Category Archives: A-Z Challenge 2016

A-Z Reflections 2016

This was my 4th year participating in the A to Z challenge.  This year I wrote about people who were born into slavery and lived to be free. I found myself (once again) spending hours everyday researching and writing up my posts.

I also visited at least 5 new blogs, most days more. In addition when I found blogs I enjoyed, I revisited them throughout the challenge.  Some of the blogs that I visited multiple times were:

I want to express my appreciation for those who work each year to make the A to Z Challenge happen by setting up and monitoring the linky lists, contributing art work for badges and banners and visiting blogs.

What will I do differently next year?  I am already thinking about what I want to use for my theme next year and plan to write a few posts a month and save them for April 2017.  I enjoyed writing about all the Cleages of Athens, Tennessee last year because it gave me a feeling for the community and the relationships among the families. I missed that in the families I wrote about this year. I will be picking a theme that lets me go more in depth on a town where some of my ancestors lived in Tennessee, Kentucky or Alabama.

Below are links to the posts I wrote for this challenge.

Major Lee Zeigler – Virginia & Ohio

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free, and their descendants.  Today I will write about Major L. Zeigler . He has ties to my family as the 2nd husband of the great grandmother of the wife of my 1st cousin once removed.

Major Zeigler was born in Virginia about 1869. In the 1880 census he was 11 years old and lived in Horse Pasture, Henry County, Virginia with his 50 year old mother, Lucy Zeigler and his 13 year old sister Polly.  All of them are listed as servants and none of them could read or write.

The first time Major Zeigler appears in Cincinnati records is in the 1887 Cincinnati City Directory, where he was listed as a laborer. He would have been 18 years old.  In 1894 he married Ella Bayes. He was 27 and she was 25.  She had been married previously and brought three daughters to the union.  They never had any children together.

In the 1900 census, the family lived at 4214 Eastern Avenue. The house was mortgaged. Major was a coal dealer. His wife, Ella was not working outside of the home. She had given birth to four children and three were still living. Her three daughters were using Zeigler as their surname. Fifteen year old Onie, 14 year old Maud and 11 year old Nennie were all attending school, as was Ella’s 11 year old brother who lived with them.  Ella’s mother lived in the home also. There was one border, 15 year old Murphy McSwain who worked as a coal peddler. He was the only one in the house who could neither read nor write.

In 1910 Major and Ella Ziegler lived in the house at 4214 Eastern alone. They owned their house however, it was not paid off. His occupation is listed as coal teamster. Ella did not work outside of the home.

In 1920 they owned the house free of mortgage. Granddaughter Fern, 16, lived with them. She was not attending school. Major’s occupation was as a mover of household goods. He was 49.  Ella was 51. Neither Ella nor Fern were employed outside of the home.

In 1930 Major Zeigler was working on his own account as a supervisor at his real estate business. They had moved out of the house on Eastern Avenue and were living in their mortage free house in Springfield. The house was valued at $10,000.  Since 1920, granddaughter Fern had married, divorced and had a seven year old daughter, Elaine, who was attending school. Sixty four year old Albert Smith boarded with them.  They did not own a radio.

Ella Bayes Zeigler died on November 18, 1933. She is buried in spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. She was 64 years old.

In 1940 Major Zeigler was 73 years old. He lived in a boarding house. His highest level of education completed was 2nd grade. He was working as a real estate agent.  Major Lee Zeigler died at home on April 10, 1960. You can read his obituary below.

The Cincinnati Enquirer - Monday April 11 1960. Major Lee Zeigler's obituary
The Cincinnati Enquirer – Monday April 11 1960.
Major Lee Zeigler’s obituary

Y.M.C.A, Colored – Indianapolis, Indiana

colored ymca 1
I believe this image is from The Indianapolis Recorder, but it is in my collection without a label. I found the same drawing with a different heading in The Indianapolis Freeman, dated October 21, 1911.

“A cartoon drawn by Garfield T. Haywood, the colored artist, pictures the attitude of the Indianapolis colored people toward the movement for raising money for the proposed colored men’s branch building of the Y.M.C.A., and is meant to show that the colored people will do their best toward raising a fund of $15,000 among themselves. Haywood is thirty-one years old and was born at Greencastle, Ind. He was educated in Indianapolis public school No. 42, and studied for a time at Shortridge high school. Drawings have been contributed by him to the Indianapolis Recorder, the Freeman, Dignam’s Magazine, of Richmond, Ind., which has ceased publication, and other magazines. Mr. Haywood is identified with the colored Y.M.C.A.”

