I recently received some family information from one of my granddaughters. I’ve been using the information to see what I can find out. I have not done any research in New Orleans, LA before.
“My great grandmother was born on 2/26/24. Her mother whose first name was Agnes passed away at 18 or 19 due to Tuberculosis. At the time her mother passed, my great grandmother was only four months old. Her fathers name was Joseph Robinson and he passed away when she was twelve or thirteen. She had an older sister whose name was Irene who was approximately thirteen months older. Their mother, Agnes and their father, Joseph married when Agnes was 16 and Joseph was 21.”
I found two marriage records for Grace Robinson. In both, her parent’s were given as father, Joseph Robinson and mother, Agnes McGee. Grace’s birthdate was given as about 1922 in one and about 1924 in the other.
Next, I looked for a marriage license for Agnes McGee and Joseph Robinson. I found their marriage license on Family Search. The actual document was available for viewing and that was great because there is information on it that wasn’t available in the index on Ancestry.
In addition to finding that Joseph Robinson married Agnes on Dec. 11, 1922 in New Orleans, I also found that Agnes maiden name was McGhee and that she was born in New Orleans. Joseph Robinson was born in Jefferson, LA. His occupation was mail service. Was he working as a postman or a delivery man? Both sets of parent’s names were listed, taking the known information back a generation. All of the parents were dead by this date and guardians give permission for their marriage. Agnes’ guardian was Walter Prentiss, her mother’s brother and Agnes’ uncle. I have not found a relationship for Charles J. Sylvester.
A post about finding my great great grandmother Susan Rice Ragan that I wrote several years ago and never published.
Riding home today after getting my ears dewaxed, my mind wandered to… pension files.
Recently I joined fold3 to find information about one of the people I wrote up in the Katie Cleage’s series – Lucy McCaury. I couldn’t find anything about her, so I decided to see if there were any interesting widow’s files from the same Troop with the Cleages. I found one yesterday for Susan Regan, from Athens TN. As I went through her file, I noticed a name I recognized – W.R. Sherman and thought, well, I know him. He was my great grandmother Celia’s second husband. He was writing concerning final expenses for Susan Regan and he listed himself as son-in-law. It took me overnight to realize that would make her Grandma Celia’s mother.
Susan Ragan and the three children of Nelson Ragan/Reagan were named in the file. They were born in 1857, 1860 and 1864. My great grandmother was born in 1855. Henry was born in 1854. They weren’t named in the pension file because they were not Nelson’s children and therefore didn’t qualify for any pension money. In the 1870 census, Susan Ragan appears with those three plus Ann and Henry. All were using the Ragan surname. I had looked at that file several times before when trying to find Celia in the 1870 census and discarded it because the names were “wrong”. This time I remembered that Celia’s first name was Anna on her death certificate.
Monday I was following my newly found 2X great grandmother Susan Ragan through the census records on ancestry.com. She was only appearing in every other census. I finally decided to go ahead and add her to my main family tree as my great grandmother’s mother. (I had set up a separate tree for them until I was sure.) Once I added her as my great grandmother’s mother, she appeared in the missing censuses as Susan Rice . “Rice” being the name of their former slave holder and my great grandmother’s father so “Rice” became one of Susan Rice Ragan’s surnames and she began to show up when she used that surname. The children identified as ‘Ragan” before, now appeared as “Rice” in those censuses. It’s all so amazing to me. I even found her grave on Find-a-grave and had it transferred to me.
In 1890 Susan Richardson Abbott received a widow’s pension because of her husband Randolph Abbott’s service with the United States Colored Troops during the United States Civil War.
Today there are two statements made concerning her marriage to the soldier, Randolph Abbott. The first are by two men who were also enslaved on Col. Hazzard’s plantation before Freedom. The second were made by the widow and daughter of a neighbor of Hazzard, Captain Stevens. Captain Stevens had the plantation next to Hazzard.
Click on any of the images to enlarge them.
