Category Archives: African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research

H – History of St. John’s

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection. Click on all images to enlarge.

In Memory of John Brown “Hero of Harper’s Ferry” A window in the Sanctuary. Other windows are named for former members.

I thought I would define “Congregational” for those that don’t know what makes this denomination different from other protestant denominations. Congregationalism emphasizes the right and responsibility of each congregation to determine its own affairs. It eliminates bishops and presbyteries. Each individual church is autonomous.

St. John’s Congregational Church is one of the oldest African American churches in New England. It was founded in 1844. First as the Sanford Street Church. After a few years, it was known as the Free Church. Many members were actively involved in the Underground Railroad and in the movement to abolish slavery.

In 1892, the Sanford Street Church merged with the Quincy Street Mission to form St. John’s Congregational Church, which was named in honor of John Brown, who was a member of the congregation during his three year residency in Springfield. Some years later Brown launched the attack on Harper’s Ferry leading up to the Civil War.

William Deberry as a young man. Click to see original photo on the Springfield Museum site.

Reverend William DeBerry came to Springfield in 1899, a week after graduating from Oberlin Theological Seminary in Ohio. He was ordained as pastor of St. John’s Church on June 28, 1899.

By 1911 the congregation had raised the funds and built a new church at the corner of Hancock and Union Streets. Some subterfuge was needed as the original white owner would not sell to African Americans. Another white man agreed to purchase the property for the church, with their funds, and deed it over to them after the sale.

Rev. DeBerry believed in combining traditional religious services with community involvement. In 1913 St. John’s Parish Home next to the church on Union Street was opened to provide safe residential accommodation for working girls and women. It also included quarters for the minister and his family. This is where we lived in 1950. A free employment bureau was opened for men and women, along with a night school which taught domestic science. The Women’s Social Union and the Boys Club were formed to provide social and sports activities for young people.

Springfield’s Black population almost doubled between 1917 and 1922 as people from the South moved North. Due to the population increase and housing segregation in Springfield, there was a need for housing. The church purchased buildings on Quincy Street and Orleans Street and rented it to black families.

In 1920 property was purchased for a summer camp in East Brookfield. Camp Atwater continues to this day as the oldest African American camp in the United States.

In 1924, DeBerry separated the social programs division from the church in order to bypass restrictions on the funding of religious programs. He resigned from the pulpit to lead the new organization, reorganized in 1931 as the Dunbar Community League. The church found itself in the midst of the Depression and without much of it’s social programming and income.

Rev. Albert B. Cleage on church steps.

In 1945 my father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr became the pastor of St. John’s. He had also graduated from Oberlin Theological School and belived in combining traditional religion and social involvement.

In 1947 the church began a move to have the buildings DeBerry had separated from the church when he left, returned to church ownership. The dispute ended up in court. Some members of the church sided with DeBerry. After DeBerry died in January of 1948 arrangements were made between the Dunbar Community League and St. John’s Congregational Church for the buildings to be returned.

Springfield Union February 21, 1948 Transcribed below. Click to enlarge.

St. John’s and Dunbar Dispute is Settled

Out of Court Agreement Provides Church Pay League $11,000 for Two Properties

An out-of-court settlement of the long-standing property dispute between St. John’s Congregational Church and the Dunbar Community League, Inc., was announced jointly yesterday by counsel for the two groups, John T. Quirk, Jr., and Robert W. Bodfish for the church and Milton J. Donovan for the league. The settlement provided payment of $11,500 by the church to the league.

The terms will be incorporated in a consent decree terminating equity proceedings in Superior Court according to the attorneys. Their statement said, in part:

“St. John’s Church will pay to Dunbar Community League, Inc. $11,500. Dunbar will transfer to St. John’s the properties at 643 Union St. and 146-152 Quincy st., which are adjacent to the church property. The Dunbar organization will continue to occupy it’s present office location at 643 Union St., until Nov. 1, 1948.

Springfield Union February 21, 1948
Continued from above. Transcription to the right.

