Category Archives: A-Z Challenge 2024

A Dance in Washington Park

Friends of Fannie and Mershell, members of Edelweiss, some music, some dancing.

I can’t believe that I forgot to include the final event of the Edelweiss Club in my A to Z! It was the invitation card that was included in a post in the 2018 A to Z Challenge and a question by Anne of Anne’s Family History about the Edelweiss Club started my investigation. Click on any image to enlarge.

Fannie Turner (colorized)

Monday am
June 2, 1919

My dear shell:

Your letter just came and everything in is was ok.

I laughed so loudly over certain parts of it that Naomi and Rufus wanted to know if they might read it too…. I told them they were too young to read such.

As I wrote you last time, your plans suit me all ok and as you say when you get here, we can talk the balance over.

This leaves all of us in pretty good health. Aunt Mary had Mams, Daisy, Alice and me to dinner yesterday – (Sunday) and believe me we had some time and some dinner.

“Bob” leaves for Chi this p.m. Uncle is a little better tho very weak. The club is planning a dance for next Tuesday P.M. the 10th.- Hope you can be here for it, but. If you can’t I’ll try and not cry. Ho! Ho!

Are you staying at Mrs. Walker’s altogether now? I’ll ask you the other questions when I see you, I’d better not write it…

Mershell “Shell” Graham

I wonder if you want me to meet you? Or if you will come on by the house – guess that will be better for us to meet at house after not having seen each other for so long. What you say? Write me one more letter before leaving- for I guess this is the last one I’ll write before we meet.

With lots of love etc.

Your Fanny
P. S. Give my love to all the folks.

This card was enclosed with the letter

After reading my grandmother’s letter and the invitation, I wondered about several things. Where was Washington Park? How did they manage music in a park? How did they get to the park when it was quite a ways from their neighborhood? What kind of dancing did they do? And most importantly- did my grandfather make it from Detroit to Montgomery before the dance?

I found the answers to all of my questions. Unfortunately there was no mention of the dance in any of the newspapers.


In 1886, the first citywide system of streetcars was established in the United States in Montgomery, Alabama. Segregated seating was officially mandated in the early 1900s. There was a Montgomery streetcar boycott from 1900 to 1902 to protest segregated service. The boycott failed and the city council passed the Montgomery Streetcar Act in 1906 that codified segregated seating.

The Montgomery Advertiser
Montgomery, Alabama • Thu, Oct 16, 1902 Page 3

In 1903 the Montgomery Street Railroad Company got permission and land to build a park for African Americans in West Montgomery. Parks were also segregated. Black people were not allowed in white parks. Washington Park was not within walking distance from the Centennial neighborhood so the streetcars heading to the park were often crowded. In fact, there were letters to the paper complaining because there was not room on these cars for white people. There were also excursion cars for special events that ran from some where in the neighborhood to the park. I don’t know if there were enough people going to the dance to call for excursion streetcars or if the dance goers had to ride the regular segregated buses.

The Montgomery Advertiser 1904 May 26 page 6

The section below from a Sanford shows the buildings available at the park. I wondered about dancing on the grass and what music would be provided, but there was a dance hall. There was probably a piano there or maybe they had a local band. Would there have been a gramaphone? A player piano?

Washington Park and facilities

I found in the newspapers that the dances popular at this time in Montgomery were the foxtrot, the one-step and the waltz. And, most importantly, my grandfather did arrive in time for the dance! They spelled his name “Michael” instead of “Mershell” but he arrived the day before the dance and in plenty of time for his wedding.

The Emancipator
Montgomery, Alabama · Saturday, June 14, 1919
Thunderstorms were predicted. I hope they didn’t impact the dance.

Reflections on the 2024 A-Z Challenge

Madeline Abercrombie – a member of the Edelweiss Club

I have just completed my eleventh A to Z Challenge. This year I wrote about the Edelweiss Club of Montgomery, Alabama. I had no posts written when the challenge began. This made for the usual nerve wracking experience of writing all day to get the post ready to go live by midnight. And also squeezing in visits to other blogs.

I have researched the 37 members intensively over the past several years, but had not looked at recipes of the day nor at the schools where the teacher members taught except in general, so I did learn about those things. I was surprised to see that most of them did marry, even if some married late and some divorced. I learned that their parents were pretty interesting. I tried to avoid getting sidetracked on them, although there were some good stories there. I’m considering writing about that generation next year, taking it back to my great grandmother Jennie Virginia Allen Turner’s life in Montgomery from the 1860s, to the time of her marriage in 1886.

This year I just didn’t seem to have the zest that I usually experience during the challenge. I was just holding on and getting through. Maybe it’s the depressing conditions all around, local, national and worldwide. Whatever it was, I did finish. I am glad I finally wrote up some of the Edelweiss women and their possible delicious luncheons.

