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
In 2018 I did a series of posts for the A to Z Challenge based on articles taken from The Emancipator, an African American newspaper published in Montgomery Alabama from 1917 – 1921. I mentioned the Edelweiss Club in several posts. There were 37 young women who attended the club meetings. They were friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner Graham.
In 2021 I planned to present snapshots from the lives of some of those women as my A to Z theme. I decided not to complete the challenge that year so only completed two biographies. This is the first one.
Madeline Abercrobie was born September 7, 1890. She was the second and youngest child of Nicholas and Frances Abercrombie. She had one brother ten years older than she was. He was named Nicholas after their father. Madeline lived in the house at 605 High Street for her whole life.
In the 1900 Census Madeline was nine years old. She and her family lived at 605 High Street and attended school for eight months of the year. She, along with everybody in the household was literate.
Her father Nicholas Abercrombie was 54 years old, a self employed barber. He first appears in the 1860 census before the Civil War as a free twenty year old mulatto living with two other young men, Jack and Napolean Abercrombie, also described as mulattos. All three were barbers and did quite well. By 1883, Nicholas owned his own home, which was mortgaged.
Madaline’s mother, Frances Abercrombie was 49 years old. She had given birth to two children and both were living. She worked as a seamstress from home. Two of her mother’s sisters lived in the household. Ida Abercrombie, was a teacher in the public schools. Mary Abercrombie was a seamstress, also working on her own account.
Fifteen year old Mary Hill lived with them. She was listed as a servant and was literate. She later became a teacher. She and Madaline both attended school for eight months of the year, the full school year. Everyone in the house was literate. Brother Nicholas was grown and living on his own.
In 1910 Madeline was 19. She attended school and was not employed. She was single. Her father, Nicholas was still barbering. They still lived at the same address on High Street. Their house was right down the street from Victor Tulane’s grocery store/residence. The First Congregational Church was across the street and down a block. They were well within the Centennial community.
Her mother, Frances, was no longer working as a seamstress. She had given birth to two children and both were still alive. Her first child, son Nicholas Jr. married and living with his wife and two small children nearby.
Frances’ sister Ida, 33, lived with them and taught school. They had two lodgers. Fannie Lewis a widow of 40 was a seamstress. She given birth to one still living child. Eulala Lewis, age 22 and single was a taught school. She was probably the daughter of Fannie Lewis.
Familiar Figure is Gone
A figure familiar to the city of Montgomery for the past sixty years, disappeared from the walks of men, when Nick Abercrombie, a widely known colored barber, died a few days ago. It is certain that Nicholas Abercrombie was above seventy years of age and it was probable that he was eighty. Yet he worked at the trade he had followed to the Saturday before his death on Monday.
He was born in Wetupka, but he came to Montgomery before the war, and he was a familiar figure in the business section of the city for three score years. For a long time he was a part of the force of Gallagher’s barbershop, that typically old fashioned barbershop on Dexter avenue which was favored by all the older generations of Montgomery to the very day its proprietor died and which had a large clientage that was never won away by the more modern shops.
In this place Nicholas Abercrombie shaved and conversed with a long line of governors of Alabama. For that matter he has probably shaved every public man in Alabama, big or little. He had courtly manners, which he brought down from the old South, and he was popular with the public of Alabama. He stood well in the esteem of both races in Montgomery. He had many recollections of the men who have made Alabama history.
The funeral, which was held at his home on High street, the services were conducted by Bishop C. M. Beckwith of the Alabama Diocese of the Episcopal Church. Many floral offerings testified to the esteem in which he was held. He reared and educated a large family which stands in the front rank of their race in the city. He is survived by his aged wife, three daughters and one son, Nicholas Abercrombie, Jr.
23 Mar 1917, Fri • Page 7 The Montgomery Advertiser Montgomery, Alabama
Madaline Abercrombie began teaching in 1917 at the age of 26. At first she taught in the public schools and then began giving private music lessons in her home. In 1930 at the age of 39, she married Joseph Albert. First a bit about the Edelweiss Club and then a summary of her later life.