“Suitable releases will be mutually exchanged to terminate all questions raised by the equity suit or outstanding between the parties.”

The proceedings against the league had aroused considerable controversy in Springfield’s Negro community, involving, as it did, one of the largest Negro congregations and an outstanding Negro social agency. It centered around title to several properties acquired by the church and St. John’s Institutional Activities, Inc., of which the Dunbar League is the successor.

Last spring, the church obtained a temporary injunction and restraining order against the league forbidding the league to dispose of the properties involved, and this was followed by issuance of an interlocutory decree, continuing the injunction and restraining order until final disposition, by Judge William C. Giles. The following parcels of real estate were listed in the case.

A house and lot at 49 Hancock St., two buildings and lots on Jennette Ave., interest in a house and lot at 59 Quincy St. and a house and lot at 610-612 Union St., all conveyed to St. John’s Church in 1915 under th will of Henrietta H. Coleman.

Property at 72 Marion, obtained by will, and in Pease St., owned by the church prior to Jan. 10, 1924, the date on which the Dunbar League’s predecessor acquired al the real estate by conveyance from the church.

The main point in the church’s bill against the Dunbar League was that the property originally was bequeathed for religious purposes and that the conveyances to the league’s predecessor were in violation of these purposes. The bill further said that the church was unable to enumerate other parcels of real estate and personal property of “great value” intended for and belonging to the church, because essential records were in the exclusive possession of the league.

It also set forth that the church believed the defendant was on the point of selling the real estate and averred that any transfer of the properties involved by the defendant would be illegal, and an unlawful diversion for purpose wholly foreign to the original purpose. Other properties later added in the equity bill were 81 Orleans St., 146 Quincy St., 150-152 Quincy St., 154-156 Quincy st., 43 Hancock St., and 616 Union St.

Court proceedings were begun several months before the recent death of Rev. W. N. DeBerry, pastor of St. John’s Church who, in later years, devoted his efforts largely to the Dunbar League.

St. John’s Congregational Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

St. John’s Congregational Church (Sanford Street Church, Free Church)
Springfield, MA – Our Plural History
Historic St. John’s Congregational Church to open New Worship Center
Rev. William N. DeBerry
Prophet of the Black Nation by Hiley H. Ward. ©1969 United Church Press

Here Comes A Parade

We never went to a parade but I remember looking out of our front door watching a religious procession going past our house. They carried large statues down the street.

Annie Williams – Death Notice

The Montgomery Advertiser Montgomery, Alabama 05 Oct 1898, Wed  •  Page 7

Annie Williams was the mother of Eliza Williams Allen and my 3X great grandmother. She was born into slavery about 1820 in Virginia or South Carolina. There are no death records that early for Alabama. I know that Annie Williams appeared in the 1880 census and she didn’t appear in the 1900 census. This death is in the right place, Ward 1 and I believe it to be my 3 X great grandmother. Still looking for further proof – cemetery records for instance.

Annie Williams was listed as 50 in the 1870 census. She was born in Virginia about 1820. She lived with her daughter Eliza and her family in Ward 1, Montgomery, Alabama.  She was illiterate and worked as a domestic servant. She was identified as black.

Ten years later in the 1880 census, Anna Williams age was 53. Her birth date was 1827 and her birthplace listed as South Carolina. She lived with her granddaughter, Mary Allen McCall and her husband Edward. The house was next door to Ann’s daughter Eliza and her family.  She was unable to read or write and worked as a cook. She was a widow.

The only thing I remember hearing about her growing up, aside from that she was Eliza’s mother, was from my Great grandmother’s sister, Aunt Abbie. She said she remembered cutting her grandmother’s toenails when she was a girl and that she had very bad arthritis.

Death of Susan Richardson Abbott – Pension File #5

Letter from A. J. Crovatt

Corvatt & Whitfield
Attorneys and Counselors
Brunswick, Georgia

February 26, 1909

United States Pension Agent,
Knoxville, Tenn.

