The next year we see my great grandmother Jennie Allen Turner standing with her daughters, Daisy on the left and my grandmother Fannie on the right, outside of the fence surrounding my grandparent’s backyard.
And because it is Thanksgiving week here in the U.S.A., I include a clipping from 1939 of my great grandmother hosting a dinner with her daughters and her granddaughters and her son-in-law, my grandfather.
“On Harding Avenue, Mrs. Jeannie Turner bade the members of her family to dine with her. At the table were her daughters, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner; Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Graham, and her granddaughters, Misses Mary Virginia and Doris Graham.”
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
This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection. Click images to enlarge.
The Graham’s in the 1950 Census I wrote this two years ago. Let’s see what I got right and what I got wrong. I over-estimated his yearly salary which was not $3,200 but $2,900. He had worked 42 weeks during the past year not the 52 I had him working. Aunt Abbie was indeed 75 years old and sharing their home.
I answered more questions than were asked because certain questions were only asked to one member of the household. I was right about the family possibly being enumerated as white instead of Negro based on their looks. And I knew that my grandfather was not a veteran. Pretty good average, I think.
In 1950, my maternal grandfather, Mershell C. Graham worked at Ford Motor Company. He was 62 years old. Up until 1949, there was on pension program for workers in the auto factories. Up until that point people worked as long as they could because they couldn’t afford to retire. In that year the UAW and Ford Motor Co. came to an agreement about retirement payments. Workers would now receive $100 a month, which included their social security payments. My grandfather retired in December 1953 when he reached 65. His Social Security payment was $85.00 so Fords would add $15 and bring it up to $100 a month. April 1, 1950 was the date the company began making deposits into the account that would fund those payments.
Two little pigs make an exciting journey across France to catch a steamer to the USA. You can see all the illustrations at this National Museum of American History Site -> Gaston and Josephine.
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.
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.
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!
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
This photograph was taken in Montgomery, Alabama, during my grandparent’s engagement in 1919. I animated it using My Heritage, Deep Nostalgia.
My maternal grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, was born 133 years ago today. She was born in 1888 in Lowndes County Alabama, the oldest child of Howard and Jennie (Allen) Turner. Here is something my mother wrote about her in about 1980.
Somebody’s Daughter My Mother
By Doris Graham Cleage
Yes, I’ll tell you, I am somebody’s daughter. My mother was really SOMEBODY.
She was the first child of my (who else?) grandmother who was one of seven children born to a woman freed from slavery at seventeen and a free man. The woman had been trained as a seamstress in the “Big House” and she taught every one of her five daughters to sew. And so my Grandmother earned her living as a seamstress for white folks in Montgomery, Alabama.
It was fortunate that she had an independent spirit as well as a skill because she lost her husband when my mother was four years old and a younger sister was two. While grandmother was out sewing, the two children stayed with their grandparents who were very strict.
One of my mother’s earliest memories was of a spanking with the flat of a saw by her grandfather because she made footprints across the dirt backyard which he had freshly swept to a marvelous smoothness!
She also remembered him complaining often about their behavior to their mother when she came home. She spanked them too. But mother said she learned early that if they cried loudly, the spanking was shorter and less energetic. Armed with this knowledge, she and her sister made it through childhood and in due time graduated from Normal school (high school).
Mother finished in 1906 and she refused scholarships to college. She chose instead to clerk in her uncle’s general store and eventually managed it. I think she valued this and her marriage above all other experiences in her life. I think they held vastly different meanings for her. I think one represented what she really wanted to do and to be and the other represented what she thought she ought to want to do and be.
I never knew her very well. There never was time to talk to her until she was very ill and I took care of her. This seems very strange to me. My mother never worked after she married. She was always at home taking care of her family. I lived at home until I married. When I lived at home in Detroit I saw her at least once a week. When I lived in other cities, we exchanged letters at least once a week. For the last seven years of her life we shared a two-family flat. But I never knew her as a person until she was dying.
Stereotypes and structures. Forms and duties. Oughts and shoulds. How things are supposed to be. Never how they are. Cages and gags and straightjackets. And we don’t know they’re there.
When I could see and hear my mother as a person, and not as MY MOTHER, I was delighted and dismayed. Delighted that we had so much in common and that I liked her. Dismayed that she was eighty-six and ill and that life had made me wait so long to know her.
She and my father were happily married for fifty-one years. They loved and respected each other. Even in delirium I never heard either one say anything but good and loving things about the other. Mother spoke with peace and sureness about my father. But her face lit up, her back straightened, her voice got louder and she was alive when she talked of managing Great Uncle Victor’s general store. She never tired of telling me about taking inventory, counting money, keeping books, dealing with the help and customers and demanding respect from the drummers.
Drummers were white salesmen trying to get orders for their products and you can imagine how difficult it was for a handsome black woman doing a man’s job to get respect from them. But she knew the power of her ability to give or without orders and she used it without apology. Her whole tone when she straightened her back and raised her head to tell it was not of asking for respect, but demanding it – and loving the demanding!
She managed the store for the twelve most satisfying years of her life. Then she married in 1919. My father never wanted her to work. She suggested a small business several times.
He said, “A MAN supports his family. I am a man. My wife will never work.”
She knew he was supposed to be right so she didn’t press it. She wrote that all a woman needs to be happy is “a baby to rock and a man to please.” And that’s the way she acted. She kept the house, cooked the meals, rocked the babies and pleased the man. But she never believed that woman was meant only for this because she raised her two daughters by word and deed to believe that women should be whatever they wanted to be. I don’t remember her ever saying, “But women can’t be freighter captains, or airplane pilots or doctors or engineers.” she believed I could be anything and I believed it too.
How restricted she must have felt doing most of the jobs that go with keeping house and raising babies.
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.