Category Archives: Grahams

Mershell & Annie Mae Graham Sibling Relationship Proved

Graham, Mrs. Annie, Elmore. Funeral service will be Sunday at 11 a.m. at East Chapel MP church. The Rev. Paul Cook will officiate. Burial will be in Jackson Cemetery with Ross-Clayton Funeral Home directing. Survivors include one daughter, Mrs. Emma Reves; sons, Clyde Jackson, William Jackson, Birmingham, and Joe Jackson; a brother, Marshall Graham, Detroit, Mich.; 16 grandchildren; 43 great-grandchildren; three daughters-in-law, Mesdames Edith, Odessa and Ethel Jackson; and other relatives. She was a member of the Esters of America Society No. 1.

When I found this obituary for Annie Mae Graham on Newspapers.com, I wondered who the son “Joe” was. I had never heard of him before. At first reading I thought that “Marshall Graham” in Detroit was her son, formerly identified as “Michele” in census records. On re-reading, I realized that the “Marshall Graham” was named as her brother, and was my grandfather Mershell who lived in Detroit. And that Joe was Annie’s son, Michele.

I had been looking for something to tie my grandfather Mershell C. Graham to those I suspected were his siblings – Annie, Jacob and Abraham Graham. All of them listed the same parents on their delayed birth records and death certificates, but I could not find them in the same household. In 1900 my grandfather was not in the home with the other children. I have yet to find him in 1900.

Annie Graham’s great grandson, Cedric Jenkins, saw the obituary and contacted me on Ancestry. That was the first he had heard of my grandfather Mershell. We exchanged photographs and information. Annie and Mershell certainly look like sister and brother in the photos below.

After Cedric got in touch with me, I realized I had a DNA match on 23 & me with the surname Jenkins. That Jenkins matched my maternal first cousin, Dee Dee, and was identified as a probable third cousin. He turned out to be Cedric’s nephew.

Using an obituary, a genealogical paper trail, DNA and a newly connected cousin, I was finally able to connect my grandfather Mershell Graham to his sister.

O. Barron’s Farm 1918, Elmore County, Alabama

Cedric was also able to identify the children in the photo above as Annie Mae Graham’s children. In the front are Joe (Michele) and Emma. On the mule closest to us is Will and next to him is Clyde.

Mershell Graham with his wife Fannie and children Doris (my mother), Mary Virginia and Mershell Jr. Standing in front of Plymouth Congregational Church in 1927. Detroit, Michigan.

Other posts about Mershell’s siblings

R is for Relatives, of the Elusive Kind
Mystery Photograph
Annie Graham – Sibling?
Jacob Graham – Sibling?
Inside Cover of Mershell C. Graham’s Bible

Note: I published an earlier version of this post but I got so much new information that I decided to re-write it but keep the comments from the first post, as I did not want to leave that one up.

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!

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.

T – THEODORE Street

Mershell, Mary V. and Doris Graham on their front steps. 1926.

There were no photographs of the Grahams inside their home. There is this one of the children on the front steps.

The neighborhood. You can see my grandparents house across from the blue factory.

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.

I lived 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

T is for Theodore Street
Everyday Things Then and Now

O – OLDEST – MARY Virginia Graham 1920

Mignon Walker, Fannie Turner Graham, Mary Virginia Graham
Written by grandmother Fannie Turner Graham

Mary Virginia born April 3rd 1920 at 5:10 a.m. on Saturday. Detroit Mich at 1031 St. Jean Ave., 7 #

On April 3, 1920  Mary V. Graham was born at home with  Dr. Ames attending. My mother, Doris Graham Cleage did not remember him fondly when she wrote her family memories in the 1970s. “It was a very difficult delivery, labor was several days long.  The doctor, whose name was Ames, was a big time black society doctor, who poured too much ether on the gauze over Mother’s face when the time for delivery came.  Mother’s face was so badly burned that everyone, including the doctor, thought she would be terribly scared over at least half of it. But she worked with it and prayed over it and all traces of it went away.  Mary V’s foot was turned inward.  I don’t know if this was the fault of the doctor or not, but she wore a brace for years.”

Mary Virginia Graham’s Cradle Roll enrollment. She was the first baby born into Plymouth Congregational Church.
Mary Virginia Graham Elkins Remembers Her childhood

What do I remember about Mom & Dad’s early years?  Well, I know they used to speak about when they first came up here in 1919 after they got married and stayed out on Mack Ave (which was real country then) for awhile – then roomed with Aunt Jean and Uncle Mose (who were my godparents) at 4513 St. Jean Ave (the house is still standing)  Also Dad’s (adopted) brother, Cliff and his bride Gwen, roomed there too.  I (Mary V) was born at the house April 3, 1920 and Aunt Gwen had Lewis the following May, 1920. 

