A-Z Challenge 2013

G is for Grandmothers

a-to-z-letters-gThis is my seventh post for the April A-Z Challenge. I am going to write about my grandmothers and Good Housekeeping magazine’s October, 1912 issue about their “Composite Reader”. I read a post over at Shery’s blog, A Hundred Years Ago, this morning. It got me thinking about my grandmothers and also wondering what the rest of the article said. I found it in the Cornell University Home Economics Archive.  Some other articles in the magazine were:

  • The Woman of the Future  by Thomas A. Edison: About the wonders that electricity will bring to women and final enable them to be raised up to the level of the superior male mind because their housework will be negligible and actually engineering.
  • Mirandy on the Love Test  by  Dorothy Dix:  An article written in what is supposed to be the dialect of a black woman, gives advice. I could not get through the whole article for being irritated.
  • Practical Eugenics – letters responding to an earlier article which I could not find. Mostly talking about stopping the birth of “imperfect” children or to stop children from being born to “imperfect” parents.
  • The Ideal Suburban Home of the Near Future: by Sarah  Louise Arnold, talks about ideas for communal apartment living that may come before moving to that ideal small house in the suburbs.
Click to enlarge for reading.
Click to enlarge for reading.

Some of these articles reminded me of a book my grandmother Fannie had called “Ideal Home Life” which was written in 1909.  There were article in The Indianapolis Recorder written during that time that also talked about simplified and gracious living.  Instead of eugenics, they concentrated on “uplift” and had articles about ways to teach those who didn’t know the proper way to keep house and raise children, how to do it.

What were my grandmother’s doing at this time?

"Pearl Cleage and baby Albert"
Pearl Reed Cleage and baby Albert. 1911 Indianapolis, IN
Fannie Turner before marriage - 1909.
Fannie Turner before marriage – 1909.









Pearl Reed Cleage was born in Lebanon, KY in 1884. In October of 1912, she was 28 had been married for almost two years to Albert B. Cleage Sr. Her mother, Anna Allen Reed, died the previous year. Pearl had one son (my father) who was about 17 months old.  They lived in Kalamazoo, MI where my grandfather had opened a medical practice.  While they lived in Indianapolis, IN, my grandmother’s name appeared in the newspaper quite often for singing at church and civic events. I found no such articles in the Kalamazoo papers. Her growing family probably put an end to that. I hope she was still able to sing in her church choir. My Uncle Louis was born in August of 1913.

Fannie Turner Graham was born in 1888 in Hayneville, AL and was 24 years old in 1913. She moved to Montgomery with her mother and sister when she was four and was still living there in 1912 with her mother and two sisters. She was managing her Uncle Victor Tulane’s grocery store. In 1911 she was a member of the Progressive Twelve Club. They seem to gather for sewing and socialization.  She attended First Congregational Church services with her family.  It wouldn’t be until 1919 that she married my grandfather, Mershell Graham.


A-Z Challenge 2013

F is for My Fiercely Creative Family

a-to-z-letters-fThis is my sixth post for the April A-Z Challenge. I am going to post about my fiercely creative family members.  After I wrote about the medical people in the family, I started thinking about the writers, musicians, singers, dancers and other creative people that we have in the family.

The problem began as I pulled photos. With doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists it is straight forward – they study and then they practice. This is usually their work for life.  With creative people it’s not so easy.  People may study for years and then practice their craft for some years before moving into another area. Or they might write and sing.  They may never have a job in their choosen field or get paid for doing it.  And what about those who are creative in areas that aren’t usually thought of as “Art”?  The seamstresses and the chefs, should I include them?  And how about those creative thinkers?  And gardeners? As I continued with this line of thinking I began to be overwhelmed.  I had to draw the line somewhere!  Here is what I came up with.

F is for Family Tree
Click on the image to enlarge.

