This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.
My 2X great grandmother Eliza Williams Allen was born into slavery on the plantation of Col. Edmund Harrison and his wife Jane Starke Irvin Harrison. Her mother was Ann Williams, a seamstress on the plantation. Who her father was is not known. When the youngest daughter of the Harrison’s, Martha James, married Milton Saffold in 1851, Eliza went with her as a wedding gift. Martha was 18 when she married. Eliza was about 12.
Martha gave birth to three sons before she died in 1856. At 16, Eliza gave birth to Saffold’s daughter in 1856. In 1857, Saffold married Georgia Whiting. Eliza was 17 when Saffold freed her and Mary. In 1860 I found them living, free, on a small farm with Nancy Wiggins and her daughters. I haven’t found a connection between Nancy and Eliza.
Later that year she met Dock Allen when he hid in the barn while escaping from a master known for cruelty and keeping vicious dogs to hunt escapees. Dock and Eliza married. They had 13 children. Eight lived to adulthood. After Freedom, Eliza’s mother, Annie Williams lived with the family until she died in 1898.
Eliza was a seamstress and Dock was a carpenter. Although neither of them were literate, they sent all of the children to school, the oldest through elementary school and the youngest completed two years of college. The family owned their own home in Montgomery’sCentennial Hill Community.
Eliza died on June 22, 1917 at 77 years of age and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery.
After posting about my great grandmother Jennie Virginia Allan Turner a few days ago, Kathy of Porch Swings, Fireflies, and Jelly Jars blog, read my post and found an item announcing my great grandparents marriage in Huntsville Gazette on GenealogyBank. I first thought there must be a mistake because my great grandparents were married in Montgomery, but she sent me a copy of the item and it was my great grandparents wedding announcement! The newspaper was The Huntsville Gazette, a black paper published in Huntsville.
I found another article that also mentioned my great grandmother, her sister Annie and brother Doc. I happy to find other names that I recognized from later on when they were parents and their children were young adults. Below is part of the 1886 article, my great grandparents marriage license and the item about their marriage. I will publish the first part of this very long article later.
… And now it remains for us passing in silence much that is deserving of mention which the limits of this letter forbid to touch briefly on sociallife at the Capital City. The order of the pleasant topic is most appropriate falling like desert, last. For what does life offer nobler than the cultivation of the social virtues, the pure pleasures enjoyed by the association of “social friends attuned to happy unison of soul”
And it is a distinction and an honor for Montgomery to lead the State in this matter. From this taste for social life have spring such sociates as “The Merry Twelve Club.” The Literary Assembly, and like organizations, worthy of emulation by our society lovers everywhere.
Mr. and Mrs. J M C Logan courteously renewed, our opportunity to witness and enjoy the grace and elegance of a Montgomery sociacle by one of these charming events at their cozy residence Friday evening. The beauty of the city was fittingly represented by the lovely belles of society, Misses Venus Hardaway, Lillian E. Brewster, Jennie V. and Annie Allen: the “gallantry” by Dr. C N Dorsette, Prof Dorset,, and Messrs Doc Allen, Percy Beckwith and Wille Tate; Birmingham was represented by her young merchant prince Mr. Jno H Binford and Huntsville by David Hall Esq. and “Ye Editor” of the GAZETTE. From the unique leaflet of a card bearing the name of each honored quest in the bold, handsome hand of the host coupled with the tiniest and prettiest of bouquets which graced the plate of each guest every thing was in exquisite taste and exquisitely enjoyed. But to expect less from the distinguished host and hostess (by the by formerly a Huntsville belle) would be to detract from their reputation.
Our stay in Montgomery was made more than comfortable more than welcome under the hospitable roof
Miss Jennie V Allen and Mr Howard Turner, of Lowndes county, were married on the 9th. Miss Jennie was among the most charming young ladies of our social gatherings and will be sadly missed now that she has married and settled down elsewhere to grace another circle.