The Senate Street Colored Y.M.C.A.
Indianapolis, Indiana Colored YMCA. Photo from the University of Minnesota Libraries, Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

I was familiar with the campaign in Indianapolis, Indiana because my grandfather Albert B. Cleage Sr. and his brother, Henry W. Cleage, were very active in this effort. While looking for bits in the local papers about my family, I ran across many articles about the campaign. The Y.M.C.A. was segregated at the time. Click all images to enlarge.

colored ymca
The money was collected and the Senate Street YMCA was built. Article from the November 4, 1911 Indianapolis Recorder – “A Weekly Newspaper Devoted to the Best Interest of the Negroes of Indiana.”
My grandmother before she married. The Indianapolis Star, Friday May 8, 1908
Madame Walker
Madam C.J. Walker pledged $1,000 to the Y.M.C.A. fund. She made her fortune selling hair care products and  was the first black woman millionaire. From the Nov. 4, 1911 Recorder.

No Xavier but an eXtra Mary – Arkansas

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free, and their descendants. I was hoping to find an Xavier among my formerly enslaved people. No such luck, so today I am writing about Mary Morris Simmons, the wife of Dr. Victor J. Simmons who I wrote about yesterday in the post Victor James Simmons MD – Bermuda to Arkansas.

Pages from the green book, notes and photographs.
Pages from the green book, notes and photographs. Click to enlarge.

I will begin with Mary’s parents. Mary’s mother Alena Fluellen was born about 1855 in Georgia. In the 1870 census she lived in Bibb County, Georgia. Family relationships are not specified in the 1870 census. The household consisted of two adults.  Mitchel Johnson was 30 and worked as a farm laborer. Forty year old Edith Johnson kept house. There were three children – Alena Johnson 13, Nancy Johnson 12 and Nicey Johnson 9. Everybody was born during slavery. Nancy was the only one able to read.

By the 1880 census, Edith Johnson was a 51 year old widow. Two of her daughters were living with her. Alena Fluellen was 25 and Nancy Fluellen was 23. Because the two younger women were now using the name Fluellen I assume that Mitchel Johnson from the 1870 census was not their birth father and that a man named Fluellen was.  All three of the women were working as laundresses. Nicey was not in the household.  She may have married or she may have died.

Meanwhile, also in 1880 but in Pulaski county, Arkansas, Mary’s father Stewart L. Morris was 24 years old and living with his first wife Emma and their three sons. Emma was 22.  Their sons were Willie E. born 1871, John W. born 1873 and Robert Henry born in 1875.  Emma and Willie were literate. Stewart was farming. He was born in Virginia about 1856. Everyone else in the household was born in Arkansas.

Stewart and Alena were married in November of 1885. Mary was born in 1886. Two other children were born but died before 1900. Richard was born June 13, 1889 and died almost a month later on July 8, 1889. Effie Janey Agnus was born August 26, 1889 and died March 19, 1892.  She was two years, six months and 23 days old. In a little green book titled Class Meeting, Alena or Stewart wrote the birth and death dates of all Stewart’s children, but over and over they wrote the names, birth and death dates of the two that died so young.  Another entry in the little book says that Morris had his fingers cut off in 1899. Because the children are always referred to by their whole names, I believe that it was Stewart Morris who had fingers cut off.

In spite of the loss of his fingers, the following year, in the 1900 Census 46 year old Stewart Morris continued to farm. Alena was listed as 29 but was closer to 45. She did not work outside of the home. She had given birth to three children, only thirteen year old Mary was living. Stewart and Alena were now able to read and write.  They actually were able to earlier because one or both of them wrote all those notes in the green book. Mary was not listed as being in school that year and her occupation was said to be farm labor. Perhaps it was because she had to remain at home for awhile to help out after Stewart Morris lost some fingers. From the 1940 census we know that she completed high school.

Also in 1900, Victor J. Simmons’ ship from Bermuda arrived in the United States, probably in New York. He had come to attend Meharry Medical school in Nashville, Tennessee. He completed his studies in 1904 and moved to Pulaski County to begin his medical practice on the advice of a fellow graduate.

In 1906 Mary Morris and Victor J. Simmons were married in Pulaski County.  She was 20 and he was 30. Stewart Morris gave them land to build a house on with enough space for a garden and fruit trees. Victor practiced medicine and Mary kept the house and raised their  six children. Lillian was born in 1907. Alena (named for Mary’s mother) was born in 1910. Victor (named for his father) was born in 1912. McDonald (named for Victor’s brother) was born in 1914.  Johnie was born in 1919 and died in infancy. Roscoe was the youngest, born in 1924.  All were born in Pulaski County, Arkansas.