Starting first row, upper left:

  • Syruz Ahmad Grizm who raps and writes and does collages.
  • His wife Lady Syruz who also raps.
  • A 45 cut by Hubert Averette in the 1970’s.
  • Jacqui Vincent who danced.
  • Jacqui’s son, Vincent Bingham, tap dancing with Gregory Hines
  • I think this is John Mullins playing the saxophone.
  • Tony Shoemaker playing the drums.
  • Below is his father, Floyd Shoemaker, playing the bongos.
  • Next to him (going from r to l) is Annabelle McCall Martin with husband Edward and their children.  Florida in the 1920s.
  • Jan Evans Peterson leaping through the air during her dance career.
  • Zaron Burnett’s book “The Carthaginian Honor Society.” (Pearl Cleage’s husband.)
  • Dee Dee McNeil jazz chanteuse and writer.
  • Dee Dee’s daughter Maricea during her singing career with the “Sophisticated Ladies”.  She is the one on the far left in the photo.
  • Going back towards the right, we have Dee Dee’s son William Chappell who raps.
  • My daughter, Ayanna’s chapter in the homeschooling classic “Real Lives”.
  • Edward McCall, poet and publisher.
  • Henry W. Cleage playing the cello.  He also was one of the most creative thinkers.
  • A drawing of me back in  1968 by my aunt (next line).
  •  Gladys Cleage Evans – visual artist and art teacher.
  • Below Gladys we have her granddaughter, Shashu who sings, paints and does fantastic things with hair.
  • My daughter, Ife Williams sculpting. She is a sculptor and is now moving into pottery.
  • Below Ife is the heading for Henry W. Cleages chapbook “The Status Theory.”
  • Louis Cleage playing the organ.  He also wrote “Smoke Rings” for the Illustrated News in the early 1960s and was also a creative thinker.  Sometimes in offbeat ways.
  • Below Louis you find me, Kristin Cleage Williams, working on something. Blogger, printmaker and sometime quilter.
  • A chapbook by my daughter Tulani.
  • “Smoke Rings” heading. Written by Louis Cleage.
  • Cousin Dale Evans in his Actor photo. He acted on TV and in movies.
  • My daughter in a play during her college years.
  • My grandmother, Pearl Reed, singing in concert in Indianapolis,1908.
  • a chapbook of my organizing poet son, James Williams.
  • Book by my father Albert B. Cleage, JR “The Black Messiah”.  Another creative thinker.
  • Book by my sister Pearl Cleage “Mad at Miles”.  Author and playwrite.
  • Sadya, pastry chef.
  • Beulah Allen Pope – seamstress
  • Mary Allen McCall – seamstress
  • Jennie Allen Turner – seamstress
  • Eliza Williams Allen – seamstress and mother of the three sisters above.
A-Z Challenge 2013

E is for Emancipation

a-to-z-letters-eThis is my fifth post for the April A-Z Challenge. Every day in April I am using the letters of the alphabet as prompts for my blog posts. Today I am going to write about the Emancipation of slaves in the United States.

After publishing my blog about Samuel Cleage and his trip down the Wilderness Road to Tennessee, I got a question about Northerners moving South and taking up slavery. I began wondering when the states in the North, like Pennsylvania, outlawed slavery.  I knew that slavery had been practiced in all of the original colonies, but I didn’t know when it ended.

Click to enlarge.

There are varying emancipation dates given for some states. For instance, Pennsylvania passed a law against slavery in 1790 but it was to be accomplished in gradual steps. Those already enslaved would remain so. Children born to enslaved women would become indentured servants until they reached 28. The number of slaves declined until by 1845 there were no known slaves in the state.  I used the later date.

In all of the Northern states, the numbers of slaves had fallen into the hundreds or below by the time of the dates on the map above. Using a map of the US, I  found the dates for each state by spending today looking on the internet. I often got side tracked reading about the Civil War and slavery and arguments over slavery. I am learning a lot doing this series. Below are two sites I found interesting.

While researching today, I found something I looked for when doing the Cleage’s Bricks post – a photograph or painting of black people with a Conestoga Wagon. Today I found two, as well as some discussion about the 2nd photograph, on this site: A Profound and ubiquitous image

Dated November 8, 1863,Culpeper County.
“Fugitive Negroes fording the Rappahannock (during Pope’s retreat).”