“Montgomery Capital Chit Chat,” Huntsville Gazette: Huntsville, AL. Saturday 25, June 1887. p. 2
My great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Allen, was born October 1, 1866 in Montgomery Alabama, seven months after the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. She was the forth child of formerly enslaved Eliza and Dock Allen. Her mother was a seamstress and her father was a carpenter. The girls were taught the seamstress trade while the boys were taught the carpenters trade. She married Howard Turner in 1887 when she was 20 and Howard was 23. My grandmother Fannie was born the following year. According to the 1940 Census she completed the sixth grade.
Below are my mother’s memories of her grandmother.
Memories of grandmother
By Doris Graham Cleage
Today I’m going to write about Grandmother. Grandmother Turner was born about 1872, nine years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Don’t know if she finished high school – but she did go. Her mother taught her to sew and it was a good thing she did because grandmother worked the rest of her life supporting herself and her children at sewing. That is, she worked after husband Howard Turner died. They married when she was about sixteen. Don’t know his age. He looked something like grandmother’s father and also like my father, mother said. He was a farmer’s son from around Hayneville, AL, but he preferred the big city – Montgomery. His father had three sons and planned to give each one a large share of the farm when they married. Howard and Jenny received their farm, but neither one liked the country. One day they were in Montgomery. He was at a Bar-B-Q. She was at her parents with their daughters, Fannie Mae, 4, and Daisy Pearl, 2. someone brought word that he had been shot dead. Apparently no one ever knew who did it, but mother always said grandmother thought his father had it done because he was angry that Howard would not farm and had even been talking about selling his part. The father did not want the land sold, but wanted it to stay in the family forever. (Bless his heart!). He and the son had had some terrible arguments before they left to come to the Bar-B-Q. I often wondered why he was there and grandmother wasn’t. She always seemed to like a good time.
I remember her laughing and singing and dancing around the house on Theodore. She was short, about five feet I guess, with brown eyes, thin dark brown hair that she wore in a knot. She was very energetic, always walking fast. She always wore oxfords, often on the wrong feet, and never had time to change them. We used to love to tell her that her shoes were on the wrong feet. (smart kids!)
She never did things with us like read to us or play with us, but she made us little dresses. I remember two in particular she made me that I especially liked. My “candy-striped” dress – a red white and blue small print percale. She put a small pleated ruffle around the collar and a larger one around the bottom. I was about five, I guess, and I really thought I was cool! The other favorite was an “ensemble” – thin, pale green material with a small printed blue green and red flower in it – just a straight sleeveless dress with neck and sleeves piped in navy blue – and a three – quarter length coat of the same material – also straight -with long sleeves and lapels – also piped in navy blue. She never used a pattern. Saw something and made it! She taught us some embroidery, which she did beautifully but not often. She never fussed at us – never criticized – and I think she rocked me in the upstairs hall on Theodore when I was little and sick. The rocker Daddy made stood in that hall. I remember lots of people rocking in that chair when I was small.
Grandmother went to work when her husband was murdered – sewing for white folks – out all day fitting and sewing – and sewing all night – finishing while mother and Daisy stayed with their Grandfather Allen, who would tell on them when Grandmother came home and she would spank them. Mother said she remembered telling Daisy to holler loudly so Grandmother wouldn’t spank them hard or long and it worked!
Grandmother stayed single until she was about 37 or 38 when she married someone Mother hated – looked Italian, hardly ever worked. Liked a good time. Fathered Alice and left when she was very small. Somehow when mother spoke of him I had the feeling he would have like to have taken advantage of her. She was about 20 and had given up two college scholarships to stay and help Grandmother.
Sometimes after her husband’s death, Grandmother took the deed to the farm to a white lawyer. (was there any other kind?) and told him to sell it for her. He went to see it and check it out – told her to forget it – her title wasn’t clear, but he never gave the deed back and she figured he made a deal with her father-in-law. (The rest of the land story.)
