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
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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….”
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….
There were no photographs of the Grahams inside their home. There is this one of the children on the front steps.
My maternal grandparents, Mershell and Fannie Graham, bought their house on Theodore Street on the East Side of Detroit in 1922. My grandmother was pregnant with my mother Doris. They lived in the house on Theodore for 45 years until the neighborhood became increasingly violent. In 1968, after experiencing several home invasions and gun shots fired into the house, they bought a two family flat with my parents near the University of Detroit.
The Brass Bed
Poppy bought a brass bed soon after he married. He was, the story goes, walking down the street when he saw a brothel being evicted and the belongings being set out on the street. This wonderful brass bed was among the items and he bought it on the spot. Growing up we – sister and cousins – spent many happy hours playing in my grandfather’s room. We used to be able to slip between those brass bars at the foot of the bed. My sister Pearl has the big bed now.
My mother memories of growing up in this house.
Ilived at home until I finished college and married. Everyday when I got home from school the minute I opened the door I knew what we were having for dinner. The house would be full of the good smell of spaghetti or meat loaf or greens or salmon croquettes or pork chops and gravy or steak and onions. We had hot biscuits or muffins every day. My father did not like “store bought” bread. I hardly knew what it tasted like until I married. Our friends were welcome. The house was clean. Our clothes were clean and mended.
She also remembered being in the car with her father when their car got stuck on the railroad tracks down the street and the train hit them. I found an entry for that in my grandfather’s little notebook. Although it happened in 1935, I am going to copy it here. My mother was 12.
Car struck by M.C. (note: Michigan Central) engine Mar. 10th 1935 At 2:15 P.M. Doris in car with me. No one hurt very bad. Doris received small cut on left hand M.C. RR settled for $25.00 part cost on fixing car.
Here are two other posts about the house on Theodore
The Cleage family moved from 24th street to 6429 Scotten Ave. in 1920, between January and July 10. I visited this house once when I was about 22 months old. My parents and I traveled by train to Detroit for a visit. At that time my father was pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. I remember nothing about that visit, unfortunately. I never asked my father or my aunts and uncles to describe the house for me. Luckily someone took a front and side view of the house and there were some photographs taken inside the house, not necessarily in the 1920s.
In 1930 the house was worth $10,500, according to the census. By 1940, it was only worth $5,000. Perhaps because they were just coming out of the depression in 1940? It was a large brick house and I’m sure they filled it up with seven children, two parents and a couple of dogs. I think that the boy’s rooms were in the attic. I will share some photographs of the house over the years. They lived there until 1948 when they moved to Atkinson Street.
Hugh Clarence Cleage was born at home June 2, 1918 in the house on 24th Street. He was the fourth son and also the fourth child of the Cleages. Hugh was named after two of his mother’s brothers. He was 20 months old when 1920 started and almost 13 years old when the decade ended.
Like his siblings, Hugh attended Wingert elementary school, McMichael Junior High and Northwestern High School. But that was in the 1930s. I know he liked to fish and skate and play tennis and was kind and patient and could fix things. Some of these skills must have been practiced during his young years.
Strangely, I don’t know any stories about Hugh as a young child. He was the quiet one who was right there in all of the activities going on, but his siblings were just more forthcoming with stories and he probably couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Maybe some of my cousins will read this and share stories they may have about Hugh as a young boy.
Northern Congregationalists went south to Montgomery, Alabama after the Civil War. First Congregational Christian Church was founded in 1872. They also supported a school nearby. My grandmother, Fannie Turner, attended both the school and the church. She met her husband, Mershell Graham, in the church.
When Mershell Graham, my grandfather, migrated north to Detroit in 1918 many of his friends, who were also members of First Congregational Church, were also leaving segregated Montgomery. In 1919 a group of nine gathered together to form Plymouth Congregational Church. They first met in member’s houses and in borrowed space until they were able to purchase their own building, a former Synagogue, in 1927. They moved in, in May 15, 1927.
Plymouth had been in the building a little over a year when this photo was taken. My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham, is standing behind his daughters, Mary V. and Doris (my mother). Their cousin, Margaret McCall, is standing between them. They are in the front row, towards the left side of center. The minister, Rev. Laviscount, is standing behind Mary V. My grandmother, Fannie, had just given birth to their youngest son, Howard, so she was not able to be there.