In the 1940 census, Mary and Victor had two children still living at home.  24 year old Victor had completed two years of college. He was not employed. 16 year old Rosco was a high school student.  Mary did not work outside the home. She had completed high school. Victor had finished college, plus medical school. He was still practicing medicine. A month after the census was taken, Victor died.

Mary remained in the family home. She was active in a garden club that worked and raised money to beautify Hickman Cemetery. In 1955 Mary took several of her grandchildren on a trip to California, with a side trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Mary never had to go out to work and lived a comfortable life until she died on August 15, 1973. Mary Morris Simmons is buried in Hickman Cemetery, as is her husband.

I would like to find death certificates for everybody. I would like to know something about Mr. Fluellen.  I would like to know where Stewart and Alena are buried and when they died. I haven’t found them after the 1900 census. I would like to know what happened to Alena’s mother and sisters.  I wonder if Victor’s parents were named McDonald and Lillian because of the naming patterns, with the children being named after family members.

William Graham – Alabama

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free, and their descendants.

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

My grandfather Mershell C. Graham did not share much information about his childhood and family. He was born in Coosada Station, Alabama about 1888.  He did not know his exact birthday and chose to celebrate Christmas day.  His parents were William and Mary Graham and he had a brother named Bill and a sister named Annie.  Aside from that and a few stories about digging sweet potatoes in the rain and sleeping outside the bedroom door of a little white girl he was servant to, I don’t know anything about his childhood.

After I started researching my family history, I wanted to learn more about my great grandparents. I was able to find Mary Jackson in the 1870 census living with her parents and siblings. So far I have not found William Graham in that census.  In looking for more information, I came across the 1860 Estate records for Judge William A. Graham in Autauga County. There were 59 names of enslaved people in the file. I thought perhaps my great grandfather, William would be among those named. Although there was a William in the list but he was 20 years older than mine.

I have found three records for William Graham, a marriage record for 1874, a census record for 1880 and an agricultural census for 1880. He appears on my grandfather’s death certificate and on the death certificates of two others who I believe are my grandfather’s siblings.  Here is what I found from those records.

William Graham was born about 1851 in Alabama. Both of his parents were also born in Alabama. On December 20, 1874 he married Mary Jackson in Elmore County, Alabama. William Bolling Hall performed the ceremony.

In 1880 the couple had two children, five year old Crofford and three year old William. William Sr. was farming. He could read but not write. Mary was keeping house. She could neither read nor write.

The 1880 Agricultural Census showed William was share cropping 16 tilled acres. He had $3 worth of farming implements and machinery and $60 worth of livestock. In 1879 the total value of all the farm products was $250.   He had a quarter of an acre in Indian corn which produced 50 bushels.  There was a quarter of an acre planted in sweet potatoes which gave him 25 bushels. William grew 16 acres in cotton and produced four bales.

His livestock included one mule, one cattle that was not an ox or a milch cow. There were 16 barnyard fowl who produced 12 dozen eggs in 1879. He also owned two other unspecified fowl. Because he was farming in shares, some of the crops went to the person who owned the land. I don’t know how much he ended up with compared to what he would have if they had owned the land.

Both William Graham and Mary Jackson appear as parents on my grandfather’s delayed birth certificate and on the certificates of Annie Graham and Abraham Graham.

Alabama did not require registrations of births until 1908. When someone who was born before that needed a birth certificate, for instance to sign up or collect social security, they had to fill out a delayed birth record and get affidavits from witnesses, or others who would swear that what was in the delayed record was true. The person then had a birth record on file and it would work just like any other birth record.  None of my grandparents or their siblings had birth certificates filled out at the times of their births so they had to get delayed certificates.

I found a William Graham in the 1920 Census living in the County Alms House. He was 70 years old and a widow.

What I would like to find out about William Graham, I would like to find him in the 1870 census so that I could find out who his parents and siblings were. I would like to find later records for him, after 1880. I would also like to find a DNA connection with some of  my grandfather’s siblings descendants and/or a descendant with information that would show us our connection.