Dear Sir:
IN RE: Susan Abbott certificate
No. 416395, dated February 20th 1895

I beg to advise that Susan Abbott died January. 17, 1909.

Your Truly,
A. J. Crovatt


The Brunswick Journal; Monday 18 January 1909

SUDDEN DEATH OF OLD SERVANT—For Many Years a Faithful Servant in Family of Judge Crovatt.
There will be genuine sorrow expressed by a very large number of white people when they learn of the death of “Mammy Sue,” who has been faithful servant in the family of Judge A.J. Crovatt for the past thirty years.
Everybody knew “Mammy Sue”; she had been so identified with the family of “her people” as to be one of them.
Born in Charleston, a slave, Susan Abbot [sic], as she was known, was brought to St. Simons Island and was the servant of the Hazzard family there.
At the close of the war, Susan became a member of the family of Col. C.L. Schlatter, the father of Mrs. A.J. Crovatt. After the marriage of Miss Mary Lee Schlatter to Mr. A.J. Crovatt, “Mammy Sue” went with her young mistress and was the nurse of three children of Judge and Mrs. Crovatt.
As the widow of a soldier in the Federal Army during the war, Mammy Sue was awarded a pension by the government. Though her husband fought on the Federal side, Mammy Sue staid [sic] with her “own people.”
Famous as a cook, devoted to the interests of those with whom she had been so many years, the death of Mammy Sue removes another of the rare ante-bellum negroes.
Her illness was of only a few hours duration; the young daughter of the house, Mary Lee Crovatt, had gone to see the old woman at ten o’clock to give her a cup of tea; Mammy did not complain of being ill, and had been about her usual duties all day yesterday. Though eighty years of age, Mammy Sue was remarkably active, and was in full control of all her faculties. At one o’clock another of the servants heard the old woman calling, and Miss Crovatt and her brother went to the room in the servant’s house. When the door was opened, Mammy Sue was unconscious and died with(in) a few minutes.
Four children survive, Thomas and Joseph Abbot and Eliza Cuyler, all of whom live on St. Simons. Another son, Randolph Abbot, being in Charleston (note: no Randolph found). The body will be carried to St. Simons where it will be interred tomorrow.

The body of Susan Abbott, or “Mammy Sue” the aged servant of Judge A.J. Crovatt, was carried to St. Simons this morning for interment.
Services were held last night in the First African Baptist Church, of which church, Mammy Sue had long been a member. The Brunswick Journal; Tuesday 19 January 1909; pg. 1


Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 1 – 1829-1866
Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 2 – 1867-1909

From the Pension File
Susan Abbott’s Deposition
Susan Abbott’s MarriagePension #2
Death of Randolph Abbott – Pension #3
Character of Susan Richardson Abbott – Pension File #4

Character of Susan Richardson Abbott – Pension File #4

Susan Richardson Abbott 1830-1909

Susan Richardson Abbott seems to have had an easier time getting her widow’s pension than other’s I have read about. I believe it was because she had several important white citizens testify as to the truth of her statements and her good character. There was also testimony from several people that had been enslaved on the Col. Hazzard’s plantation on St. Simons Island.

This character reference was given by A. J. Crovatt, who was her employer and a well known attorney and eventually mayor in Brunswick, across the Mackay River from St. Simons Island.


State of Georgia, County of Glynn, ss:

In the matter of the application of Susan Abbott widow of Randolph Abbott because late private Co. “A” 33 Regt U. S. C. Inft

On this 5th day of January, A. D. 1895, personally appeared before me notary public in and for the aforesaid county, duly authorized to administer oaths, A. J. Corvatt aged 36 years, a resident of Brunswick, in the County of Glynn, and State of Georgia. Whose Post office address is Brunswick Georgia. Etc. etc.

Affiant has had Susan Abbott in his employ as a nurse for fourteen years and therefore knows her well. She is now in the employ of his family and has always been and is a faithful servant – reliable, trustworthy and truthful – She is as well as can be properly written in the neighborhood of seventy (70) years and is therefore feeble and will not be able to work much longer – She is now from time to time complaining and is frequently forced to remain in her room and bed and be treated by a physician.