Booker T. Washington was a nine year old boy in Virginia when Freedom came to his plantation.  This is how he remembered it in his autobiography:  Up from Slavery – pg 20

 As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom. True, they had sung those same verses before, but they had been careful to explain that the “freedom” in these songs referred to the next world, and had no connection with life in this world. Now they gradually threw off the mask, and were not afraid to let it be known that the “freedom” in their songs meant freedom of the body in this world. The night before the eventful day, word was sent to the slave quarters to the effect that something unusual was going to take place at the “big house” the next morning. There was little, if any, sleep that night. All was excitement and expectancy. Early the next morning word was sent to all the slaves, old and young, to gather at the house. In company with my mother, brother, and sister, and a large number of other slaves, I went to the master’s house. All of our master’s family were either standing or seated on the veranda of the house, where they could see what was to take place and hear what was said. There was a feeling of deep interest, or perhaps sadness, on their faces, but not bitterness. As I now recall the impression they made upon me, they did not at the moment seem to be sad because of the loss of property, but rather because of parting with those whom they had reared and who were in many ways very close to them. The most distinct thing that I now recall in connection with the scene was that some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.


A-Z Challenge 2013

D is for Doctors, Dentists, Nurses and Pharmacists

a-to-z-letters-dThis is my fourth post for the April A-Z Challenge. I am blogging every day in April using the letters of the alphabet as prompts. Today I am going to write the medical people in my extended family, past and present.

I have included the Eliza and Dock Allen Descendents towards the left and the Cleages and Reeds towards the right. Things get a little messy in the middle.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

I decided to do this collage when I realized there were quite a few medical people in the family.  If I forgot anyone, forgive me.  There are several people that married into the family here, usually shown with their spouse. From left to right, starting with the top row we have:

  • Ubert Vincent (1889-1938) in the operating room as a student. Ubert was married to Naomi Tulane, Eliza and Dock’s granddaughter.
  • Next we have Pat, who is a nurse and descends from the Mullins line of the Reed family.
  • Then my grandfather, Albert B. Cleage, Sr., (1883-1957) sitting on the steps with other doctors on the staff at Dunbar Hospital in Detroit.
  • Last in the top row is my Aunt Gladys Cleage’s husband, Edward Warren Evans giving a shot to Malcolm X after his house was bombed and he came to Detroit to speak.

2nd row:

  • Ubert Vincent again standing outside of the hospital in New York City that he founded.
  • Next is Dr. Joseph Howard (1880-1941), husband of Otilla McCall Howard who is from Mary Allen McCall’s line from Eliza.
  • A tiny photo of Angie, who is a nurse and married William Chapell, in the Jennie Allen Turner line of Eliza and Dock Allen.
  • Next is a photo of Angie we can actually see without enlarging.
  • Hubert Conrad Vincent (Ubert’s son) who was also a doctor. I have no adult photo of him, yet.
  • Dr. Maria Shreve Benaim who is the daughter of Winslow and Anna Cleage Shreve, both pharmacists. Winslow Shreve is next to his daughter.
  • Skipping past my grandfather Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr enlarged on the stairs we have his son, Dr. Louis Cleage giving a polio shot.

3rd row:

  • Starts with Ubert and Naomi Vincent’s daughters – Sylvia and Jacqui who were both nurses.
  • And moves right along to dentist Robert Bingham who is Jacqui’s son and Ubert’s grandson.
  • Going up to the next photo we have another dentist, Robert McEwen who married Jeanette McCall, again from Mary Allen McCall’s line, which goes back to Eliza.
  • Next is Edward McCall who studied to be a doctor but went blind and became a poet and a publisher instead. Another of Mary McCall’s children.
  • Now we drop down to the bottom to finish out this row.
  • Under Jeanette and Robert we have another dentist, Dr. Charles Pope. He was the son of Eliza and Dock’s youngest daughter, Beaulah Allen Pope. His twin sister, Anne’s husband, Ludie Gilmer was also a dentist but I have no photograph of him.
  • Next we have nurse Maricea who comes through Jennie Allen Turner’s line from Eliza and Dock Allen.
  • Moving back to the Cleage/Reeds we have Dr. Janine Bergerac Fromm who is from Hugh Reed Averette’s line.  She is a psychiatrist.
  • Next her is pharmacist Anna Cleage Shreve working in her brother Louis’s pharmacy.
  • Next is Dr. Susan Thrasher-Martin.  She is married to Dr. Ernest Martin who is from the Albert B. Cleage and Pearl Reed line. He is a psychiatrist.
  • There is a little tomb stone tucked right above Susan’s head. I have no photo of Dr. Beauford Avritt but wanted to get him in here.

Hope this wasn’t too confusing.  There are also quite a few teachers and artists/musician/writers in the family. All deserving of a collage at some point.