Victor James Simmons MD – Bermuda & Arkansas

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free, and their descendants. I found today’s V offering in a different way than I have found the others. At a doctors appointment yesterday I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years.  We started talking and the conversation came around to my blog and family history.  She began to tell me about her grandfather who immigrated from Bermuda and ended up practicing medicine in Arkansas. I asked her what his name was and was overjoyed to find that his name was Victor.  I had been wondering who I was going to find with a name that started with the letter V. I came home and spent some time finding him in the records and then Shirley came by with some documents and several papers that he had written. So today I am writing about Dr. Victor James Simmons of Bermuda and Arkansas.

Top L to R: Arkansas Medical, Dental & Pharmaceutical Association card, below is the Meharry Medical College Junior class card; center Class of 1904 Meharry College; Dr. Simmons funeral program. Bottom: Marriage License, Journal of cases cover, page 1 of cases treated 4 Dec 1933; signature inside of journal; Two of Dr. Simmons children.  Click to enlarge.

dr simmons born
Birth information note on scrap of paper. Click to enlarge. The information is included below.

The slaves in Bermuda were freed in 1834, Thirty years earlier than those in the Southern United States. Victor J Simmons was born on November 7, 1875 in South Hampton Parish,  Bermuda Island.

A brief biography. Click to enlarge. The information from these is transcribed below, with a few changes for clarity.

Dr. Victor J Simmons, at the age of 15 years, won a scholarship to apprentice at H.M. Dockyard School, Bermuda Island. In three years he mastered his trade as blacksmith. And at the age of 16 years old, on Good Friday he became a Christian and joined the Catholic Episcopal Church at St. Ann’s Cathedral, Bermuda. He was good and faithful in all his studies, then left home as a young man at the age of 23, September 1, 1900 for the USA to practice medicine, which he accomplished at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn. Then came Arkansas.

After completing his studies at Meharry in 1904, Dr. Simmons took the advice of a fellow student to locate his medical practice in Pulaski County, Arkansas, outside of Little Rock. He met Mary Morris. They were married in 1906. He was 30 and she was 20. Her father gave them land on which to build a house and raise their family.  There was enough land for fruit trees and a large garden. That land is still in the family.  Over the years, the couple had six children, Lillian, Alena, Victor, McDonald, John and Roscoe. All but one survived to adulthood.

The oldest child, Lillian, was born in 1907 and the second, Alena was born in 1910. Both appear in the 1910 census.  Both parents were literate and they owned their home free of mortgage. Victor had not been naturalized. Everybody else was born in Arkansas.

Victor J. Simmons was described in his WW 1 draft registration as having a medium build, slender with brown eyes and black hair. His granddaughter says he was light complected while his wife Mary was dark, with their children blending the two shades.

By the 1920 census, three more children had been born, Victor in 1912, McDonald in 1914 and Johnie in 1919. In that census it also mentions that he immigrated from Bermuda in 1900, and he had not been naturalized. This is the only census Johnie appears in. He died in early childhood. The school age children were all in school.

In the 1930 census we learn they lived in the country but not on a farm and that they didn’t own a radio. That he was 30 when he married an  d that his wife Mary was 19 (She was actually 20).  The five surviving children were all at home. The oldest, Lillian, was a public school teacher. The rest were all attending school. Everybody was literate. Victor was working as a doctor on his own account. Mary was not working outside of the home.

Between 1930 and 1940, Dr. Simmons became a naturalized citizen. On the 1st page of his Case Journal, which covers cases from December 1, 1933 to January 29, 1934, we can see that he treated cases dealing with a fractured leg, bronchitis, tuberculosis, lumbago, boils, facial paralysis, pneumonia and more. The payments ranged from $0.75 for an office visit to $1.50 and up for a home visit. You can see this page by clicking to enlarge the collage above.

In the 1940 census, Victor Simmons was a naturalized citizen. He owned his home free of mortgage (same home). He had four years of college. (Actually, as a doctor, he had more). His income is listed as $400.00 for 1939. His wife Mary had finished high school. Twenty four year old Victor was still living at home and had completed 2 years of college. He was not employed. Sixteen year old Roscoe had completed one year of high school and was attending school.

On April 17, 1940, one month after the 1940 Census was taken, Dr. Victor J. Simmons died. He was 64 years old.  His home going service was celebrated at Fairview C.M.E. Church.  He is buried in Hickman Memorial Cemetery, Pulaski County Arkansas.

His wife, Mary lived many more years in the family home. She never had to go out to work and lived a comfortable life until she died on August 15, 1973.

I do not yet have his parents names but hope to add that information later.  I do know that several of his siblings immigrated to the United States and stayed in New York.