Affiant further states that he fully believes from his knowledge of all the parties concerned their characters and the character o Susan Abbott that all of the statements made in and concerning her application for pension are true.

In making this affidavit I am not prompted by any written or printed statements or recital prepared or dictated by any other person but make it from knowledge gained from personal acquaintance with said Susan Abbott and her witnesses.

And we further declare that we have no interest in said case, and that we are not concerned in its prosecution

A. J. Corvatt
(signature of affiants)


This is the sixth post about the life of Susan Richardson Abbott. You can read earlier parts of Susan Abbott’s story at these links.:

Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 1 – 1829-1866
Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 2 – 1867-1909
Susan Abbott’s Deposition – Pension File Part 1
Susan Abbott’s Pension File Part 2 – Marriage
Death of Randolph Abbott – Pension #3

Death of Randolph Abbott – Pension #3

In 1890 Susan Richardson Abbott received a widow’s pension because of her husband Randolph Abbott’s service with the United States Colored Troops during the United States Civil War.

Today’s statement was made by fellow soldier, Wesley Lee. He testified several times during these pension hearings.

Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper with United States Colored Troop (USCT) Images


State of Georgia, County of Glynn, ss:

In the matter of the application of Susan Abbott widow of Randolph Abbott deceased late private Co “A” 33 Regt USC infantry

Personally came before me a notary Public in and for aforesaid County and State Wesley Lee aged 66 years a citizen of the town of St. Simmons Mills, County of Glynn and State of Georgia. Well known to me to be reputable and entitled to credit and who being duly sworn declares in relation to aforesaid case as follows.

USCT record for Wesley Lee

That Randolph Abbott who was a fellow comrade of mine in Co. “A” 33 Reg USC Infantry died on St. Simons Island Glynn County Georgia in the month of January 1874 and that he was with him at the time he died and saw him buried at St. Simons island at “West Point” burying grounds which is an old colored cemetery.

Affiant further declares that this affidavit was all written by W. B. Moore on the 6th day of August 1895 in his presence and only from his oral statements then made and that he made his oral statement to W. B. Moore and in making the same he did not use and were not aided or prompted by any written or printed statement or recital prepared or dictated by any other person and not attached as an exhibit to his testimony. And further declares that he has no interest in said case, and is not concerned in its prosecution.

Sworn to and Signed in the presence of
L. M. Earhardt                                                                        Wesley (his X mark) Lee
M. L. Moore


This is the fifth post about the life of Susan Richardson Abbott. You can read earlier parts of Susan Abbott’s story at these links.:

Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 1 – 1829-1866
Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 2 – 1867-1909
Susan Abbott’s Deposition – Pension File Part 1
Susan Abbott’s Pension File Part 2 – Marriage

Pension File #2- Marriage

Unknown couple. From: Post-Civil War Life For African Americans Focus Of Amistad, Lyman Allyn Exhibits

This is the third post about the life of Susan Richardson Abbott. You can read earlier parts of Susan Abbott’s story at these links.:

Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 1 – 1829-1866
Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 2 – 1867-1909
Susan Abbott’s Depostion – Pension File Part 1

In 1890 Susan Richardson Abbott received a widow’s pension because of her husband Randolph Abbott’s service with the United States Colored Troops during the United States Civil War.

Today there are two statements made concerning her marriage to the soldier, Randolph Abbott. The first are by two men who were also enslaved on Col. Hazzard’s plantation before Freedom. The second were made by the widow and daughter of a neighbor of Hazzard, Captain Stevens. Captain Stevens had the plantation next to Hazzard.

Click on any of the images to enlarge them.