A-Z Challenge 2013 African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research Cleages

C is for Cleage Bricks

a-to-z-letters-cThis is my third post for the April A-Z Challenge. I am blogging every day in April using the letters of the alphabet as prompts. Today I am going to write about Samuel Cleage’s building operation. Samuel Cleage owned the plantation where my Cleage ancestors were held as slaves. When he died, the slaves were divided between his sons. I am writing about the time before this today.

Samuel Cleage

Samuel Cleage, who spelled his name “Clegg”, was born in Lanchaster County, PA in 1781. He moved with his parents and siblings to Botetourt County, VA. After his parents died he moved with his family and slaves to McMinn County, TN.

As I was getting ready to write this I realized that he didn’t just get on the train and move, that they must have traveled by wagon down well worn, but primitive roads.  Not only was he moving his whole little community of married children and slaves, 339 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains, he also carried the tools of his trade – whatever he needed to build brick houses. As he traveled he would convince farmers along the way that they needed a fine brick home to go with their fine farm. For payment he accepted slaves, gold or livestock.  They say that some of these houses are still standing. I can’t imagine how long it took the group to travel this way.  A fully loaded Conestoga wagon, the usual method to move through the mountains in the early 1800s, could travel 5 miles a day. That would take about 4 months if you traveled straight through. They didn’t. They were stopping and building brick houses.  And they had to make the bricks! How could that work? All sources agree that by the time he reached McMinn County, Samuel Cleage was a very wealthy man, both in slaves and gold. I think I will have to check into this a little further. Here is a description of the way traveling worked. To read more, click the title.

A Conestoga wagon.

Sturdy transportation

First the word, Conestoga, America’s first big truck. It was made in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, and it was one huge wagon: 26 feet long, 11 feet high, with the capability of carrying 8 tons. Pulled by five or six horses and followed by as many as a dozen packhorses, the Conestoga wagon became any traveling family’s best friend.

It became the expected sight along the road known by many names: the Warrior’s Path, the Carolina Road, the Valley Pike, the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road, or simply the Great Wagon Road.

With a body the shape of a swaybacked horse, Conestogas could float across a river as long as the wheels were taken off. And those wagons were so heavy and laden with a family’s every possession, they created deep wheel ruts all along the Great Wagon Road…

I outlined the section of the Wilderness Road they would have taken to Knoxville, TN, where the road turns west. At that point they would have continued south to Athens TN in McMinn county.

Above I mentioned that they had to make the bricks before they could build the houses. “They” being the highly trained and skilled slaves that were traveling too. It was not easy to make the bricks. And it wasn’t a quick process.  Here is how Joe Guy described it in his book “The Hidden History of McMinn County”  There is also a link to this chapter in the title.

The Cleage Slaves and the Bricks of History
Joe Guy

 Samuel Cleage, the itinerant contractor who traveled into the Tennessee Valley from Virginia in the 1820’s, is generally credited for the construction of several historic homes and buildings in East Tennessee, especially in McMinn County.  While it is true that Cleage was the driving force behind his construction business, it is important to remember who, in fact, was actually performing the labor.

Besides livestock and gold, Cleage was often contracted to be paid in slaves after having completed a house or building.  Many of Samuel Cleage’s slaves later adopted the Cleage name when they obtaining their freedom, and several black families in East Tennessee still trace their lineage to these Cleage slaves.  Cleage was a wealthy landowner besides being a builder, and so he used his slaves almost exclusively as bound workers in his construction business.  One of the duties often exclusively regulated to the slaves was brickmaking.

By the time Samuel Cleage was involved in building, the art of making brick had been around since 3500 BC.  Essentially, 19th century brickmaking involved five steps: winning or digging the clay, preparation, molding, drying, and firing.

 East Tennessee is well known for having the natural clay useful for brick production.  Once dug by the slaves (normally in the fall), the clay was exposed to the weather so that the winter freezes could break the clay down, remove unwanted impurities, and allow it to be worked by hand. In the spring and summer, water was added and the clay was worked by the slaves’ hands and feet in large open pits until it obtained a smooth consistency and most of the rocks and sticks were removed.  