Ula Mae’s Uncle Lowndes Adams – Alabama & Detroit

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free, and their descendants.

Lowndes Adams and Rufus Taylor
Lowndes & Rufus Two Pals Montgomery, AL

Today I am going to write about my maternal grandfather’s friend Lowndes Adams. Lowndes parents were both born into slavery. He and his siblings were born free after the Civil War and raised in Montgomery Alabama. I have written several other posts about Lowndes over the years and there are links at the bottom. Lowndes had a niece named Ula Mae and she was kind enough to lend us her “U” for this post. (Click on photographs to enlarge.)

adams family article
Copyright Kevin Payne


“In presenting interesting colored families of the state and elsewhere from time to time, we could not overlook this one. This group is Mrs. Ida M. Adams and her children.  The history of this family is connected with that of Tuskeegee Institute, a brother, George Adams, being one of the founders of that school. Reading from right to left is the elder daughter, Sarah, now Mrs. W.C. Payne, she graduated from Miss Whites School for girls and subsequently from the State Normal School of  Montgomery and taught several years in that city. Next to her is Jesse, then the only son, Lownes, who is the father, as well as brother and son, for the paternal head of this family is dead, and Lownes is faithful in his stead. to his right is Maud another teacher in the state schools, and by her hands Emalina. who is now Mrs. Edgar Spigener, and whose baby, Edleline is in its grandmother’s arms. On either side of Mrs. Adams is the younger daughters, Alice and Janie respectively. With such families as this we must base our hope for acclaiming the Negro’s future.”  (Date about 1912. Name of Newspaper not known.)

Three generations of the Adams Family 1940s
Three generations of the Adams Family in the 1930s. Lowndes is in the center back directly behind his mother Ida Mae Adams. I believe that Ula Mae is in this photograph but I do not know for sure. Copyright Kevin Payne.

In a series I wrote several years ago about my grandparent’s migration north, I wondered if my grandfather had seen Lowndes again. Later I found that Lowndes died in Detroit in 1976, several years after my grandfather. Recently I found Lowndes’ WWII draft registration card and saw that he was living in Detroit in 1942 and worked at the Ford River Rouge Plant, which is where my grandfather worked.  They lived less than 2 miles apart. This morning, I found that Lowndes lived in Detroit as early as 1935 and worked as a trim finisher at the Ford plant.  In 1940 he lived with his older sister Jesse Ida and her family.  He was a high school graduate.

In the 1950 Census, Lowndes Adams was living with his nephew, Lowndes Payne and his wife Marie at 101 E. Philadelphia in Detroit. He was employed as a typist at an auto plant. He was 57 years old. His nephew worked as a bench inspector at an auto plant. Marie was a homemaking teacher at a city high School.

Other posts about Lowndes William Adams:

The Migration Part 3 – Those Left Behind
Lowndes Adams
Lowndes Adams Found in 1965 – Migration Story Part 5
3 Men in Hats
Letters from home – Montgomery to Detroit 1917
…to be where you can breathe a little freedom

Thanks to Kevin Payne, a descendant of the family for sharing the lower two photographs and giving me permission to use them on my blog.

Timberlake, Mary Jane – Kentucky & Ohio

header_maryjand timberlake
Mary Jane Timberlake French on each end and her death certificate in center.

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants. Today I am going to write about Mary Jane Timberlake.  Note: ages given are what was reported on the census form that year. They aren’t always accurate or true.

Mary Jane Timberlake was born into slavery in 1825 in Boone County Kentucky.  Her parents were Adelia Yager and Anthony Parker, who were both owned by different slaveholders. While enslaved, Mary Jane was a house girl for the Timberlakes and later the Stevensons. Both the Timberlakes and the Stevensons were part of the same family and lived in the same house.

Mary Jane’s brother Gabriel Timberlake was born in 1828. He made a daring escape from slavery as part of  group in the spring of 1847. After many weeks of travel and a fight and a trial in Cassopolis, Michigan, between Kentucky slave catchers, the escaped slaves and local citizens, Gabriel ended up free in Essex Canada where he changed his name to John Johnson, farmed and raised a family. Some of his descendants still live there.  Click this link for more information 1847 Kentucky Raid. I chose to tell his sister Mary Jane’s less dramatic story.

Mary Jane married John French while still enslaved, in 1846. They lived on different plantations. When Gabriel escaped in 1847, Mary Jane, her husband and her mother stayed behind. When Mary Jane found out she was free after the Civil War, she was wary about leaving the life she knew with the Stevensons when she had no money. She overcame her fears and left Kentucky with her children and mother. I do not know what happened to her husband John.