State of Georgia, County of Glynn, SS:

In the matter of Pension of Susan Abbott

On this 18th day of May, A. D. 1894, personally appeared before me, a clerk County Court, in and for the aforesaid County, duly authorized to administer oats, Wesley Lee aged 70 years, a resident of St. Simons Island, in the County of Glynn, and state of Georgia, whose Post Office is St. Simons Island Ga, and Charles Ryals (about), aged 75 years, a resident of St. Simons Island, in the County of Glynn and State of Georgia, whose Post Office address is St. Simons Island, well know to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declared in relation to aforesaid case, as follows;

(Affiants would state how they gained a knowledge of the facts to which they testify)

We lived on the same plantation with Randolph and Susan Abbott. We remember their marriage by white Episcopal minister (Mr. Brown) We moved back to the old home after the war.  Sue never married again. Randolph and Sue was born and raised on West Point Plantation and owned by Col Hazzard.

Before the war Susan was a house servant, Randolph a farm hand. After the war, he was a farmer. Randolph was in bad health after he left the army until time of death, which took place Feb. 1875. We were with him when he was sick and at his death and attended his funeral. Randolph was tall and well made not quite black.

They had five children. Betsy, Louis, Brista, Joe Thomas.

Betsey and Louis died some years since.

Cannot give age of children.

And we further declare that we have no interest in said case, and that we are not concerned in its prosecution.

(If Affiants sign by mark, two witnesses who can write sign here)
A. J. Corvatt
A E Eve

Wesly Lee his X mark
Charles Ryals his X mark


State of Georgia, County of Glynn SS:

In the matter of Pension of Susan Abbott

On this 18th day of May A. D. 1894 personally appeared before me, clerk of the Common Court in and for the aforesaid County, duly authorized to administer oaths, Annie F Arnold aged 50 years a resident of St. Simons Island in the County of Glynn, and state of Georgia whose Post Office address is St. Simons Island GA, and Sarah D. Stevens, aged 45 years, a resident of St. Simons Island, in the County of Glynn and State of Georgia, whose Post Office address is St. Simons Island Georgia, well known to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declared in relation to aforesaid case, as follows:

(affiants should state how they gained a knowledge of the facts to which they testify)

Randolph and Susan Abbott were married by an Episcopal minister Rev Brown about the year 1852. (Am not certain about dates) The church books having been destroyed by fire it is impossible to get the certificate of marriage.

Their first child Betsy was born the following year and christened by same minister. Living on the next plantation and visiting their owners (Col Hazzard and family) we knew them well. After the war they returned to their old home and we saw them constantly.  Susan did not marry after her husband’s death. They were good respectable people. Their P. O. address was Fredrica Ga at the time of their marriage. After the war ended they returned to their former home and same P .O. address until Randolph’s death, which happened, (I think) Feb 1875.

And we further declare that we have no interest in said case, and that we are not concerned in its prosecution

(If Affiants sign by mark, two witnesses who can write sign here)
A J Corvatt
A. E. Eve

(signature of Affiants)
Annie F. Arnold
Sarah D Stevens

Susan Abbott’s Deposition Pension File #1

Susan Richardson Abbott 1830-1909

This is the third post about the life of Susan Richardson Abbott. You can read earlier parts of Susan Abbott’s story at these links.:

Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 1 – 1829-1866
Susan Richardson Abbott – Part 2 – 1867-1909

In 1890 Susan Richardson Abbott received a widow’s pension because of her husband Randolph Abbott’s service with the United States Colored Troops during the United States Civil War. In the file were several statements by her then employer, Judge Crovatt and several former neighbors.

In 1903 she applied for an increase in her pension from $8 to $12 a month. In the deposition below she gives an overview of her life.

Click on any of the images to enlarge them.


Case of Susan Abbott ctf No. 416397 On this 4th day of August 1903 at Brunswick County of Glynn State of Ga before me, Don McClain a special examiner of the Bureau of pensions, personally appeared Susan Abbott who being by me first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogatories propounded to her during this special examination of aforesaid claim for pension, deposes and says: I am (blank) years of age; my post-office address is as above. I am a house servant.

