On a Sunday in December, when my aunt Mary Virginia was eight months old, my grandmother held her on a tricycle for a photo opp.
The baby doesn’t look very happy about it. She looks cold, or terrified.Even though the weather called for rain instead of snow which made it rather warm for Detroit, I imagine it was still pretty cold.
I don’t know if the tricycle was an early Christmas gift or if it belonged to another child, a friend of the family because Mary Vee was the first and oldest child of my grandparents, Fannie and Mershell Graham.
Another photograph with a story I don’t know.
This is not the first time Bicycles have been a sepia Saturday prompt. Here are some of my past responses:
Albert and Pearl Cleage at home. This was a tiny photo, probably cut from a proof sheet my grandparents doesn’t have the best exposure.It was taken in the house on Scotten Avenue in Detroit, in the mid 1930s.
Here is a better photo of youngest daughter Anna holding a bag of groceries and eating an ice cream cone on her way into the house when one of her brothers stopped her to take a photo. I bet they didn’t offer to carry that bag in though.
Avalon Pierce was the granddaughter of Abram and Amanda Cleag. Her mother was their daughter, Sarah Idena Cleag Pierce. After her parents troubled marriage ended in divorce, Avalon was raised by her grandparents. She attended school and was literate. She signed her grandmother’s pension application because Amanda could not write.
Six months after her grandfather’s death, Avalon died of Pulmonary tuberculosis, on a Tuesday morning at home. She was about fifteen years old.
Avalon is buried next to her grandfather Abram.
In 2019 the Historical Society of Long Beach, CA, Avalon Pierce, granddaughter of Abram and Amanda Cleag, was brought to life by Tori-Ann Hampton. Above she tells her story as found in various records, newspaper articles and speculations.
Amanda’s sister Liddie helped her during her injury, hospitalization and handled the burial details. She wrote to the government to be reimbursed for the money she had spent. She did receive it.
Application for Reimbursement
State of Tennessee County of Shelby
On this 18 day of Oct 1921
Liddie Glass, age 67 years, a resident of Memphis county of
Shelby, state of Tennessee, who, being duly sworn according to law, makes the
following declaration in order to obtain reimbursement from the accrued pension
for expenses paid (or obligation incurred) in the last sickness and burial of
Amanda Cleag, who was a pensioner of the United States by certificate No.
686390 on account of the service of Abram Cleag private in Co. I 1 Reg U. S. Col
vol H. A.
That pension was last paid to May 4, 1921 Was in hospital on August, 4 not at home and couldn’t return it.
1. What was the full name of deceased pensioner? Amanda
2. In what capacity was deceased pension? Widow
3 If deceasent was pensioned as an invalid soldier or sailor
a. Was s/he ever married? yes b. How many times and to whom? Abram Cleag. Once. c. If married, did his wife survive him? Yes
4. Was there insurance? No
14. Did the deceased
pensioner leave any money, real estate or personal property? No.
18. Did pensioner leave an unendorsed pension check? No
19. What was your relation to the deceased pensioner? Sister
20. Are you married? Yes
21 What was the cause of pensioner’s death? Fracture of left
22. When did the pensioner’s last sickness begin? 7/22 – 1921
26. Where did the pensioner live during last sickness?
Collins Chapel Hospital
27. Where did the pensioner die? At the hospital
28. When did the pensioner die? August the 9, 1921
29. Where was the pensioner buried? Mount Zion Cemetery
30. Has there been paid, or will application be made for
payment to you or any other person, any part of the expenses of the pensioner’s
las sickness and burial by any State, County, or municipal corporation? No
31. State below expenses
W.S. Martin physician – not paid $112.50 Medicine none Nursing care none McCoy & Joyner Undertaker – not paid $74.00 Livery none Cemetery $12.00 Other expenses none
Total $198. 50
32. Is the above a complete list of all the expenses of the
last sickness and burial of the deceased pensioner? Yes
Sallie Bradd Fannie Scruggs Liddie (her X mark) Glass Statement of doctor Reimbursement Claimant Liddie Glass Pensioner Amanda Cleag Widow Rate $30. Last paid to June 4, 1921 at $30 Last illness commenced July 22, 1921 Date of death August 9, 1921 Accrued pension $66 Physicians bill $112.50 Undertakers bill $74.00 Total $186.00
In August last year, I received a comment on this blog from Roxanne Padmore of the Historical Society of Long Beach offering me information about the death of Abraham Cleage. Of course I was! We began several months of sharing information and gathering more about Abraham and Amananda who had relocated from Athens, TN to Austin, TX to Los Angeles, CA and finally (for Abraham) Long Beach, CA.
The Historical Society puts on a graveside reenactment at the end of October in Long Beach Municipal Cemetery, where Abraham is buried. Abraham was highlighted in the past but in 2018 they wanted to tell the story from Amanda’s point of view.
After sharing newspaper articles and information from records and speculating, we ordered Abram’s and Amanda’s Civil War Pension files. The information we found there changed the narrative significantly and prompted me to order the pension files for other men who served with Abram Cleage and their widows in Company I, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery, during the Civil War.
During her testimony Amanda Cleag was questioned about the signature on her deposition because she could not write. She explained that her granddaughter Avalon signed for her. In this depositon, the notary who took the deposition explains how Avalon came to sign the document.
Deposition E Edmund D. Shooner 25th day of May, 1909 Long Beach, Los Angeles, California
I am 65 years of age. My post office address is No 134 East 2nd St., Long Beach Calif – Occupation, Real Estate and notary public.