Aunt Abbie (note: Jennie’s sister) said the father-in-law built Grandmother and Howard a “shotgun” house on the farm. She would turn up her nose as she said it. You know that is a house like this – no doors on front or back, you could shoot a gun through hall without damage. Animals (pigs, dogs) would wander into the hall and have to be driven out. Aunt Abbie only stayed there when the plague was raging in Montgomery. Yellow fever (malaria) and/or polio every summer. Many people sick or dying. Huge bonfires in the streets every night to ‘purify’ the air”, and closing the city if it got bad enough – no one in or out. More than once they fled the city in a carriage through back streets and swamps because they were caught by the closing which was done suddenly to keep folks from leaving and spreading the “plague”
In Detroit, when they came in 1923 when Mother and Daddy had bought the house on Theodore and had room for them (room? only 5 adults and 3 children!) Grandmother, Daisy and Alice got good jobs, (they were good – sewing fur coats, clean work and good pay.) at Annis Furs (remember it back of Hudsons?) and soon had money to buy their own house much farther east on a “nice” street in a “better ” neighborhood (no factories) on Harding Ave. While they lived with us I remember violent arguments between Alice and I don’t know who – either Grandmother or Daisy or Mother. Certainly not Daddy because when he spoke it was like who in the Bible who said, “When I say go, they goeth. When I say come, they cometh.” Most of the time I remember him in the basement, the backyard or presiding at table. Daisy and grandmother were what we’d call talkers.
Grandmother got old, hurt her knee, it never healed properly. Daisy worked and supported the house alone. Alice only worked a little while. She had problems getting along with people. Grandmother was eventually senile. Died of a stroke at 83 or so. Alice spent years taking care of her while Daisy worked. Daisy added to their income by being head numbers writer at Annis!!
I got this from Wikipedia about playing the numbers. “The numbers game, also known as the numbers racket, the policy racket, the Italian lottery, the policy game, or the daily number, is a form of illegal gambling or illegal lottery played mostly in poor and working class neighborhoods in the United States, wherein a bettor attempts to pick three digits to match those that will be randomly drawn the following day. In recent years, the “number” would be the last three digits of “the handle”, the amount race track bettors placed on race day at a major racetrack, published in racing journals and major newspapers in New York.
Gamblers place bets with a bookmaker (“bookie”) at a tavern, bar, barber shop, social club, or any other semi-private place that acts as an illegal betting parlor. Runners carry the money and betting slips between the betting parlors and the headquarters, called a numbers bank or policy bank. The name “policy” is based on the similarity to cheap insurance, which is also a gamble on the future.”
I think the numbers writer – Daisy in this case, would take the bets in the store (the numbers people picked and their bet money) and pass them along to the numbers runner, who would take them to the center. She would get a cut.
Dock Allen was my 2X great grandfather. He was my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather. He was born into slavery about 1839 in Georgia to 19 year old enslaved Matilda Brewster. Eventually he was taken to Alabama. I do not know what happened to his mother.
It had been a wet spring, that 1860 in Dallas County, Alabama. Dock Allen was 21 years old and already a good carpenter. He was a white man’s son, but the man who then held him in slavery was not his father. His owner was known as a cruel man who kept vicious dogs to instill fear in his slaves. He wanted them to be afraid to run. When Dock made up his mind to escape, he had a plan to throw the dogs off of his track. There was a swampy area where wild ramps grew. He rubbed himself with them, poured the water on himself and rolled around in the field so the strong onion odor would hide his own human smell.
He had been running and running. He was bone tired. He could hear the dogs tracking him in the distance when he came to a small farm near Carlowville. He couldn’t go any further. He climbed up into the hay loft, covered himself with hay and lay there barely breathing. The dogs came into the hay room. He could feel their breath as they walked over him, but they didn’t smell him because of the ramps. Eventually they left.
This was the same place where Eliza and her small daughter Mary, lived. Eliza had been freed several years before. She lived on the farm of Nancy Morgan. Did Eliza hear the dogs and see Dock stumble into the yard? Did she silently direct him to hide in the hay?