I am the widow of Randolph Abbott, on account of whose service in the U.S army during the War of the Rebellion and subsequent death, I get a pension of $8 a month under the Act of June 27, 1890.

I can’t give my age. I had seven children when Charleston was taken. (She appears at least 65 years of age)

I was born in Charleston, S.C., the slave of Mr. Moon. 1 He sold me to Ga. and I was the slave of Capt. Myers when freedom came. I can’t locate any of my white people now.

I married Randolph in slavery. I lived with him until he went in the war. We lived together about five years after the war when he died on St. Simon Island, Ga. I have not remarried since his death.

I have lived here with this family about 25 years

My husband was 6 feet tall and black. My claim was not examined before it was granted.

My husband served under Strawbridge and Capt. Walker. 2 They are the men he went away with. He was never called by any name except Randolph Abbott. He was the son of Tom Abbott.

I came down here long before the war. I met my husband here. He was born on St. Simon Island. He has a brother in Savannah. I mean a half brother. He is called Washington. I can’t give the other name.

I own no property at all. I have no income but my pension and what I cook for.

My husband died about five years after the war of a visur (?) in the throat. Dr. Wilson, dead, attended him in his last illness.  He did not get a pension.  He was never well after the war.

This is the only pension I ever applied for. I have not put in under the old law. I have no claim pending before the Pension Office at the present time.

Since the death of my husband I have lived no place except here in Brunswick.

I have forgotten the names of my original witnesses.  Judge Crovatt is the only lawyer I had. I live with him. He charged me nothing.  I keep my pension papers at the office of Judge Crovatt. I have never pledged them or either of them for money or thing of value.  I do not go down town on signing day Judge Crovatt does that for me. He brings me $24 every time and puts it into my hand.

I have heard my answers and they are correct.
Susan (her X mark) Abbott


Abbott served under Trowbridge

The description below of life on St. Simons Island during the Civil War was taken From Reminiscences, of My Life in Camp by Susie King Taylor. page 16. Susie King was an African American teacher, nurse and laundress who served during the Civil War and St. Simons Island and the mainland.

The latter part of August, 1862, Captain C. T. Trowbridge, with his brother John and Lieutenant Walker, came to St. Simon’s Island from Hilton Head, by order of General Hunter, to get all the men possible to finish filling his regiment which he had organized in March, 1962. He had heard of the skirmish on this island, and was very much pleased at the bravery shown by these men. He found me at Gaston Bluff teaching my little school, and was muh interested in it. When I knew him better I found him to be a thorough gentleman and a staunch friend to my race.

Captain Trowbridge remained with us until October, when the order was received to evacuate, and so we boarded the Ben-De-Ford, a transport, for Beaufort, S. C. When we arrived in Beaufort, Captain Trowbridge and the men he had enlisted went to camp at Old Fort, which they named “Camp Saxton,” I was enrolled as laundress.

The first suits worn by the boys were red coats and pants, which they disliked very much, for, they said, “The rebels see us, miles away.”

The first colored troops did not receive any pay for eighteen months, and the men had to depend wholly on what they received from the commissary, established by General Saxton. A great many of these men had large families, and as they had no money to give them , their wives were obliged to support themselves and children by washing for the officers of the gunboats and the soldiers, and making cakes and pies which they sold to the boys in camp. Finally, in 1863, the government decided to give them half pay , but the men would not accept this . They wanted “ full pay ” or nothing. They preferred rather to give their services to the state , which they did until 1864, when the government granted them full pay , with all the back pay due.

  1. Almost two hundred years ago Susan Richardson Abbot was born into slavery on the plantation of Thomas Boone in Charleston, SC. After Boone died 28 October, 1831, his wife began selling off land and people.[]
  2. He served under Trowbridge[]


From the Digital Archives of the Alabama Department of History and Archives

Last spring I looked at the probate record of Crawford Motley Jackson and found the enslaved listed by family groups, all 135 of them. One of those groups was made up of my 2 x great grandmother Prissy and her children, including my great grandmother Mary. I wrote that up in Appraisement of the Negroes Belonging to the Estate of C. M. Jackson

C. M. Jackson died in February 1860. In December of that year, the administrator of the estate, Crawford M. Jackson’s brother Absalom Jackson and other family members who were heirs to the estate, agreed to sell land and 19 of the 135 enslaved, including the seven members of my family – Prissy and her six children.