I mostly read the same blogs I follow all year or those that I have on file from past challenges. I tried a few new ones as we went on, mainly finding them through comments on mine or other’s blogs or a few from the list.

These are the blogs I most often read and commented on:

There were others that I visited less often and there were some I discovered late in the challenge.

You can find an index to my April posts here A to Z Challenge 2024 – The Edelweiss Club

Thank you to everyone who makes the challenge work and to everyone who read my posts and to those who commented, I tried to visit and comment back. Also thanks to my husband Jim who proofreads my posts. I do sometimes change up afterwards, so he is not to blame if some errors crept in!

Reflecions 2024 #AtoZChallenge


In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Click any image to enlarge

I was hoping to find a recipe for zucchini bread in the Montgomery newspapers in 1918, 1919. Alas, twas not to be. I did find these advertisements and a song shared below.


Last, a song from World War 1. And we’re done!

Y – YELLOW Sunshine Cake

Swansdown Cake Flour cookbook

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Click any image to enlarge

Today we are going back to delicious luncheons. On January 3, 1919, Alberta Boykin , who I wrote about in depth in 2021, entertained the Edelweiss Club at the home of her sister. A delicious two course luncheon was served. I have chosen to start with a combination salad and finish with a Sunshine Cake. Which as you can see in the picture above, is a delightful YELLOW.

The Emacipator, January 1919

A combination salad The Montgomery Times 12/25/1919

Article from Dec 25, 1919 The Montgomery Times (Montgomery, Alabama)

A Combination Salad

Take two apples, two peppers, two onions a ripe tomato, a bunch of celery, and some crisp lettuce leaves. Cut the celery into small pieces and mix them with the following dressing: Pour a beaten egg into a small saucepan, add one-half cupful of vinegar, one-half cupful of milk or cream, one table-spoonful of butter, one teaspoonful of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook until thick, then cool and pour over the vegetables. Chill and serve on the lettuce leaves.

The Helping Hand, Montgomery, Alabama • Fri, Oct 20, 1916Page 3

Sunshine Cake. Beat six egg whites until stiff. Boll together a cupful of sugar and a quarter of a cupful of water until it hairs, pour over the whites, beat well and cool. Then beat the yolks of the eggs, add to the whites and a cupful of pastry flour sifted with a teaspoonful of cream of tartar and a pinch of salt, flavor and bake slowly for 40 to 60 minutes. Cover with frosting when cool.”

X – XMAS Meeting With Madge Brown

Unnamed friend of my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham standing in for Madge Brown.

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Click any image to enlarge

The_Emancipator December 25, 1918

The weather that Christmas day was clear and cold, with temperatures dipping down to 24 degrees.

Madge Brown

In the 1920 census, Madge Brown lived with her parents, John and Julia Brown. Both parents were born during slavery in the mid 1850s. They would have been teenagers when the Civil war ended and they were emancipated. Mr. Brown was a farmer and owned his own farm free and clear. He had a truck farm and a stall at the city market where he and his wife sold vegetables. Mrs. Brown gave birth to eight children and six were living.

Madge’s sister, Elizabeth B. Deramus, her husband, James and their one year old son shared the home. Elizabeth taught music and her husband was a medical doctor. All the adults in the household were literate. Madge taught at Booker T. Washington school.

Rites Held For Madge M. Brown Retired Teacher

Miss Madge M. Brown, local retired public school teacher died here Friday night following a lingering illness. She was the daughter of the late John Napolean and Julia Arrington Brown.

Having served in the local school system 30 years, she was honored 3 years ago at Carver High school on her retirement. Her professional career included assignments at Loveless and Carver High.

She was active in several social and civic organizations and was a member of Dexter Avenue Baptist Churh, the March Month Club of Deter, Beta Sigma Chapter of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority and the local chapter of the National Federated Club.

Miss Brown was educated at Howard University and the local Alabama State Teachers College.

She is survived by two sisters, Mesdames N. Brown Saffold, Montgomery: Mrs. A. Brown Madison, Atlanta. Nieces included Medames Anna M. Blackwell, San Francisco, Cal’ Anne De Ramus Brown, Schenectady, N.Y., Dr. Helen dermus Mitchell, N. Y. City: nephews, Milton darden, Atlanta, Medames Laura Saffold Carter, Formosa (China), Mildred Banks, Baltimore, Md., June King, John Brown and Zisley Safford, all of this city.

Birmingham Mirror, Birmingham, Alabama • Sat, Feb 10, 1962 Page 10

W – Progressive WHIST

Collage of Edelweiss women playing progressive whist.