State of Georgia, County of Glynn, SS:
In the matter of Pension of Susan Abbott
On this 18th day of May, A. D. 1894, personally appeared before me, a clerk County Court, in and for the aforesaid County, duly authorized to administer oats, Wesley Lee aged 70 years, a resident of St. Simons Island, in the County of Glynn, and state of Georgia, whose Post Office is St. Simons Island Ga, and Charles Ryals (about), aged 75 years, a resident of St. Simons Island, in the County of Glynn and State of Georgia, whose Post Office address is St. Simons Island, well know to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declared in relation to aforesaid case, as follows;
(Affiants would state how they gained a knowledge of the facts to which they testify)
We lived on the same plantation with Randolph and Susan Abbott. We remember their marriage by white Episcopal minister (Mr. Brown) We moved back to the old home after the war. Sue never married again. Randolph and Sue was born and raised on West Point Plantation and owned by Col Hazzard.
Before the war Susan was a house servant, Randolph a farm hand. After the war, he was a farmer. Randolph was in bad health after he left the army until time of death, which took place Feb. 1875. We were with him when he was sick and at his death and attended his funeral. Randolph was tall and well made not quite black.
They had five children. Betsy, Louis, Brista, Joe Thomas.
Betsey and Louis died some years since.
Cannot give age of children.
And we further declare that we have no interest in said case, and that we are not concerned in its prosecution.
(If Affiants sign by mark, two witnesses who can write sign here) A. J. Corvatt A E Eve
(Affiants) Wesly Lee his X mark Charles Ryals his X mark
State of Georgia, County of Glynn SS:
In the matter of Pension of Susan Abbott
On this 18th day of May A. D. 1894 personally appeared before me, clerk of the Common Court in and for the aforesaid County, duly authorized to administer oaths, Annie F Arnold aged 50 years a resident of St. Simons Island in the County of Glynn, and state of Georgia whose Post Office address is St. Simons Island GA, and Sarah D. Stevens, aged 45 years, a resident of St. Simons Island, in the County of Glynn and State of Georgia, whose Post Office address is St. Simons Island Georgia, well known to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declared in relation to aforesaid case, as follows:
(affiants should state how they gained a knowledge of the facts to which they testify)
Randolph and Susan Abbott were married by an Episcopal minister Rev Brown about the year 1852. (Am not certain about dates) The church books having been destroyed by fire it is impossible to get the certificate of marriage.
Their first child Betsy was born the following year and christened by same minister. Living on the next plantation and visiting their owners (Col Hazzard and family) we knew them well. After the war they returned to their old home and we saw them constantly. Susan did not marry after her husband’s death. They were good respectable people. Their P. O. address was Fredrica Ga at the time of their marriage. After the war ended they returned to their former home and same P .O. address until Randolph’s death, which happened, (I think) Feb 1875.
And we further declare that we have no interest in said case, and that we are not concerned in its prosecution
(If Affiants sign by mark, two witnesses who can write sign here) A J Corvatt A. E. Eve
(signature of Affiants) Annie F. Arnold Sarah D Stevens
In 1890 Susan Richardson Abbott received a widow’s pension because of her husband Randolph Abbott’s service with the United States Colored Troops during the United States Civil War. In the file were several statements by her then employer, Judge Crovatt and several former neighbors.
In 1903 she applied for an increase in her pension from $8 to $12 a month. In the deposition below she gives an overview of her life.
Click on any of the images to enlarge them.
Case of Susan Abbott ctf No. 416397 On this 4th day of August 1903 at Brunswick County of Glynn State of Ga before me, Don McClain a special examiner of the Bureau of pensions, personally appeared Susan Abbott who being by me first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogatories propounded to her during this special examination of aforesaid claim for pension, deposes and says: I am (blank) years of age; my post-office address is as above. I am a house servant.
I am the widow of Randolph Abbott, on account of whose service in the U.S army during the War of the Rebellion and subsequent death, I get a pension of $8 a month under the Act of June 27, 1890.