Aunt Jean became the first colored policewoman here.  Uncle Mose worked for the government.  They were both very fair.

Daddy got a job at Fords and they finally moved out (to Theodore, I think)  He bought that house.  Uncle Cliff and Aunt Gwen bought a house also, right down the street from where they were staying.  In fact, Aunt Gwen is still living and must be 90 plus and still in the same house.  My cousin, Lewis, is retired from the Post Office, I think.  He should because he turned 71 in May, and lives with his Mom.  Never married.  A confirmed batch.  I also know that Daddy worked through the big depression in the 30’s and we always had something on the table, clean clothes, etc.  and Mama never worked a day in her life after she married.  Dad wouldn’t let her.  Said no wife of his was going to work, but stay home and keep his house and raise his children. Typical in those days.  They got along and I am sure Doris and I had a happy childhood.

I can remember Poppy waiting till Xmas Eve to go and get our tree.  We (Doris and I) usually went with him…and bringing it home to decorate.  He had a stand that he made himself.  We went up to the attic to haul down boxes of decorations that had been carefully put away.  Some very old.  I can remember one little fat Santa that Mom always put in the window, he had a pipe in his mouth. 

Doris and I shared a bedroom which had the door to the attic in it.  When we were at the “believe in Santa Claus stage” we thought that once we went to sleep he would tip down the attic stairs and put our toys, etc, under said tree.  I think I laid awake waiting for the old boy to show up.  Of course I never saw him ’cause I went to sleep, but the stuff was always under the tree.  Mom was always busy in the kitchen getting stuff together for Xmas dinner and the house would be full of wonderful odors.  If Xmas fell on a Sunday, we would go to church. And we used to have lots of snow. 

Although we came up during the depression, we always had something to eat and something under the ole tree even if it wasn’t what we asked for.  It was a tradition that Xmas dinner was at our house and Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma Turner’s.  Daddy cooked the ole turkey and made the most delicious stuffing.  He could cook.  Mom learned from him.  She couldn’t boil water when they got married.  Dad taught her cause he had worked in restaurants as a young man.

Reprinted from family newsletter – Ruff Draft 1990s.

N – NINETEEN TWENTY EIGHT Howard Graham was born

Howard Alexander Graham was my mother’s youngest brother. He was named after my grandmother Fannie’s father, Howard Turner. Howard was born September 7, 1928, in the year following his older brother Mershell’s death by trauma after being run over by a truck on the way back to school.   My grandparents felt that Howard had been sent to fill the space left by Mershell.  Unfortunately he died of Scarlet Fever, exacerbated by  Diabetes in 1932.

Baby Howard, father Mershell, big sister Doris, mother Fannie.
The Arrival

A baby Howard A(lexander) Graham   was born to Mershell C. and Fannie Turner Graham – Woman’s Hospital. 

On the 7th day of September 1928 at 5:10 o’clock P.M.
Address 6638 Theodore Street.
Autograph of Mother  Fannie T. Graham
Autograph of Father Mershell C. Graham
Autograph of Doctor A.L. Turner M.D.
Autograph of Nurse Aunt Abbie Allen
Autograph of others Aunt Jean Walker presented this book to him.

Baby’s First Photograph

Feb. 4, 1929 Dad snapped baby and me thru the dining room sun window not very good – sorry as now he has whooping cough? Weathers been too bad to take him out to have pictures made…

From my Grandmother Fannie’s Bible pages of family records.

20 months old – On May 28th 1929 – Howard was ready for bed – (Dad’s working nights) Mary Virginia and Doris kneeling to say prayers – he said “Wait dirls” – “britches coming off” ie. (Diapers) – Never soils or wets bed after 1 year old. A most remarkable baby.

