Category Archives: Detroit

The Cleages in the 1930s

The Cleage family about 1930 in front of their house on Scotten. From L to R Henry, Louis, (My grandmother) Pearl, Barbara, Hugh, Gladys, Anna, Albert Jr (My father) and (My grandfather) Albert Sr.

The 1930 Census

Dated April 2, 1930

In 1930 the Cleage family lived on the Old West Side in Detroit, Michigan. In this neighborhood everybody was identified as Neg(ro) in the 1930 Census.

The trickle of Black people living outside of Black Bottom would grow exponentially in the decade following the Sweet trials. By the late 1930s, middle class African Americans are firmly ensconced in four other neighborhoods in Detroit:

Paradise Valley – the business and entertainment district north of Black Bottom in the area now occupied by Ford Field, Comerica Park, 36th District Court and the Chrysler Freeway

Conant Gardens – the northeast neighborhood between Conant & Ryan (west and east) and 7 Mile & Nevada (north and south),

The North End – the neighborhood situated Woodward (west), the city of Hamtramck (east) E. Grand Boulevard (south) and the city of Highland Park (north),

And the Old Westside – bounded by Grand River (East), Buchanan (South), Tireman (North) & Epworth (West).

However, those 4 neighborhoods primarily opened up for middle class Black Detroiters.” 

A Mighty Long Way: How Black People Moved In & Out and Around Detroit

On the enumeration sheet with the Albert and Pearl Cleage family were 50 people in six houses in seven households. Five had a few lodgers, five had extended family members – sibling, parents, cousins. All seven had radios. All of the houses were owned by people living there. One of the houses had another family renting part of their house.

There were 34 adults on the page. 30 of them had been born in the south.  One was born in Canada, one was born in Iowa and two were born in Michigan. They are all literate.  Three of the men were vets of World War 1. Ten were not vets. One of the men was an employeer. He was a contractor. Two worked on their own account, a barber and my grandfather, a physician . Eighteen people worked for wages.  Five women worked outside of the home. Three were married, one was divorced and one was single.

All of the children under 18 were born in Michigan. There were two eighteen year olds. One was born in Michigan and one was born in Alabama.  All of the school age children, including the two eighteen year olds, were attending school. 

Fifty people in the six houses on this enumeration sheet.
These are the houses where the families enumerated on this Census sheet lived.

The Albert and Pearl Cleage Family

My grandparent’s parents, my great grandparents, were born into slavery.  My grandfather was born in 1883 in Louden Tennessee. He was 46 when the 1930 census was taken. He was a physician working on his own account, that is he had his own office at 4224 McGraw, which was some blocks from the house.  He and Pearl Reed had married when he was 27.   Although it says Pearl was 21 when they married, she was actually 26.  She was born in Kentucky and did not work outside of the home.

They had seven children and all were still living at home and attending school. My father, Albert B. Cleage Jr. was the oldest and had been born in Indianapolis. He was eighteen. He had graduated from Northwestern High School in 1929 and was attending what is now Wayne State University.

Louis was sixteen and attended Northwestern High School.  Henry was fourteen and also at McMichael Junior High or Northwestern. Hugh was eleven and probably still at Wingert Elementary school. Barbara was nine, Gladys was seven and Anna was five. All three would have been attending Wingert Elementary. Anna was in kindergarten and only attended half a day.

Albert’s mother, Anna Celia Sherman lived with them and is listed as 76. She was born in Tennessee.  She died the following month after suffering a stroke. Her body was taken back to Athens for burial.

Two of Albert’s brothers lived in Detroit in 1930. One, Jake, lived several blocks from the house on Scotten. The other, Henry, lived further away although by 1940 he was in the neighborhood too.