I can’t give my age. I had seven children when Charleston was taken. (She appears at least 65 years of age)
I was born in Charleston, S.C., the slave of Mr. Moon. 1He sold me to Ga. and I was the slave of Capt. Myers when freedom came. I can’t locate any of my white people now.
I married Randolph in slavery. I lived with him until he went in the war. We lived together about five years after the war when he died on St. Simon Island, Ga. I have not remarried since his death.
I have lived here with this family about 25 years
My husband was 6 feet tall and black. My claim was not examined before it was granted.
My husband served under Strawbridge and Capt. Walker. 2 They are the men he went away with. He was never called by any name except Randolph Abbott. He was the son of Tom Abbott.
I came down here long before the war. I met my husband here. He was born on St. Simon Island. He has a brother in Savannah. I mean a half brother. He is called Washington. I can’t give the other name.
I own no property at all. I have no income but my pension and what I cook for.
My husband died about five years after the war of a visur (?) in the throat. Dr. Wilson, dead, attended him in his last illness. He did not get a pension. He was never well after the war.
This is the only pension I ever applied for. I have not put in under the old law. I have no claim pending before the Pension Office at the present time.
Since the death of my husband I have lived no place except here in Brunswick.
I have forgotten the names of my original witnesses. Judge Crovatt is the only lawyer I had. I live with him. He charged me nothing. I keep my pension papers at the office of Judge Crovatt. I have never pledged them or either of them for money or thing of value. I do not go down town on signing day Judge Crovatt does that for me. He brings me $24 every time and puts it into my hand.
I have heard my answers and they are correct. Susan (her X mark) Abbott
The latter part of August, 1862, Captain C. T. Trowbridge, with his brother John and Lieutenant Walker, came to St. Simon’s Island from Hilton Head, by order of General Hunter, to get all the men possible to finish filling his regiment which he had organized in March, 1962. He had heard of the skirmish on this island, and was very much pleased at the bravery shown by these men. He found me at Gaston Bluff teaching my little school, and was muh interested in it. When I knew him better I found him to be a thorough gentleman and a staunch friend to my race.
Captain Trowbridge remained with us until October, when the order was received to evacuate, and so we boarded the Ben-De-Ford, a transport, for Beaufort, S. C. When we arrived in Beaufort, Captain Trowbridge and the men he had enlisted went to camp at Old Fort, which they named “Camp Saxton,” I was enrolled as laundress.
The first suits worn by the boys were red coats and pants, which they disliked very much, for, they said, “The rebels see us, miles away.”
The first colored troops did not receive any pay for eighteen months, and the men had to depend wholly on what they received from the commissary, established by General Saxton. A great many of these men had large families, and as they had no money to give them , their wives were obliged to support themselves and children by washing for the officers of the gunboats and the soldiers, and making cakes and pies which they sold to the boys in camp. Finally, in 1863, the government decided to give them half pay , but the men would not accept this . They wanted “ full pay ” or nothing. They preferred rather to give their services to the state , which they did until 1864, when the government granted them full pay , with all the back pay due.
Almost two hundred years ago Susan Richardson Abbot was born into slavery on the plantation of Thomas Boone in Charleston, SC. After Boone died 28 October, 1831, his wife began selling off land and people. https://findingeliza.com/archives/34332[↩]
He served under Trowbridge https://findingeliza.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/1962-Dec-19-enlisted-scaled.jpg[↩]
I looked at Sanborn maps to locate the members of the Edelweiss Club. First I had to find out where they lived. In the items in The Emancipator the address of the house where the meeting was to be hosted was often given, but that didn’t happen every time and it didn’t tell me where the other members lived, nor where they were in relationship to each other. I did what I do when I am studying people, I made each of them a tree on ancestry.com. All 37 of them, or as many as I could find.