The clay was then taken to the moulding table, where the slave designated as brickmoulder directed several assistants in the process. A skilled brickmoulder would work at the moulding table for twelve to fourteen hours, producing 3500 to 5000 bricks in a day. A clot of clay was rolled in sand and “dashed” into a sanded mould, which prevented the clay from sticking. Once the clay was pressed into the mould, the excess clay was removed from the top of the mould with a flat stick.  Moulds ranged from single to six bricks at a time, but single brick moulds were often desired because even the slave women and children could be employed in carrying the “green” bricks from the table to the drying area. The “green” bricks were then stacked and dried for about two weeks.

Once most of the moisture had dried out, Cleage’s slaves stacked the bricks in a kiln, or clamp.  Rows of bricks were built up to construct tunnels, which were filled with wood and set fire.  For two to five days the bricks were cooked, the slaves feeding the fires and getting very little sleep.  After the bricks cooled, the slaves removed them from the clamp and sorted them as to their degree of quality, the best being chosen for the building’s outside walls.  Bricks which were closest to the fire sometimes received a natural glaze from the sand that fell into the flames, and were used in the interior courses of the walls. Some bricks would be left with a salmon color, were only slightly underfired, and made for good insulation in the inner parts of the walls.  Bricks that were over burned, cracked, or warped were called clinkers and were saved to be used in garden walls or paths.”

After arriving in McMinn County, Cleage picked out a spot and built the house below, which is still standing. The black and white photographs were taken during the 1930s. The color photo is more recent. I read an article online that described the renovations the new owners were carrying out to make the house livable again.  Unfortunately, I cannot find the article again.

Front door. A more recent picture on the right shows that some work had been done.
Front door, outside, drawing and inside.
Where did all those papers come from?
Side of the house.



A-Z Challenge 2013 Investigations

B is for Buford Avritt

a-to-z-letters-bThis is my second post for the April A-Z Challenge. I will be blogging everyday using the letters of the alphabet as a prompt. Today I am going to write about one of my great grandfather’s – Beauford Edmund Avritt.

Beauford Avritt was my father’s mother’s father.  I wrote about her mother, Anna, yesterday. There were few stories passed down about Beauford Avritt in my family. I was told that he was my grandmother’s father, and that he was a “doctor of English extraction”, but advised not to never mention this to her.  My uncles and aunts told me that at some point Anna and her family were having a difficult time and the older sons went to ask him for help.  His reply was “I know nothing about you people.”  My father once mentioned that his own father had not had a middle name and as an adult took the name “Buford” out of respect to Beauford Avritt.  I thought that was pretty strange, given the story that I had heard over the years of knowing nothing about you people.  When I mentioned this to my Aunt Gladys, she said that wasn’t how her father got his middle name. She said that he picked it on his way to Medical school when they passed a town called Buford, before he met my grandmother.

I learned from cousins on my grandmother’s side that my grandmother’s older sister, Minnie, had the middle name of Avritt. Recently I learned that her brother Hugh had gone to California with his family and changed his name to Averrette.  The story about the father of Anna’s four younger children being Beauford Avritt’s was also told in other branches of the family.

For a long time I didn’t claim Beauford Avritt and avoided doing any research beyond the basics. Since he didn’t want to know anything about my grandmother and her siblings, I didn’t care to look for anything about him. After finding Hugh’s family, I became interested in spite of myself. I found the details of his life in various places online. It is from these that I wrote this post.  I don’t have any photographs of Beauford Avritt. I was hopeful today, when I found the archives of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, but so far no luck. I have written them and I’m still hopeful that one will turn up.

Beauford Edmond Avritt was the second of the nine children of John and Elizabeth Marshall Tucker Avritt.  He was born July 21, 1839. His father was a farmer.  The 1840 census is the only one I have found that shows the family owning a slave. There was one female slave under the age of 1 counted with the family.

John and Elizabeth were literate and Beauford and his siblings attended school and were educated. Several of his brothers were farmers, two were lawyers and Beauford was a physician.  He attended the Kentucky School of Medicine, completing in 1866 and University of Louisville, finishing in 1873.image_previewHe worked treating the sick during the Cholera Epidemic of 1873. It started at the Marion County Fair in Lebanon and was spread through people coming to and from the fair.  Here is a report made about a case of his during the epidemic from; MARION COUNTY. – NARRATIVE OF THE CHOLERA EPIDEMIC OF 1873.

“Case 2- Reported by B.E. Avritt, M.D. of Lebanon, KY. – Cholera – Second stage – Recovery.