For unknown reasons Dock decided to give himself up. Nancy sent a message to his master. It wasn’t long before he came to the house. He said that no one had ever out smarted his dogs and that any man who was smart enough to do that deserved to be free and he freed Dock. Dock stayed on that place and he and Eliza married. They stayed together until he died in 1909 at age70.
Reconstruction and After
Dock Allen registered to vote in Montgomery, Alabama in 1867. In 1870 the family appears in the same household with a wealthy white cotton broker and his family. I cannot find the house in the Sanborn Fire Maps so I don’t know if there were two houses on the lot. In 1875 he was again among the voters. Unfortunately Reconstruction came to an end in 1877 when the Union soldiers left the South and black people were once again without a vote for a hundred years.
The Montgomery City Directory starts with 1880, so I am not sure when the family moved into their own house, but from 1880 – 1904 Dock Allen and his growing family owned the house on the corner of Clay and Holt. Dock and Eliza raised nine of the thirteen children born to them to adulthood. There were six girls and three boys. All of them attended State Normal school through the elementary grades and were literate. The youngest daughter completed high school and two additional years there.
In 1882 the oldest boy Henry drowned in the Alabama River, which was about a block from their home. The third son, Dock Allen Jr. drowned in August 1891 trying to walk the moonlit path from a boat.
After her husband was killed at a barbecue in June 1891, my great grandmother Jennie Virginia moved back to her parent’s house with her two young daughters. My grandmother Jennie was four years old and her younger sister Daisy was two.
His daughter Abbie married a river boat gambler and had two sons. Earl was born in 1896 and Alphonso was born two years later. I don’t know if she ever left home.
1900 Census, she and her two young sons were living in her parents home. Beulah, the youngest child, was still at home. In 1900 there were the four grandchildren (ages 11, 7, 5 & 3), three daughters, Eliza and Dock living in the house at 237 Clay Street. The women were all seamstresses and Doc was a carpenter. Oldest daughter Mary lived next door with her husband and five children. Daughter Anna had moved to Chicago where she was passing for white.
My mother Doris Graham Cleage wrote the following about her mother’s growing up years:
… I know very little about their childhood except that they spent most of it in their Grandfather Allen’s house (which was in Montgomery) because their father died when Mother was about four and Jennie T. had to work to support them. It was a big house, Mother said, with a big porch around two sides and pecan trees in the big backyard. She never used the words “happy” or “unhappy” to describe her childhood and I have the feeling that it was happy on the whole. She told several incidents:
Their Grandfather took care of them while Jennie T. worked and when they were bad, he told Jennie T., who would sometimes spank them. Mother said she told Daisy to cry loudly when Jennie T. spanked them and so make the spanking short and not too hard. She said this worked! (This always surprised me because I never thought of Mother as a person who ever consciously manipulated people. Whenever she told this…and she didn’t mention it until she was in her eighties…she looked very pleased with herself.)
Everyday her Grandfather swept the backyard “smooth as silk” (it was dirt) and told Mother and Daisy not to set foot on it. (I hope this was just part of the yard and they had some space left for play, but I don’t know.) They got spanked with the flat of his saw if they made footprints on it. Mother said they would play on it when he dozed off, not realizing their footprints would give them away.
On Sundays they could do absolutely no work at all. Dinner had to be cooked the day before and could be warmed up. They couldn’t even sew a button on. They all went to the Congregational Church (black, of course) every Sunday morning. In the afternoons, Mother had to read the Bible to her Grandfather who would often doze off during the reading. Mother would get up and play and watch and run back if he seemed to be waking up. I don’t know if he still did carpenter work at this time. Mother said he was a good cabinetmaker and would make furniture for people. I don’t know if this is all he did or if he also built houses or what. But I do know he made cabinets, tables, chairs, beds and whatever.