The Cleages through the 1930s with news of the day

Cleage Posts from the 1930s

Scotten, Detroit – Paternal grandparents 1919 – 1948
Dr. Cleage Made City Physician – 1930 Detroit, MI
Uncle Hugh with friends George and Paul Payne
Celia’s Death Certificate – 1930
On the way to bury their mother… June 1930
James Cleage 1870 – 1933
Northwestern High School & Cleage Graduates – 1931-1939
Trying for shadows in this also? 1930s
Albert and Pearl Cleage late 1930s
Henry’s Journal 1936
Henry’s Diary Part 2 – 1936
Follow up on Henry’s Diary 1936
4 Men In Hats On Ice 1936
The Cleage Sisters at Home about 1937
Looking Over the Fence 1937
Mary Virginia Graham – Social Reporter – 1937
Albert B. Cleage Jr – Album Page – 1938
Grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage
Dr. & Mrs. Cleage Speak on Preventing Juvenile Delinquency – 1938
Thanksgiving 1939 – speaking at Plymouth Congregational Church
Where is Gladys?  – 1939
Hugh Fishing At the Meadows 1939
‘Rocco, Smitty – Getting a ticket for fishing! – 1939
Thanksgiving 1939

The Grahams in the 1930s

Fannie’s mother Jennie Virginia Turner, Mary Virginia, Fannie, Doris. In back Howard and father Mershell Graham.

My grandfather Mershell C Graham was the son of Mary Jackson Graham who we saw auctioned off with her family after the death of slave holder Crawford Motley Jackson in 1860. We move forward 70 years to 1930 and see what the life of the Graham family was like during that decade. Click on any image to enlarge in another window.

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The decade began with the Graham’s living in the house at 6638 Theodore where they had been for almost seven years. There were five family members – Mershell (42), Fannie (40), Mary Virginia (10), Doris(7) and Howard(almost 2). They owned their home which was valued at $8,000. They owned at least one radio. Everyone was identified as Neg(ro). Mershell and Fannie had been married ten years.

Both Mershell and Fannie had been born in Alabama, as had their parents. They were 32 and 30 when they married. Both were literate. The children were all born in Michigan. The two oldest girls attended school. Howard was too young.

Mershell was working as a stock keeper in an auto factory for wages. He had been at work the day before the census taker came to the house. He was a citizen and not a veteran. Fannie had not worked outside of the home in the past year.

There were 50 names on this census sheet. Aside from the Jordan family who lived next door to the Grahams, everyone on the page was white, a number having been born in other countries. None of the males on this census sheet had served in the armed forces. All of the school age children were attending school. Three men were unemployed. One of the married women worked outside of the home as a laundress.. There were three widows. One was 70 years old, lived with her son and did not work outside the home. One worked as a servant and one as a laundress. Both for private families. One single daughter worked as a telephone operator. One single sister-in-law worked as a “janitress” in a steel factory. All of the adults were literate. One household Had spoken Polish and one German & French, before coming to the United States. Fifteen people were born in Michigan. Others were born in Canada, Ohio, Scotland, Poland, Pennsylvania, England, Missouri, Washington, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and Switzerland.

These statistics only include the people on the enumeration page. Not all of the people on the map below were included on the same page as my family.

My grandparent’s block.
As now there are so many things are happening in the outside world while we live our lives, so it was for the Grahams in the 1930s.

Posts for the Grahams during the 1930s
Mershell Graham’s Notebook – 1930s
Home Library 1931
Sisters and Dogs – 1932
Howard Alexander Graham Death Certificate – 1932
One Hundred and One Famous Poems 1933
Sisters 1933
13 Years Old, Mary Virginia Graham 1934
Going out 1937
Mary Virginia Graham – Social Reporter 1937
1937 Christmas Activities
My Social Butterflies – 1911 & 1937
The Social Sixteen 1937-1938
My Mother in the News 1937-1940
Mary Virginia Graham Colorized – 1938
Family Group – 1939
My Mother Smiling in a Hat – 1939
Thanksgiving 1939
Marian Anderson in Detroit, 1939

Students Wanted in Detroit

Albert B. Cleage Sr, 1910

I was quite surprised to find this news item awhile ago while searching for information about Jacob Cleage. It would have been interesting to find that my grandfather and his brother were involved in a knife fight, however there are several things in this clipping I know to be untrue.