Charles, a negro (sic) age 35 years, single, after a few hours of diarrhea, was attacked with vomiting and purging, attended with excessive prostration.  Cramps of hands and feet were rapidly developed.  The discharges assumed the rice-water character.  Skin of fingers and toes was shriveled.  he was first seen by Doctor Cleaver at 6 o’clock p.m. of September 10.  The patient was in an old shanty, without any of the comforts of a sick-room.  Some one had made up a bed for him, but at the time of the visit he was alone.  He was placed upon full dose of opium, calomel and bismuth, and Doctor Avritt was asked to take charge of the case.

At 7 o’clock p.m., Doctor Avritt exhibited a full dose of chloroform; continued the powders. At 8 o’clock p.m. the chloroform was repeated, and quinine, gr. ij, was added to the powder already noted.  Finding it impossible to obtain any nurse for this man, Dr. Avritt made him as comfortable as the circumstances would admit; placed by the side of his bed a bucket of ice-water and a glass, and visited him as often as possible during the night.  The vomiting and purging continued during the night, but at lengthening intervals, and as water from the tumbler did not satisfy him, he drank from the bucket as long as he could tilt it to his mouth.  During the night he drank all the water that was provided.  At 6 o’clock a.m., September 11, surface of his body was not so intensely cold, a slight pulse, no vomiting or purging; by noon was fully reacted and on the 13 was able to sit up.”

Beauford never married and as far as I know had no other children.  In 1880 he shared his home in Gravel Switch, Marion County, Kentucky, with a store clerk, C.C. Mines. In 1900 he lived with a widowed relative.  In 1910 and 1920, at 80, he lived alone in Bradfordsville with family living next door and down the street.   The distance between Bradfordsville and Lebanon is about 9 miles.  The distance between Gravel Switch and Lebanon is 11.9 miles.

On July 7, 1926, Beauford Avritt died of “senility”. I have sent for his death certificate but have not received it yet.  He is buried in Ryder Cemetery in Lebanon, Kentucky.  Perhaps one day we will have DNA which will prove this relationship.

Note: DNA has provided proof in the form of DNA ties to descendants of other Avritts.

A-Z Challenge 2013 Reeds

A is for Anna Allen Reed

a-to-z-letters-aThis is my first post for the April A-Z Challenge. I will be blogging everyday using the letters of the alphabet as a prompt. Today I am going to write about one of my great grandmothers, Anna Allen Reed.

Anna Allen Reed was my father’s mother’s mother.  I don’t have any photographs of her but my grandfather said that my Aunt Gladys looked just like her grandmother and that Anna Reed was the meanest woman in the world.

Gladys Cleage, Anna Reeds lookalike.

When I started asking for information about the family and tracing my grandparent’s family in the 1970s, my grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage sent me a paper on which she had written her parents and grandparents on the right hand side and her husband’s on the left.  She listed their children and their professions below. Scotch tape held the two papers together. Although she always said her grandmother, Clara was a Cherokee Indian, there is no evidence to support this.  The mtDNA test that my Aunt Gladys took that goes back through the material line is L3e2a1b1, which goes back to Northeast or Central Africa. I also cannot find the family before 1870 which indicates, to me, that they were probably enslaved.  They are listed in the censuses as “mulatto” or “Black” or “Negro”, depending on year and location.  Anna was Catholic and raised her children as Catholics.

My grandmother's handwritten family tree.
My grandmother’s handwritten family tree.

In 1870 twenty five year old Anna was living with her 3 year old son, George and working as a cook in a household in Lebanon, KY.  Her maiden name was listed on several of her children’s documents as “Ray”. On others it was listed as “Allen”. In 1870, her oldest daughter, Josephine, lived with Clara and James Greens.   By 1880 Anna Reed was living with 6 of her 8 children, next door to Clara and James Green. She was supporting her family as  a “laundress”.

According to Sharecropping, Laundry, and Black Labor in the New South,

“Washer_Woman”. Artist unknown.

“Black laundresses were … in great demand in southern Jim Crow society. Because of the widespread call for their services, laundresses could, in some cases, manage to exercise some small degree of independence. They could, for example, choose to do laundry four to six days a week, depending on how many households they chose to serve. But economic necessity usually dictated that number, and the washerwomen were usually obligated to work as much as possible. Laundresses made $4 to $8 a month, and theirs was one of the hardest possible domestic trades; the more clothes that people accumulated in the post-industrialized clothing boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the more work was left for the washing women. These women desperately needed the income … They had to make their own soap from lye, starch from wheat bran, and washtubs from beer barrels that they cut in half. They would cook dinner for their families while ironing. Without running water in their homes, the washerwomen had to carry gallons of water from local pumps, hydrants, or wells in order to wash, boil, and rinse customers’ clothes. It was backbreaking work.