I have been a resident of this city for the past six years, and I have been acquainted with this claimant, Amanda Cleag since a short time after the death of her husband, the soldier, Abram Cleag, whom I had known a year or so before his death.
I remember well and distinctly that just about a year ago this claimant came into my office with her niece, Avalon Pierce, and A. J. Orelli and had me execute an application for pension for her and her niece, Avalon Pierce, and A. J. Orelli signed her said pension application as identifying witnesses and her niece, or rather her granddaughter, Avalon pierce, signed claimant’s name to the said pension application; as claimant was unable to write her own name. I personally know that claimant Amanda Cleag, authorized her granddaughter, Avalon Pierce to sign her, Amanda Cleag’s name to that pension application, which I now identify, since you have exhibited that said pension application to me. That entire pension application is in my own handwriting, except the signature of the claimant made by the identifying witnesses, one of whom being the said granddaughter.
I remember well and distinctly that claimant, authorized Avalon Pierce to sign her, claimant’s name to that pension application and if such authorization had not been given to said Avalon Pierce by Amanda Cleage, I would not have officially executed said pension application.
Yes, sir, that is my signature, as notary public to that pension application now before me, sworn to by the claimant at the time, and it is legally correct as far as my knowledge extents in these pension matters; yes claimant acknowledged under oath the contents of her pension application, and authorized her signature to be attached to it by her granddaughter, Avalon pierce and I personally saw the said Avalon Pierce sign the name Amanda Cleag to the said application, and saw her sign her own name as an identifying witness and saw Mr. A. L. Orellie sign his name as an identifying witness, that date May 6, 1908.
From information recently obtained for me from claimant, her granddaughter, Avalon Pierce is dead.
Am not interested The words “since” “not” and “by” interlined before signing.
This has been read to me, I have understood questions and my answers are correctly recorded
Edmund D. Spooner Notary Public Desponent Sworn to and subscribed before me this 25th day of May, 1909
Deposition A Case of Amanda Cleage by Jerry Cleage
I am about 75 years
old, I reckon. I live in Athens, Tennessee.
In slavery I belonged
to David Cleage and Amanda belonged to Alec, David’s brother. I knew Amanda. In
the time of the war she was married to Lou Deadrick and she got a divorce from
him after the war. I knew Lou well; he went from here to Chattanooga several
After her separation from Lou Amanda did not marry again here; she soon afterward went away with a white family named Tucker, and I have never seen her since.
With the Tucker family
also went a colored man named Abe Cleage, who had been a soldier – his name was
Abraham had no wife here; he had had no wife here – I knew him and his brothers well. All of his brothers are dead. Abe never came back home and I haven’t known whether he is alive or not of late.
Amanda and Abram were not married when they left here; I don’t know whether they married afterword or not. I think I hear they did. Amanda’s mother lived here and I use to hear about Amanda sometimes through her.
I have lived in this
county all my life. Amanda had only one husband up to the time that she left here.
I have no interest in
this claim for pension. I understood the foregoing as it was read and my
statements are correctly recorded.
From my drafts. A letter stating that no marriage record was found for Abram and Amanda Cleag.
Department of the Interior Bureau of Pensions
Washington, D.C. Atlanta, GA., July 2, 1909
With this report are returned the papers in claim No. 893, 806, of Amanda Cleag, as widow of Abram Cleag, Co. 1, 1st U.C. Colored Heavy Artillery, referred to this division to determine whether the declaration filed May 11, 1898 was legally excuted and whether the claimant is the legal widow of the soldier. The case was received in this district, with right to notice waived, for testimony “as to lawful widow”.
The surname of the soldier is written Cleage in McMinn County, Tennessee.
The claimant was divorced from one Lon Deaderick in December 1867. See exhibit A and on Deaderick apparently was her only husband up to the time that she permanently left McMinn County. I searched the entries in the marriage records of McMinn County for December 186 and for the years 1868 and 1869 and I failed to find the claimants name as Armstrong, Cleage or Deaderick. I failed to find the soldiers name in the said records for the period from the year 1865 to the year 1870. And it appears that this soldier had no wife before he left McMinn County with the claimant.
I searched the indexes of the marriage records on file in the office of the County Clerk of Hamilton County, Tennessee, covering the period from the year 1865 to the year 1870 and I failed to find evidence of the marriage of the claimant to the soldier. Lon Deaderick (deposition D) has testified that he knows that the claimant was not married to the soldier as they passed through Chattanooga on their way to Texas, as the train on which they traveled did not make a longer stop than 10 minutes in Chattanooga.
Sarah Morrison (deposition B) has testified that she is about 102 years old. She is strong physically and mentally and her memory apparently is very good.
The several persons whose testimony I have taken in this case, with the exception of Lon Deaderick, are mulattoes; they are very fairly intelligent are of good reputation. Deaderick, I think, may be rated fair.
From my unpublished drafts. Abram Cleag’s doctor describes his condition.
Physician’s Affidavit Los Angeles, California 7 October 1893
I first became acquainted with claimant in summer of 1892 when called to see professionally a member of his family, sometimes in fall of same year. I was called upon to treat claimant, who was suffering from a severe attack of lumbago and was wholly unable to labor and without help unable to turn himself as bed.
In addition he has laryngitis and bronchitis. I should think of long standing.
Ever since I have known him I have never considered him a man able to perform hard manual labor, but necessity compels him to labor when he can.
In my opinion I should think that he is ½ incapacitated.