Our baby Howard was taken ill Nov 17th 1931 – Dr. Turner came and pronounced it Diabetes… cured — Jan 1932…

On Feb 20 1932, he developed Scarlet Fever – was sent to Herman Kiefer Hospital on account of his condition, died March 4th 1932 and was buried -sat March 5,

Private Funeral at Memorial Park Cemetery. 3 1/2 years old — born 9/7/28

_____

Our loss is truest gai…. God fills the pla(ce) ..by our 2 bo(ys)…

Other related posts:

Poem for Howard
Howard Alexander Graham Death Certificate
Fannie Mae Turner Graham’s Bible
Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit

M – MERSHELL C. Graham Jr – 1921

After church about 1927. Grandfather Mershell Graham holding my mother Doris, Grandmother Fannie next to him. In front: Mary Virginia and Mershell Jr.
2nd baby -Mershell C. Graham born June 10th – 1921 at 7:45 P.M. on Friday. Detroit, Mich, Dunbar Hospital 8 1/2 # Dr. Turner . Died 11/1/27 killed by Auto

Mershell Cunningham Graham Jr was born at 7:45 pm on June 10 in 1921, a Friday, He was the first son and second child of Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham.  He was delivered at Dunbar Hospital by Dr. Turner.  Mershell was a big baby, weighing 8 1/2 pounds. He joined older sister, 14 month old Mary Virginia.  Twenty months later his younger sister, my mother Doris, was born.

Mershell was an active boy, falling down the clothes chute and breaking a window  during a game of “who can hit their head against the window the hardest” with his younger sister, Doris.  In family photographs, he shows no fear of the ferocious puppy or the family chickens.

On November 1, 1927, he was hit by a truck on his way back to school after lunch. He died just after midnight on November 2.  My sister, cousins and I grew up with warnings to be careful crossing the street and to remember what happened to Mershell.

Baby Mershell sitting on the picnic table with Grandmother Graham, big sister Mary Virginia, mother Fannie on the right and Clifton Graham at Bell Isle 1922
Mershell Jr and pal Toodles – 1923 , 2 years old
Clifton, Mary Virginia, Lewis and Mershell Jr. Siblings and cousin/friends
MV – MC Jr – Doris – Mother with chickens -1923
Doris, M.V. Mershell, Toodles. Dated 1926 and 1927. Maybe it was January.
May 1927. Mary V., Mershell, Doris. In back: Aunt Daisy, Grandmother Jennie T., Mother Fannie

Mershell’s school books 1927

My mother wrote on the page of practice writing above “Mother teaching him to write his name.”

Related links  –  Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit Part 1;   1940 Census – the Grahams – Supplemental Material

F – FAMILY, MY GRAHAMS in the 1920 Census

I looked for the house my grandparents lived in in 1920 on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, to no avail. I couldn’t even find the block. However, I do have the photos above which were taken at the house so at least we can see the backyard and their housemates.

Mershell Graham and Fannie Turner married on June 15, 1919. They left that same evening for Detroit where they boarded with friends from Montgomery, Moses and Jean Walker. Moses wasn’t related to my grandparents, but he was the brother of one of Fannie’s cousin’s wife, Margaret Walker McCall.

The Household of Moses and Jean Walker in 1920

Everybody in the household was wrongly labeled as “white”. They were all African American. Moses and Jean Walker, were old friends of my grandparents from Montgomery, Alabama. There were three family members and four boarders in the house.

Moses and Jeanette Walker owned their home free of mortgage. Moses was 38 years old and born in Alabama, as were his parents. He was literate, and had, in fact, attended business college. In 1920 he was employed by the US government as a Customs Inspector.

His wife Jeanette, was 38 and born in Tennessee, as were both of her parents. She was literate and not employed outside of the home in 1920.

Moses and Jeanette’s daughter Mignon Walker was born in Tennessee in 1909. She was 10 years old and was attending school.

My grandfather, Mershell Graham was 30 years old he and my grandmother, Fannie (Turner) Graham were both born in Alabama as were their parents. They had married the year before and Fannie was about seven months pregnant with their first child, Mary Virginia Graham. Both were literate. Mershell worked in an Auto plant as an inspector.

Harrold Gumble was 23 years old. He was born in Louisiana as were his parents. He was single and worked as a labor boss in a foundry. He was literate. Several years later he returned to New Orleans, married and raised three children there.

Mrs. Emma Davis Topp roomed with Moses and Jean Walker after her husband died in 1912. She was born in Mississippi and attended school through the 8th grade. She was a dressmaker.

All of their neighbors were listed as white. Most of them were immigrants or children of immigrants. Some worked in auto plants, there were two carpenters and several auto mechanics. All of the school age children, except one fifteen year old, attended school. None of the married women worked outside of the home. There were several unmarried women who worked in offices. Emma Topp was a dressmaker and there was a widow who kept a boarding house.

________________

You can see the letter from Fannie accepting Mershell’s proposal here The Proposal Accepted.
See the proposal letter here  The Proposal – Migration Story.
To read all about the wedding click Announcement