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Click any image to enlarge

I did a quick survey on of the number of mentions “whist” received in Montgomery newspapers. I wanted to see how many people were playing, at least how many got their games into the newspaper. The Emancipator, the only black newspaper, reported 31 games of whist during 1918 and 1919. The Montgomery Advertiser, a white newspaper, reported 23 games during the same time and The Montgomery Times listed 7 games. When I added the word “progressive” there were 17 entries only from The Emancipator.

There was a graft on the side which showed that the number of mentions of “whist” was at a very low point before 1918 and that it peaked around 1920 and after a few years at the height, began going down, down, down. I pushed the years back and the resulting graph is below.

The link below gives directions for playing whist and defines progressive whist.

“Progressive whist or compass whist, is a competition format in which two players from each table move to the next table after a fixed number of games which are played to a fixed format e.g. with the designated trump suit changing each time.

Whist – Wikipedia

The Emancipator, May 2, 1919

Minnie Williams was born in Augusta, Georgia. She was one of the nine children of Edward and Catherine (McCord) Williams. Five of them survived to grow up. Her father was a carpenter and later worked on the railroad. Her mother didn’t work outside the home.

In 1910 Minnie was 16 and living with her older sister and her husband. Her sister was teaching, her brother-in-law was an minister. Minnie was teaching music. This is the second sixteen year old I have found teaching in Georgia. They lived in Waycross Georgia, where my grandfather Mershell was enumerated in 1910 as an auto mechanic working for the railroad.

Minnie was one of the teachers at Vesuvius School in 1919. She also hosted the Edelweiss Club at the home she shared her sister Lula Thomas and family. That year Minnie played the piano at a delightful luncheon where whist was played and Charlotte Ruse was served. She was socially active and could be found playing whist at various functions around town. She attended summer school at Columbia University in New York.

She eventually moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where we find her in the 1940 census teaching and sharing her home with her niece (also a teacher) and great niece. She had two years of college. And that is where we will leave her.


Vesuvius School was located on Shady, near the blue building. Billingslea is on Walker near Shady.

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Click any image to enlarge

Vesuvius School was located in North Montgomery, among railroad tracks and warehouses. There was a black community up there. The first mention of Vesuvius School was in 1899 when the staff was given as one teacher, Nanie Hardaway.

The Weekly Advertiser
Montgomery, Alabama · Friday, October 27, 1899

In 1903 it was proposed that the city rent the vacant Vesuvius Hotel for $15 a month, put in some blackboards, stoves etc., and use it for the school, which had been meeting in a church in the area. The hotel had been vacant since 1895. This was approved. There were 85 students and two teachers.

The Montgomery Advertiser, June 29, 1904

Unfortunately, the following year, a spark from a passing train set the building on fire and it was completely burned down except for the walls. The school went back to meeting in a nearby church until the city bought a three room house in the area on Shady Street.

By 1918 there were 160 students. Mary Hightower was the principal. Viola Love, Clara Hamilton and Minnie Williams made up the teaching staff. In 1922 the Billingslea School was built to replace Vesuvius.

Mary Howard Hightower belonged to the same generation of the Edelweiss Club members parents and had not attended any of the meetings. Viola Love wasn’t a member. Clara Hamilton and Minnie Williams were.

N – Naomi TULANE

Naomi Tulane – Engagement photograph

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Naomi Tulane was the only daughter of Victor and Willie (Allen) Tulane who lived past her second birthday.   Two daughters died in infancy. Her father was Victor Tulane, a very successful black Montgomery businessman. Her mother was my grandmother Fannies’s sister.

Naomi Tulane elected a member of the Edelweiss Club at this meeting. The Emancipator, Dec 6, 1918

Naomi studied music at Fisk University. She played the piano at my grandparent’s wedding. After finishing two years at Fisk, she took a business course at Tuskegee University. This surprised me because family members told me how bad she was with family finances after her husband died. She also worked sometimes at her father’s grocery store.

She met her future husband while accompanying her father on a trip North to promote Ala-Ga syrup.  She married Dr. Ubert Conrad Vincent of New York City on April 28, 1920 in Montgomery.

Alaga was always the syrup on my grandparent’s table. Still sold today in a bottle.

Dr. U.C. Vincent Visits Montgomery


Dr. U.C. Vincent of New York City is spending the holidays here as guest of Mr. and Mrs. V.H. Tulane.  Dr. Vincent is an intern at the noted Bellevue Hospital of New York. He also holds a responsible position as Medical head of one of the departments in the hospital. He is the only colored man that has ever held this special post at Bellevue and in a recent meeting of the physicians held in New York, Dr. Vincent gave a demonstration of a new operation which he invented. A creditable article concerning his brilliant future as a physician appeared in a recent issue of the Crisis Magazine.