The Autauga Citizen (Prattville, Alabama) 20 Dec 1860

State of Alabama
auga County

22 Dec 1860

This instrument following that on Thursday 20th December a meeting was held between Absalom Jackson admin of Crawford M. Jackson deceased who as distributor of said estate was entitled to one half there of, Mrs. Temperance E. Young, Nimrod W Long (represented under a power of attorney by James O. Long) James O. Long, Evans A Long, and Lunceford C Long each of the last being entitled as distributed to one fifth part of the other half of said estate – and Mrs. Temperance Jackson who by agreement with all the distributes above named had released her claim to the indebtedness due her by the estate for an assignment of all said distributes of one sixth part of the said estate – this meeting was held for the purpose in the first place of setting apart the slaves to be sold by the administrate for the payment of debts under the decree? Of this court of probate already made.

2. Secondly to set apart to Mrs. Temperance Jackson one sixth part of the negroes (sic) remaining for division – thirdly to set apart to Absalom Jackson and the other distributes above named their respective share of the negroes (sic) remaining for division during these – by agreement between the parties the ??? named slaves were set apart to be sold by the administrator for payment of debts under the decree above referred to, to wit

            names                         ages             estimate value

1.         Coosa                           13                    $1065.00
2.         Lucy                             13                     1030.00
3.         Fanny                          15                     1500.00
4.         Mathew                       31                     1400.00
7.        Justin & 2 children    26                     1400.00
8.         Naomi                           8                        550.00
9.         Rush                             6                        400.00
10       Jenny Lind                   5                        275.00
11       Anna                             2                        200.00
12       Prissy                          35                     1000.00. My 2X great grandmother
13       Harjo                             9                         900.00
14       Griffin                           8                         900.00
15       Frank Prince                6                         650.00
16       Jim Buck                     23                     1500.00
17       Delila child of Prissy   2                        200.00
18       Iba                  “          12                     1004.00
19       Mary               “             4                       450.00.
My great grandmother

Which negroes (sic) are retained by the audit for sale as above – stated, the value set down being taken from the appraisement, but it being appointed that slaves are not worth as much …

The Autauga Citizen (Prattville, Alabama) 20 Dec 1860

Things I wonder – Who bought them? A family member or someone else? Was the family kept together? Why were these particular people chosen to be auctioned off? In 1870, the first census after Freedom, the whole family appears together. Except for Harjo. Did he die? Was he sold away? Did he change his name?

If you can make out any of the words I skipped or any of the words I wrote but may have transcribed wrong, please let me know!

Mapping Montgomery (Part 2)

The houses of the members of the Edelweiss Club, numbered according to the order in which the members would have been covered during the A to Z. Schools are lettered in purple. The Centennial Community is outlined in yellow. The Alabama River is upper left.Click to enlarge

I looked at Sanborn maps to locate the members of the Edelweiss Club. First I had to find out where they lived. In the items in The Emancipator the address of the house where the meeting was to be hosted was often given, but that didn’t happen every time and it didn’t tell me where the other members lived, nor where they were in relationship to each other.  I did what I do when I am studying people, I made each of them a tree on All 37 of them, or as many as I could find.

I searched for them in the Montgomery City Directory for 1919 or in the U.S. census for 1920. Those gave me their addresses and their occupation. If I found the census and they were living with their families (most were) I also found their ages, their parents ages and occupations and information about their siblings. With that information I could start a tree later to learn more. At the beginning, I just wanted to find basic information for my blog post and then I wanted to find where they lived. When I decided to write something about them for National Novel Writing Month, I created more complete trees to find out when they moved to Montgomery, if they married, if they moved out of Montgomery to points North, East and West.

