in the center back row, 7 from the right. His brothers are to the right of him. My grandmother, Pearl is 3rd from the right.  Taken in 1909 in Indianapolis, IN.

His daughter, Geraldine, remembers her father fondly “He was a very loving, caring and giving person and a devoted family man, not only to his family but also his siblings families.”

His nephew, also named Henry Cleage, remembered “When I was at the Post Office and would get into trouble, he’d get me out.  He was very righteous.”

When the Cleage Brothers Corporation opened a grocery store in Detroit, Henry Cleage managed it.

Henry Cleage and family plus two family friends. Early 1930s.
Henry Cleage and family plus two family friends. About 1928. Front, seated is his mother, Celia Rice Cleage Sherman. Behind her are daughters Ruth and Geraldine. In the back row we have the unidentified friends on each end with Henry W. Cleage and his wife, Ola Mae.  They are in front of their house at 6315 Stanford, Ave. Old West Side, Detroit.

I can’t believe I didn’t write up Uncle Henry’s family for the 1940 census. I will have to remedy that later and for now we will leave Henry William Cleage and his family in 1928.

You can read more about Henry William Cleage in these posts:

A Church and Two Brothers – Two Splits

Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church

What did Lewis Cleage Look Like?  to see a photo of the 5 Cleage siblings – Josephine, Jacob, Henry, Edward and Albert.