The Edelweiss Club had it’s first regular meeting at the home of Miss. Madeline Abercrombie on High St., Friday evening Nov. 22nd despite the inclement weather, the following were present; Misses Alberta Boykin, Clara Bailey, Juanita Davis, Jessie Freeman, Ernestine Shaw, Willease Simpson, Bessie Nelms, Cecile Walton, Effie Todd, Fannie Turner, Annie Wimbs, and Mrs. Alice Cotton.
Misses Todd, Davis and Wimbs were awarded the prizes. After a delicious salad course, the club adjourned to meet with Miss Juanita Davis Dec. 6th.
Weather Forecast. For Montgomery and Vicinity – rain tonight; Friday, cloudy and much colder. East to southeast winds, shifting to north tonight or Friday morning and becoming fresh to strong. For Alabama – rain tonight; colder in north portion. Friday, colder and generally fair.
24 November 1918 Montgomery, Alabama
This has been some cold day, but we went to church this A.M. and heard a splendid sermon on “Thanksgiving,” Rev Scott never spoke better. He’s really great. The people never will appreciate him until he’s gone. Last Sunday was Harvest and it was fairly good. Might have been better but for the flu. They realized $12.50 from it. (note: = about $209 in today’s money) Our club held it’s first meeting last Friday evening at Madeline’s. She put on a strut too. We certainly had a good time. We are all feeling okay. Mama is so much better, though she complains yet...
From a letter my future grandmother Fannie Turner wrote to my future grandfather, Shell Graham (ie. Mershell)
One of those things that warms a teacher’s heart happened to Mrs. Madeline Abercrombie Albert of 609 High St. recently. Her former pupils gave her a surprise party.
About 30 of the hundreds of Montgomery children she has taught to play the piano over nearly a half-century showed up. And her students include some accomplished musicians.
One of them teaches music in the Montgomery school system now. Another plays for a band of professional musicians. Others include doctors, lawyers and a host of other professionals. She’s proud to have taught them.
“I just charged 25 cents a lesson,” she says. That was two lessons a week at $2 a month. Her prices didn’t go up with inflation of everything else during the years.
Born in Montgomery in 1890, she is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.
She taught second and third grade in Bessemer for 10 years, then for a while at Booker T Washington here. She began to teach piano at her home, which she continued for another 40 years before she retired in 1967.
“I played jazz and everything.” She says. “They used to have matinees in the old Majestic Theatre on Bibb Street. I got $18 the first week playing for that.”
Her piano pupils, numbering as many as 70 a year came in shifts, one after another, from the wee hours of 5 a.m. or so, sometimes into the wee hours of the next day.
She also played without pay nearly 15 years at St. John’s A.M.E. Church. She’s now a communicant of St. John the Baptist Church.
She likes waltzes, “That’s not dancing,” she says of today’s dance styles.
And she is a trained hairdresser.
She claims mixed heritage. Both parents were born in slavery, her father the son of a white Scotch-Irishman, she says – Stan Bailey.
Alabama Journal Jan 9, 1973, pg 5
Madaline Albert died April 30 1973, Montgomery, Alabama United States. She was 72 years old and a widow.
Albert, Mrs. Madaline, 609 High Street died at her home Monday. Funeral Services will be Saturday at 11 a.m. from St. John Catholic Church South Union Street. Rev. Michael J. Farrell will officiate. Burial will be in Oakwood Cemetery, Ross-Clayton Funeral Home directing. Survivors include a foster son, Reuben Cotton; devoted friends. Mrs. Carrie B. Brown. Mrs. Amanda Grayson, Mrs. Gertrude Graysen, and other relatives. She was a retired teacher of piano. Rosary will be Friday at 7 p.m. at the Funeral Chapel. The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama) · 3 May 1973, Thu · Page 57
Today I found a new app on My Heritage, Deep Nostalgia. It takes still photographs of faces and animates them. It was a bit strange, who knows if that is how the actual people moved when they were alive and moving. It was interesting to play around with though.
Below is are animated photos of Eliza (who this blog is named for) and Dock Allen, my 2X great grandparents through the maternal line. Click links below to see animations.
Mr. Joe Jackson was the youngest son of Annie Mae Graham, my grandfather Mershell C. Graham’s sister. In his early youth he was known by Michele, but later changed to Joe. A thank you to my cousin Cedric Jenkins for sharing this program with me.