Anna had eight children. Her oldest daughter was listed as a Campbell in the 1870 census and I don’t know who her father was. George was listed as “Ray” in that census. According to my Aunt Barbara, Anna married George Reed and when he died she married his brother, Palmer Reed. They had two children together – Sarah and Louise. I have found no marriage records for Anna with George Ray or George Reed or Palmer Reed. Sometime after the children were born, Palmer left and Anna had a long term relationship with a white doctor named Buford Avritt.  They had four children together, Hugh was born in 1876, followed by Minnie in 1878, Clarence in 1882, and my grandmother Pearl in 1886.  This chart may help make sense of the relationships. Eventually, they all used the surname “Reed”.

A Chart of Anna Allen Reed’s children and their fathers.  Click to enlarge.

Anna Allen Reed was mulatto and Buford Avritt was white.  They lived in Kentucky at a time when such a marriage would have been illegal, even if they had wanted to get married. There is no legal record of this relationship.  It is oral history that has gone down through various branches of the family. Minnie’s middle name was Avritt. Hugh and his family eventually changed their name from Reed to Averette.  There are no stories of Buford Avritt supporting the family, buying them a house or groceries or sending the children to school.

Anna’s son, George, was the first member of the family to move north to Indianapolis, Indiana looking for work in the Van Camp Cannery.  As soon as he was able, he sent for the rest of the family. A George Reed, identified as “colored” appears in the Indianapolis Directory in 1884 as a laborer. He would have been about 17 years old. His older sister, Sarah married James Busby in Indianapolis in 1889. By the 1893 Indianapolis Directory Anna (Widow of George) and George Reed, laborer are listed at 31 Willard Street. The next year and in the years following, Anna was listed as the widow of Palmer.

In 1900 Anna and her family were living at 529 Willard Street in Indianapolis. She was 51 and no longer working. Living with her are 28 year old George, 18 year old Clarence, 16 year old Pearl and Josephine’s daughter, Bessie who was 14. Josephine is dead. Minne and her family are living next door at 525 Willard.  Sarah and Louise were living in Berrien County, Michigan and Hugh was in the Navy. Neither Anna or George could read or write. All of the younger people in the home were literate.

In 1905 George bought a house at 2730 Kenwood Avenue. This house was north of downtown. This was the house that my grandmother lived in when my grandfather, Albert B. Cleage, was courting her.  Anna did not approve of my grandfather. He believed it was because he was “too dark” for her liking.  My grandmother saw him in spite of her mother and sometimes it resulted in anger on her mother’s part. In 1910 my grandparents were married in the Kenwood house so there must have been some acceptance, although bitter feelings seem to have remained.

On February 22, 1911, Anna Allen Reed died of a cerebral hemorrhage.  My grandmother Pearl filled out the information on the death certificate. Anna was listed as being 58, although she was closer to 68. She was the widow of Palmer Reed and born in Lebanon, KY.  Her father’s name was Robert Allen and her mother was Clara Green.  Anna’s occupation was “housewife”.   She was buried in Mt. Jackson Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Although I spent much time in Indianapolis when one of my daughter’s lived there, I was unable to get photos of the houses they lived in because they had been torn down.

A-Z Challenge 2013

My A – Z Challenge Calendar

test_calendar2I have laid out my April A – Z Challenge posts using a calendar. My over all theme will be, as usual, my family history. I have a mix of Individuals who I will profile, names and careers that I will trace through the family, a family mystery and my kindergarten career. On Sundays I will do the Sepia Saturday challenge a day late.

Although I have my month planned out, I have not written any of the posts ahead of time. I may get a few done but probably I will be writing and posting as I go along. Of course I will visit other blogs to see the different ways the challenge is handled.

Click to see other bloggers participating in The Big Reveal.

 Mina Lobo @ Some Dark Romantic and David Macaulay @ Brits in the USA are co-hosting this blog hop to introduce the themes we will be using for the A – Z Challenge in April.