Changes in 1904
James Edward McCall is the oldest son of Ed McCall, for twenty-three years a cook at the Montgomery police station and one of the best known and most respected negroes (sic) in Montgmery. Ed McCall was owned by W.T. McCall of Lowndes County. His aged master is still living on the old plantation and he has no truer friend or more devoted servant than Ed McCall. The mother of the young poet was Mary Allen, daughter of Doc Allen, for many years a well to do negro (sic) carpenter of Montgomery. She was owned before the war by the late colonel Edmund Harrison of this county.”
Beulah married in 1901. In 1904 Dock Allen and the family moved to 444 S. Ripley street. Jennie married the following year. She lived several blocks from the house on Ripley street.
Dock lived there for five years before he died on March 29, 1909 of “inflammatory bowels” after an illness of several weeks. His mother is listed as Matilda Brewster on his death certificate. No father is listed. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery.
I would like to find information about a runaway matching his description in the Dallas/Lowndes county area around 1860.
I found this information in records on Ancestry and elsewhere, newspaper articles in the Montgomery Advertiser, Sanborn Maps and oral history from family members.
My grandfather Mershell C. Graham was born in Coosada Station, Elmore County around 1886. He was not given a middle name. He picked “Cunningham” as an adult. His father farmed. He had a sister and several brothers. At some point the brothers all left for the city, leaving their sister Annie, who stayed in Elmore County for her whole life.
The two older brothers, William and Crawford disappeared into the unknown after the 1880 Census. My grandfather left for nearby Montgomery and from there to Detroit. Jacob died young. Abraham moved first to Nashville, Tennessee and then to Cleveland Ohio, where he died in 1948 of tuberculosis.
Click all images to enlarge in a new window.
The 1910 Unitd States Census is the first census that my grandfather Mershell (Shell) Graham appears in. Twenty-two year old Shell worked at a railroad repair shop in Waycross Georgia. He was boarding with Irwin and Mary Warren and their three daughters. The Warrens owned their home free of mortgage. Irwin Warren worked as a car inspector for the railroad. Mary Warren did not work outside the home. She had birthed four children and three were living. The daughters, ages 18,15 and 7, attended school. Everyone in the household was literate and identified as black. Below is the household with Mershell Graham at the bottom as a border.
“Waycross began as a crossroads for southeastern travel. We were first a hub for stagecoach traffic, and then became a center for the railroad when it laid its tracks in the mid 1800’s. As the Plant System Railroad started to grow, so did the town surrounding it.” Waycross Facts
Mershell was close friend with Cliffton John Graham, who was not a blood relative. He lived with the family for five or six years before migrating to Detroit. My grandmother referred to Mary Graham, Cliff’s mother as her mother-in-law. Cliff came to Detroit at around the same time as my grandfather
Death of friend Cliff’s father Joseph L Graham(1853–1910) December 28 1909. Montgomery, Alabama, USA
Age 24 — In 1912 Mershell Graham lived at 715 Union Street. This was his close friend, John Clifton Graham’s family’s home. My grandfather was a waiter and Cliff was a bartender. Also living in the house were Cliff’s widowed mother Mary and his sister Mattie.
The asterisk in front of a name meant that they were black. The dots were added by me. (m) means married. (wid) means widow. The letter “h” before the address means “house”. The letter “b” before the address means boards. The Grahams that are not marked, are not in the household with my grandfather Mershell.
My grandfather Shell’s brother Jacob was three years younger. Jacob died from TB at age 21, on June 30, 1913 in Montgomery County at the Fresh Air Camp. The Fresh Air Camp was set up to try and give health to those with TB.
In 1914 my grandfather was 26. The Graham’s had moved from Union street to 224 Tuscalousa. Mary Grham was working as a cook. Clifton and Mershell were both bartending. Mattie was a teacher.
Age 27 – Residence 1915 • Montgomery, 224 Tuscaloosa bartender
In 1916 my grandfather was living with the Grahams at 224 Tuscalousa. His employment is listed as “Farmer.” Clifton is now a funeral dirrector, Mary is a widow and Mattie is no longer in the home, she was studying nursing in Kansas City.