R.C. Cleage is unknown to me. Jacob was my grandfather’s older brother’s name. My grandfather, A. B. Cleage, was the only medical student name of Cleage in Indianapolis during that time. He did work on the excursion boats out of Detroit during the summer of 1909. However, he graduated in June of 1910 and did not work on the boats in 1910.

My grandfather was married with a baby (my father) in September 1911. My grandmother did receive several postcards from Detroit dated July, 1911. I could find no record of legal happenings and no further news articles about it.

July 12, 1911 (Mrs. Pearl Cleage)
Just got back to Detroit, Hope you all are well and happy. Will feel better when I hear from you. Albert.

7/12/11 to Master A. B. Cleage Jr.
Did not forget you were 4 weeks old yesterday and tomorrow you will be 1 month. My, but you are getting old fast.
Papa

7/21/11 to Mrs. Pearl Cleage
Dear Pearl –
I am lonesome for you and baby. Want to see you all awful bad. Hope you are well and happy. Albert

Poppy in the Garden

My maternal grandfather Mershell C. Graham in his garden with my cousin Dee Dee. About 1946. We called him Poppy.

I came across this photo while looking for a picture for my cousin last night. I don’t remember seeing it before, although I must have because it’s in my box of Graham photographs.

Since the end of the April A-Z Challenge this year, I’ve been working on my grandfather’s migration story – his move from Montgomery, Alabama to Detroit, Michigan in 1917. The more I look, the more I find, much more than I had originally been looking for.

When I saw the prompt for Sepia Saturday this morning, it reminded me of the picture of my grandfather in the garden and I decided to post it while I continue to work on putting together his larger story.

For other Sepia Saturday Photos, click .

Z – ZOO, Belle Isle

Mershell Jr, Mary Virginia (or is that Doris?) and their father, Mershell Graham in front of the Conservatory on Belle Isle. 1920s.

The Belle Isle Zoo was originally established on the island in 1895 with a deer park and a bear den. By 1909, the Detroit Zoo on Belle Isle had 150 animals in 32-acres. The Belle Isle Children’s Zoo was established in 1947 dismantled in the 1970s. In 1980, the Belle Isle Safari Zoo was opened with raised walkways expanded into the wooded area. The Belle Isle Safari Zoo closed in 2002. Historical Gallery and Fun Facts

The route from the Graham home on Theodore to Belle Isle. That is the same route we took in the 1950s from my grandparents house to Belle Isle.

Can’t Get Animals For Belle Isle Zoo

Buying Trip Fruitless; Market Empty; War Blamed

Added to the other shortages which have taken the joy out of life during the past year, we now have the wild animal shortage.

The lack of supply in this commodity was brought forcefully to the attention of E. G. Becket, commissioner of the park and boulevard department. Last week when efforts to obtain additional specimens for the Belle Isle zoo came to naught.

James Timmons, animal keeper at Belle Isle, was sent on a scouting expedition by Mr. Heckel, with instructions to bring back some zebras, camels and any other specimens obtainable. A trip to Cleveland Toledo and Cincinnati resulted in a report from Mr. Timmons that no animals worth buying were to be had.

“The scarcity of wild animals for zoo and menagerie specifically is due to the World War.” H. W. is Busch, park department superintendent, said Sunday. “There have been no importations for more than four years, with the result that what stock is offered for sale is of such poor quality that the city cannot affort to waste its money.”

According to Mr. Busch, the supply of deep sea fish from which the aquarium is stocked also is limited. A recent trip made to the West by Mr. Heckel in quest of deep sea fish failed to produce a single specimen.

The park department has a fund of $2,500 to spend for zoo specimens this year and to date has succeeded in placing but one order, which is for a pair of ostriches. These are expected to arrive within a few weeks.

I can’t believe this is my last A to Z post for 2020!

Y – YOUNGEST Cleage Anna Cecelia born 1925

Anna Cecelia Cleage was born on January 29, 1925. The youngest of the seven children of Albert and Pearl Cleage, she was named after her paternal grandmother, Anna Celia Rice Cleage Sherman. Anna was born at home in the house on Scotten, as were all the Cleage girls,.