In 1870 she lived in College Hill Ohio, a few houses from Margaret Lane Alley, who also left Kentucky for Ohio after freedom. Mary Jane was 41 years old, keeping house and unable to read or write. Her eight year old daughters, Emma and Ida were attending school. Six year old Albert was too young for school. Also living in the household was Agnes Gaines who was literate. Relationships are not given in the 1870 census and i do not know who Agnes Gaines was.

Mary Jane was able to visit her brother once in Canada, about 1871. She afterwards returned to Ohio.

By 1880, Adelia Yager, 76 years old, had joined her daughter Mary Jane in College Hill.  Two of her children, Emma and Albert were home. Ida was living away. Both Emma and Ida were in service. Albert was 16 and at home. Five year old nephew James Yaeger was living there too.  I noticed that there were two cases of consumption on that census page, one of them was Margaret Lane Alley’s 30 year old  brother Thomas. Right next door to the French household was a bedridden 17 year old laborer with consumption.  On the other side lived a 48 year old man bedridden with rheumatism.

In the 1900 census Mary Jane Timberlake French was 74 years old. She owned her own home free from mortgage. She said she had birthed three children and one was still living. A 62 year old woman identified as her daughter, Anna Warren, lived there. She worked as a washerwoman.  One year old Mary Warren lived with them.  Neither of the women were literate.

In 1910 Mary Jane was 84 years old living in the same house. She stated that she had given birth to eight children and one was still alive. Her daughter Emma’s husband, Charles Morris is identified as the head of the home, which is owned free and clear. He worked as a houseman for a private family. Emma worked as a cook for a private family. Mary Warren who was one year old in the 1900 census, was eleven and attended school.  Both Charles and Emma were literate. Emma had borne no children.

Mary Jane Timberlake French died of a cerebral hemorrhage March 8th, 1917. She was buried two days later in Mt. Healthy Cemetery.  Her daughter Emma was the informant on the death certificate.

I found the information in Census records on and  her death certificate on Special thanks Lisa Schumann for sharing her Power Point Presentation about Gabriel and Mary Jane Timberlake with me.

Sherman, William Roger- Tennessee

My great grandmother Celia holding my aunt Barbara,1921. My grandfather Albert Cleage standing outside of 1st United Presbyterian Church. Teachers from the Athens Academy, my great uncle Henry Cleage and his first wife among them. Someone on a road in Athens. A shot of the church I took in 2004.

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants.  Today I am going to write about William Roger Sherman who was my great grandmother’s 2nd husband.

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. Enumerated on the same page as the Sherman’s in the 1880 was Alexander Cleage who had once owned my ancestors and his brother David Cleage.

William Roger Sherman is listed as architect for First United Presbyterian Church, a historic black church in Athens, Tennessee built in 1892. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

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 were still at home and all were students. Everybody was literate.  Celia’s daughter Josie and her family were living in the house next door. William’s son John and his family lived next door to Josie’s family.

In 1910, William R. 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 wonder if that is where Celia cooked. Richard was in school. Everybody except the 2 year old and the infant were literate.

By 1920 the household was broken up. Sherman, age 75 lived with his daughter Mamie in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was not working. His daughter was a steward at a local school. She was a widow 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 in.

Robert Allen – Kentucky

header ato z 2016

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants.  They are not my ancestors.

While looking for my great grandmother’s father, I came across this document from the Freedman’s Bank. The name was right, Robert Allen and Clara was my great grandmother’s name. However, her father was said to be white and this one was black. And the county was wrong.  My Clara was in Marion County, Kentucky for the 1870 census and the 1880 census. This Robert was a lifelong resident of Fayette County.  This was not the Robert Allen I was looking for. However,  this form contained a lot of information and I thought it would be interesting to find out more about him for A to Z.

robert allen freedman's bank records

Robert Allen was born into slavery about 1824 in Fayette County, Kentucky. His parents were Scipio and Jane. He had no siblings and no children. His wife’s name was Clara. Robert Allen worked as a porter at Apostalic Times.  He was dark complected and 50 years old.  The form was filled out on January 8, 1874.

With all that information, I expected to be able to find him in the 1870 census and perhaps in a directory or in the 1880 census. Maybe a death record.  I found nothing. Perhaps he went by a middle name or lived at the end of a road that wasn’t enumerated.