By late 1916, early 1917 my grandfather had made the move to Detroit. He received a letter dated February 16, 1917 from Seligman & Marx at 293 Catherine Street. Catherine Street was located in Detroit’s Black Bottom.
Other posts about Mershell C Graham going to Detroit
Annie Graham was the only one of my grandfather Mershell’s five siblings alive for the 1950 Census. She was also the only one who never left Elmore County, Alabama. I have not been able to find her in the 1940 US Census. In 1950 she was listed as the head of the household, 61 years old, a widow and unable to work.
Living with her was her youngest son 28 year old Joe Jackson and his new wife 21 year old Ethel. Joe worked as a janitor at a church. He had worked 40 hours the previous week. Ethel was keeping house. All three members of the household were listed as Negro and were born in Alabama.
In 1950 in Alabama, including Elmore County, black people were denied the right to vote. Schools were still segregated. The bus boycott that desegregated buses in nearby Montgomery took place in 1955. Schools were desegregated in 1965, 9 years after the Brown vs. Board of education decision declared segregated schools unconstitutional. Voting rights weren’t won until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Annie Graham died at 79 in 1964. She never had a chance to vote.
A doctrine and strategy in which the rights of the individual states are protected by the U.S. Constitution from interference by the federal government...
States’ rights were revived in the late 1940s over the matter of race. In the 1948 election, Democrat HARRY S. TRUMAN pushed for a more aggressive CIVIL RIGHTS policy. Southern opponents, known as the “Dixiecrats,” bolted the DEMOCRATIC PARTY and ran their own candidate, J. STROM THURMOND. Their “states’ rights” platform called for continued racial segregation and denounced proposals for national action on behalf of civil rights.
Desegregation efforts of the 1950s and 1960s, including the Supreme Court’s decision in BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA, KANSAS, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954), which ruled that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional, also met with Southern resistance. Segregationists again argued for state sovereignty, and developed programs of massive resistance to racial INTEGRATION in public education, public facilities, housing, and access to jobs.
Other Posts about Annie Graham and Elmore County, Alabama
Jennie Virginia Allen Turner was my maternal grandmother’s mother and Eliza’s daughter. This photo was taken about 1918, before my grandmother Fannie, married my grandfather. They lived in Montgomery, Alabama.
Jennie was a widow and was a seamstress, working for herself. Fannie managed her Uncle Victor Tulane’s grocery store. Daisy was a teacher and Alice was at home.
After her marriage my grandmother moved to Detroit with her new husband, Mershell C. Graham. Several years later, the rest of the family joined them.
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.
State of Alabama Autauga 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 …
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!
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 ancestry.com. 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.
Recently while looking through my tree for the Jackson Family of Autauga County, Alabama, (which I have long suspected of being the slave holders for my maternal grandfather Mershell Graham’s family), I found the will and estate file for Crawford Motley Jackson who died in 1860. In the file I found my grandfather’s mother Mary Jackson listed along with her mother Prissy Jackson.
The list was arranged in family groups, with the names, ages and appraisement. values. I added the birth years. This is the full list of 135 people enslaved by C. M. Jackson at his death. The underlined names signal a new family group.
A list of negroes (sic) belonging to C. M Jackson deceased presented to undersigned, George Rives, John D. Graves and Philip Fitzpatrick appointed appraisers of said estate by Probate Court of Autauga County Alabama on the 15th of March 1860 by Absalin Jackson administrator of said estate with appraised value of same made by us opposite their names.