Trouble in Detroit the year that Anna was born

By 1925  Detroit’s total population was growing faster than any other Metropolitan area in the United States, the black population was over 82,000.  Housing segregation was widespread, although there were neighborhoods such as the East Side neighborhood where the Grahams lived that black and white lived together without friction. Unfortunately that was not the story citywide as people began to try and move out of the designated black areas into the other neighborhoods. Families moving into homes they had purchased were met by violent mobs that numbered from the hundreds into the thousands. This happened in 1925 during April, June, twice in July and in September.

Ossian Sweet  was physician in Detroit. He is most notable for his self-defense in 1925 of his newly purchased home in a white neighborhood against a mob attempting to force him out of the neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, and the subsequent acquittal by an all-white jury of murder charges against him, his family, and friends who helped defend his home, in what came to be known as the Sweet Trials.In the years after the trial in Detroit, his daughter Iva, wife Gladys, and brother Henry all died of tuberculosis. Ossian Sweet himself eventually committed suicide

W – WORKING WOMEN

Employees of Annis Furs. My Aunt Daisy is right in the middle, 4th from each side, in the center row. My great grandmother Jennie Turner is the first person on the right of that row and Aunt Alice is right next to her.

I was not sure of the date of the above photograph of the staff at Annis Furs in Detroit. What I knew was that my great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Turner and her daughters, Daisy and Alice moved to Detroit in 1922. My grandparents, Mershell and Fannie (Jennie’s oldest daughter) had moved there in 1919. By 1930 Daisy was the only one still working at Annis. The photo had to be taken between 1923 and 1929. Looking at old family photographs, I saw that Daisy and my grandmother had their hair bobbed by 1926.

My great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Turner, learned her seamstressing skills from her mother Eliza, who had been a seamstress during slavery. My great grandmother did not teach her own daughters to sew.

Jennie V. Turner had been a seamstress working on her own account in Montgomery and worked at Annis Furs for several years after moving to Detroit, before she retired.

Daisy was “head porteress” at the store, according to the 1930 census. I do not know what Alice did when she worked there because she in 1930 census she was not employed. Daisy was also head numbers runner at Annis Furs. The “numbers” being an illegal lottery. The runner took the bets and gave them to the banker and then paid off from the banker if anyone won. See a link below if you want more information on the numbers game.

Fashion changes during the 1920s.

There is more information at blog post “They Worked at Annis Furs”

You can read more about the numbers here – Daughter of a Numbers Runner.

V – VISITING Benton Harbor Michigan

Three of my grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage’s sisters lived in Benton Harbor with their families. My grandmother lived in Detroit. This situation called for regular visits between Detroit and Benton Harbor, Michigan.

It is 201 miles from Detroit to Benton Harbor.

 My uncle  Henry shared some of his memories of Mr. Mullins in the 1990s.  “Mullins was always referred to that way.  He was a very stern, hardy type.  Admired the Irish.  Had the long Irish upper lip himself. A very ‘Indian’ looking fellow. They lived in Benton Harbor and later moved to Detroit. 

Sir Walter Lipton’, that’s the only kind of tea he’d drink.  Rather, whatever kind he drank was that.  He’d be talking about only drinking ‘Sir Walter Lipton’, and when he finished, Minnie would tell him, “Oh, Mullin, hush up! You know that’s Salada Tea.”  When he moved to Detroit with his family the last time they figured he was 90 something years old.  He died one day walking from Tireman all the way downtown.  I think he just fell out.  Like the old one horse shay, he just give out.

Henry continued, “Aunt Minnie would talk a lot of trash.  She said he’d sit down with a bottle of wine and eat all the food, talking a lot of trash about he was a working man, he needed his strength and the rest of them were all starving to death.  All that was Aunt Minnie’s talk.  We never heard his side of it.  They lied on him and he never defended himself. They never made fun of him because he’d a beat everybody’s brains out.  He never found it necessary to say anything.  I think Aunt Minnie embellished the truth because I know we went there and tore up his lawn, his pride and joy, and he didn’t say anything much.  He had a grape arbor.  We (Me, Hugh, Bill and Harold), had a tent out there.  We’d get to wrestling and tear up the tent and the grapes and he didn’t say anything.  Probably crippled Bill and Harold after we left because they should have known better, we were just kids.”