U – ULYSSES Naomi Rodgers

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Click any image to enlarge

Ulysses Naomi Rodgers was born in 1882, the year after her older sister Lucretia. She had two younger brothers, Gordon and Julian. The family started out in Wetumpka, about 20 miles from Montgomery, where her father was a teacher. By 1900 they were in Montgomery and her father was the pastor of Old Ship Methodist Church. Founded in 1855, before the end of slavery, it is the oldest black church in Montgomery. Their mother did not work outside of the home.

Old Ship A. M. E. Zion Church. This is the original building where Rev. Rodgers preached.

Ulysses and her siblings attended school. The two sisters graduated from State Normal School in 1902. Ulysses began teaching in the public schools while Lucretia taught music from the home. Her brothers went to college. Julian became a lawyer and moved to Detroit. Gordon became a doctor.

The Emancipator (Montgomery, Alabama) · 6 Apr 1918, Sat · Page 4. Ulysses Rodgers is Rodgers above.

In January 1919, Rev. Rodgers died when he fell while working on the roof. He was 61. His widow lived with one or the other of her daughters until her death

The Emancipator Montgomery, Alabama • Sat, Sep 27, 1919 Page 3

Ulysses continued to teach until she married Andrew Cato Brown later the same year. She was 37. He was 44 and the owner, manager of A. C. Brown groceries. They had no children and remained in Montgomery until the ends of their lives.

The Emancipator, Montgomery, Alabama • Sat, Oct 4, 1919, Page 4


Swayne School being demolished 1948 The Montgomery Advertiser
Montgomery, Alabama • Sun, Jun 27, 1948Page 13

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members and guests of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Click on any image to enlarge!

I did not realize that the Freedmen’s Bureau founded many schools. In this article from the Britannica I found: “Its greatest accomplishments were in education: more than 1,000 Black schools were built and over $400,000 spent to establish teacher-training institutions. Among the historically Black colleges and universities that received aid from the bureau were Atlanta University (1865; now Clark Atlanta University) and Fisk University (1866; originally the Fisk School), named for Gen. Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedmen’s Bureau, who gave the school its original facilities in a former Union army barracks. Howard University, founded in 1867 through an act by the U.S. Congress, was named for Maj. Gen. Howard.”

Swayne College in Montgomery was one of those schools.

Click to enlarge.


Named for Union General and Freedmen’s Bureau Agent Wager Swayne, Swayne College was dedicated 21 April 1869. The Bureau appropriated $10,000 for the building and the local black community purchased 3.5. acres for the site. Future officeholder Elijah Cook submitted the winning location of Union and Grove Streets. The building stood three stories high and was constructed by Henry Duncan with ventilation by Isaac Frazier. George Stanley Pope became the first principal of the school with occupancy in October 1868, and Fisk alumnus Charles Duncan became the first black principal. The American Missionary Association operated the school, and its high standards mirrored the influence of the local Congregationalist church. Swayne contained desks, blackboards, maps, and an organ costing $200. With tuition free to local students, it offered coursework in the alphabet, reading and spelling, advanced reading, arithmetic, geography, and writing. Closing in 1937, Swayne College paved the way for black education in Montgomery and was succeeded by Booker T. Washington School.

Alabamama Historical Association

Swayne School on the lower left in “Congo Square”. No idea about that name.

The school had no lights, stove heat and two outhouses in the back. The Congregational church is right up the street at the top of the map. That was my grandparent’s church.

Montgomery. Educational Notes, Huntsville Gazette
Saturday, Mar 29, 1890, Huntsville, AL Vol: XI, Issue: 18, Page: 3


Educational Notes

Dear Gazette;
This afternoon just after having enjoyed a good dinner at some one else’s expense, I took a stroll to the different public schools in our city.
First to Swayne school under the management of Prof. J. D. Bibb and there I found a very fine school with a daily attendance of about three hundred and fifty pupils, and an able corps of 5 assistants. Prominent among them I found Miss Lila Mosley, quite young but said to be a fine Instructress.
In the fifth grade Miss Venus Hardaway with a large class, and while she is one of the old teachers there, yet she is one of our very pleasant and much loved young ladies.
Then I visited the school on the hillside, or Cemetery Hill school, under the management of Rev. Mr. Jones. That school too is in fine condition with a large attendance of pupils about three hundred and twenty-five daily. There I found Miss F. Allen teaching the fourth grade and her class like everyone else seem to be in love with her. But the old place is not what it used to be when our E. J. Lewis, was its Principal. Yet the present Principal holds the Fort well, and through the kindness of our city Fathers, two new rooms have been added making six instead of four rooms.

Venus Hardaway is the mother of Edelweiss member Gwendolyn Lewis Graham and taught before and after her husband’s death.