Name Age Birth Valued
Ned 57 1803 $215
Clem 57 1803 60 (unsound)
Richard 25 1835 60 (unsound)
Rachel & 19 1841 1400
Giles 50 1810 1330
Ester & 35 1825 750 (unsound)
Katherin 11 1849 800
Eliza 9 1851 550
Giles Jr 15 1845 1100
Daniel 3 1857 300
Edmund 33 1828 1530
Belinda 35 1825 1000
Ben 15 1845 1130
Coosa 13 1847 1065
Oran 12 1848 930
Dorcus 10 1850 700
Mark 8 1852 530
Texas 6 1854 500
Labun 3 1857 300
Peggy 2 1858 250
Mathew 31 1826 1400
Julia & 26 1834 1400
Lud 10 1850 800
Naomi 8 1852 550
Rush 6 1854 400
Jenny Lind 5 1855 275
Anna 2 1858 200
Clark 30 1830 1300
Amanda & 18 1842 1400
Winter 8 1852 500
Katy & 28 1832 1400
Jim Polk 6 1854 450
Maria 8 1852 550
Archy 4 1856 300
Peggy 27 1833 1200
Rocksy 7 1853 600
Jim 24 1836 1530
Harriett & 18 1842 1400
William 48 1812 1100
Vina 47 1813 850
Denis 18 1842 1500
Charlotte 16 1844 1400
Sam 13 1847 1150
Nelson 11 1849 1020
Rebecca 4 1856 400
Nancy 3 1857 300
Jacob 30 1830 1200
Martha & 27 1833 1430
Eliza 9 1851 700
Frank 7 1853 750
Henry 3 1857 300
Henry 25 1835 1500
Cloe 19 1841 1500
Abram 12 1848 1300
Jackson 21 1839 1500
Silva & 24 1836 1500
Franky 6 1854 450
Laura 3 1857 325
Laban 37 1823 1100
Aga 21 1839 1300
Billy 2 1858 275
Mary & 37 1823 1150
Ellenboro 38 1822 1200
Davy 18 1842 1300
Fanny 15 1845 1500
Lucy 13 1847 1030
Solly 9 1851 900
Isabell 6 1853 600
Lewis 4 1856 400
Prissy & 35 1825 1200– my great great grandmother.
Child Lizza 2 1858
Ibi 12 1848 1000
Harjo 9 1851 900
Griffin 8 1852 900
Frank Pierce 6 1854 600
Mary 4 1856 450 – my great grandmother
Allen 40 1820 900
Disy & 33 1827 1100
Noah 13 1947 1100
Phillis 11 1849 1000
Allen 8 1852 700
Sopha 5 1855 500
Edna 4 1846 325
General August 3 1857 200
B. Mary 41 1819 800
Jessy 17 1843 1400
Dallas 15 1845 1300
Betty 12 1848 1100
Vina 11 1849 1000
Louisa & 24 1836 1500
Jane 5 1865 400
Josephine 3 1857 275
Little Aaron 30 1860 1300
Amanda & 22 1838 1400
Harrison 3 1857 250
Pamela 2 1858 200
Old Sy no valuation assessed
D?? George 42 1838 800
Robert 36 1824 1300
Cysue 28 1832 1450
Joe 26 1834 1500
George 56 1804 300
Milly 46 1814 400
Charles 16 1844 1500
John 12 1848 1250
Menerva 10 1850 975
Georgiana 5 1855 425
Nick 45 1815 1100_________\
Violet & 41 1809 900
Child Richard 1 1859
Sarah & 21 1839 1000
Child Mrs. Tempe Jackson
Brown 19 1841 1100 has a lifetime estate
Peter 14 1842 1300 in these negroes (sic) at …
Hanna 12 1848 1000 Can’t read the rest.
Tennessee 10 1850 850
Pauline 8 1852 700
Jennetta 5 1855 500__________ /
Old Aaron 58 1802 250
Rose 56 1804 225
Joe Black 27 1833 1250
Jim 23 1837 1500
Washington 19 1841 1000
State of Alabama } Personally appeared before me John Zeigler acting justice of the Autauga County }peace in and for said county George Rives &, John D. Graves & Phillip Fitzpatrick appraisers of the Estate of Crawford M. Jackson deceased and being duly sworn , depose and say that the foregoing appraisement as agreed upon by them is just according to their knowledge and brief.
Sworn to and subscribed before me this the 5th day of April M. D. 1860