Where did the women live in Montgomery? Were they spread out or did they live near each other? I have only been to Montgomery twice, once in 1975 and once in 2009. I knew where the neighborhood my grandmother had lived in was, and it was mostly torn down and absorbed into downtown Montgomery. The building that housed her uncle Victor Tulane’s grocery store, was still standing, but that was about it. What churches did the members attend? Were they active in church work? Did they sing in a group? For those that worked in a family business, as my grandmother Fannie Turner did, where was the business located? Was there (hopefully) an old and faded photograph of it in the paper? Was there, perhaps a photo of the young woman in the newspaper? And a question difficult to find an answer to, were the unidentified women in my grandmother’s photo album Edelweiss members?

While looking for information, I came across a document about gentrifying, they called it “rehabbing”. It the area where Victor Tulane’s store was and they gave me a name for the neighborhood where the store, my family and most of the Edelweiss members lived – The Centennial Community, a historic black Montgomery community. Some of the churches and schools and a few of my family had lived in the black community known as West Montgomery. That was where Washington Park, where the last dance was held, was located. It was on the other side of town from the Centennial Community. I found where the “Peacock Tract”, an early black, community was located and why there was a school way up in the northeast part of the city – another smaller, black community. Some of these questions I have answered – I found most of the members lived within walking distance of each other. At least so it looks on the map. I found all of my family members living within walking distance of each other. I located cemeteries, churches, drugstores, and private schools. There were a number of schools that were not a part of the public school system that had been started by northern missionaries after the Civil War. Aside from finding where the young women lived using the Sanborn maps, I was also able to find the relative size of the houses and schools. For the schools and churches, the type of heat and the source of light was given. If the streets were paved or not was more information. Most of the streets were not paved. Some of the schools had no heat. Lights were lanterns, or big windows in some cases.  Reading the news articles, there were many drives by black citizens to raise money to repair schools, buy equipment and even built new additions.

Members of the Edelweiss Club (Part 1)

Madeline Abercrombie and unidentified friend from my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s album.

During the time of the Edelweiss Club – 1918 – 1919, a flu pandemic raged. Schools were closed and then opened. Students returned to Montgomery from Fisk and Tuskegee due to the pandemic. People appeared on the sick list in The Emancipator newspaper. Some died.

The United States became involved in the first world war. Times were far from calm and peaceful, but the women met and ate delicious refreshments, played whist, went to work, and lived their lives a hundred years ago.

The Edelweis Club was entertained last Friday evening by Miss Jessie Freeman. After whist the members of the club were served to a delightful luncheon. The guests were Misses Alice Snow, Lucile Caffey and Opheloa (sic) Peterson. The prizes were won by Miss Juanita Davis and Miss Annie Wimbs.

Who were the members of the Edelweiss Club?  Thirty-seven women attended the monthly meetings judging from news items that appeared in The Emancipator, beginning on January 12, 1918 and continuing monthly during the school year, until May 3, 1919. Some were members and some were guests and not all were present at every meeting. Thirty of them were teachers. One was a seamstress. Three worked in family businesses.  The other three were not employed and were relatives of members. Most of the members were single, some married as time went on. Some moved out of town.  A good number never married.

All of them came from literate homes. Most of their parents owned their homes, either free and clear or mortgaged. Their fathers tended to work for themselves as barbers, carpenters and plasterers. Bertha Loveless’ father was an undertaker. Madge Brown’s father was a farmer. Alberta Boykin’s father was a mail carrier. Several lived with their widowed mother or an aunt.  Most had multiple siblings.

Their parents were born in the mid 1850s to 1870 and would have been teenagers when slavery ended or were born during Reconstruction. Several were from families that were free before the Civil war. There were several clusters of cousins descended from unrelated women who were free and living in Montgomery before the Civil War.

There were no more reported meetings after May 3, 1919. The last event was a picnic dance given on June 16, just 3 days before my grandparents, Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham married and immediately moved to Detroit.