I found quite a number of short news items mentioning the family trips. They were not nearly as entertaining as Henry’s stories.

Dr. and Mrs. A. B. Cleage Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Cleage, Henry Cleage and Miss Helen Mullins, of Detroit, Miss Virginia Lane and Mrs. Josie Cleage of Indianapolis, Ind. and Clarence Reed of Chicago, who have been guest of Mrs. Minnie Mullins, of Broadway, have returned home.
The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) – 13 Jul 1923, Fri – Page 4

It sounds like they had a real family party.

Who’s who

Dr. and Mrs. A.B. Cleage – my grandparents
Mrs. Jacob Cleage, wife of my grandfather’s brother Jacob.
Henry Cleage – my grandfather’s brother.
Miss Helen Mullins – my grandmother’s sister Minnie’s oldest daughter.
Miss Virginia Lane – not a family member.
Clarence Reed – my grandmother’s brother.
Mrs. Jossie Cleage – my grandfather’s sister who married a Cleage from another branch.
Mrs. Minnie Mullins – my grandmother’s sister

Mrs. Minnie Mullins and small son, John of Broadway, have gone to Detroit to visit the former’s sister, Ms. A. B. Cleage, who is ill.
The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) – 14 Jan 1925, Wed – Page 4

Dr. A. B. Cleage and family, of Detroit, have returned home following a week’s visit with Mr. and Mrs. James Mullins, of Broadway.
The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) – 6 Sep 1927, Tue – Page 4

Dr. Albert B. Cleage and family of Detroit, have returned home after a weeks visit with Mr. and Mrs. James Mullins on Broadway.
The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) – 30 Aug 1928, Thu – Page 4

Related Links
Mr. James Mullins 1863-1944
Minnie Averitt Reed Mullins 1878 – 1963
Josephine “Josie” Cleage
Clarence Elwood Reed
What it was like to drive 100 years ago
1900-1930: The years of driving dangerously

U – UNDERTAKER – Mershell Graham’s Death 1927

Aunt Daisy Turner, Grandmother Jennie Allen Turner, Mother Fannie Turner Graham Mary Virginia, Mershell and Doris. This is about the only photo where Mershell smiles.
Dr. Alexander Turner, 1926

On November 1, 1927 Mershell C. Graham Jr was killed when he was hit by a truck on the way back to school after lunch. He was taken to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, a Catholic Hospital on Detroit’s East side. Dr. Turner was there with him when he died.

The route from the Graham house, to the elementary school and Mercy Hospital. The highways wouldn’t have been there then.

From the back pages of my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s Bible
“Our darling little Mershell Jr. was run over by a truck on Tuesday Nov. 1st – ’27 at 12:45 PM. on his way to school from lunch. skull crushed etc. – Neck broken – shoulder fractured- rushed to St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital – never regained consciousness – died – same night at 2:10 – Dr Turner at his sid(e) (Fun)eral-Nov 4th … (Lavi)scount offic(iated)  sang….”

Thomas School in the last several years before it burned down.
St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Detroit, MI 2200 East Grand Blvd.
Click to enlarge

Something has gone out of our hearts but I get comfort from the following song which I’ve so often heard my mother sing: – as best I remember it:

“Go bury thy sorrow,
Go hide it with care,
‘Go bury it deeply,
The world has it’s share.
Go tell it to Jesus,
He even will hear,
His is the best solace
He always is near.”

God be with us, strengthen and comfort us in these, the saddest hours we’ve ever known, and prepare us to meet our darling boy in heaven. Amen.

8/25/29 We went to cemetery for first time today

9/7/28 – Howard came in place of Mershell, we thot – he was such a beautiful darling – stayed with us 3 1/2 years – then God took him….

Now we go to cemetery weekly.

Mershell Cunningham Graham Jr. – Death Certificate
The Detroit Tribune, May 25, 1957
The undertakers listed on Mershell Graham’s death certificate were Davis and Webster.