I searched for them in the Montgomery City Directory for 1919 or in the U.S. census for 1920. Those gave me their addresses and their occupation. If I found the census and they were living with their families (most were) I also found their ages, their parents ages and occupations and information about their siblings. With that information I could start a tree later to learn more. At the beginning, I just wanted to find basic information for my blog post and then I wanted to find where they lived. When I decided to write something about them for National Novel Writing Month, I created more complete trees to find out when they moved to Montgomery, if they married, if they moved out of Montgomery to points North, East and West.
Where did the women live in Montgomery? Were they spread out or did they live near each other? I have only been to Montgomery twice, once in 1975 and once in 2009. I knew where the neighborhood my grandmother had lived in was, and it was mostly torn down and absorbed into downtown Montgomery. The building that housed her uncle Victor Tulane’s grocery store, was still standing, but that was about it. What churches did the members attend? Were they active in church work? Did they sing in a group? For those that worked in a family business, as my grandmother Fannie Turner did, where was the business located? Was there (hopefully) an old and faded photograph of it in the paper? Was there, perhaps a photo of the young woman in the newspaper? And a question difficult to find an answer to, were the unidentified women in my grandmother’s photo album Edelweiss members?
While looking for information, I came across a document about gentrifying, they called it “rehabbing”. It the area where Victor Tulane’s store was and they gave me a name for the neighborhood where the store, my family and most of the Edelweiss members lived – The Centennial Community, a historic black Montgomery community. Some of the churches and schools and a few of my family had lived in the black community known as West Montgomery. That was where Washington Park, where the last dance was held, was located. It was on the other side of town from the Centennial Community. I found where the “Peacock Tract”, an early black, community was located and why there was a school way up in the northeast part of the city – another smaller, black community. Some of these questions I have answered – I found most of the members lived within walking distance of each other. At least so it looks on the map. I found all of my family members living within walking distance of each other. I located cemeteries, churches, drugstores, and private schools. There were a number of schools that were not a part of the public school system that had been started by northern missionaries after the Civil War. Aside from finding where the young women lived using the Sanborn maps, I was also able to find the relative size of the houses and schools. For the schools and churches, the type of heat and the source of light was given. If the streets were paved or not was more information. Most of the streets were not paved. Some of the schools had no heat. Lights were lanterns, or big windows in some cases. Reading the news articles, there were many drives by black citizens to raise money to repair schools, buy equipment and even built new additions.
In 1869 The First African Baptist church put up a new building. The women raised the money and fed the construction workers while the building was constructed. The The leader, Rev. Andrew Neal (Nyle), served as pastor for 28 years. Under his leadership in 1869, the beautiful framed, front gabled church building was artfully constructed with round arch windows, and an off center, pyramidal roof steeple by former slaves of the St. Simons plantations.First African Baptist church website.
In the 1870 Census, Susan and Randolph Abbott and their six children lived in Glynn County Georgia. The parents and two oldest children worked on the farm. Neither of the parents could read or write. The four children over age nine had attended school during the past year and were literate.
Randolph and Susan Abbott were both listed as 36 years old. Lizzie Abbot, 15 and Eliza, 13 both worked on the farm, attended school and were able to read. Bristol, 12 and Louis 11 were not working and attended school they could also read.
Thomas, 9 and Joseph, 7 were at home and not yet attending school.
Susan’s brother Richard Richardson and his wife Dorcus lived in the next house with their four children.
On January 26, 1871, Randolph Abbott opened an account with the Freedman’s Bank. He was described as 40 years old with a dark complexion. His wife was Susan, age 41. Their six children were named. Betsey, 19; Lewis, 17; Eliza, 15; Bristol 13; Joseph 11 and Thomas 10. His father’s name was Tom. He died on the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad during the Civil war. His mother’s name was Betty.
He was formerly of CO A 33c, United States Colored Troops. He had received a bounty of $62. $50 was deposited. . The pastor of their church, First African Baptist Church, Rev. Andrew Neyle identified them. First African Baptist Church was founded in 1859 by enslaved people who wanted their own church. Randolph Abbott died later that year.
United States, Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1874 (Familysearch.com)
On March 12, 1873 Susan Abbott, now widowed, signed up for an account at the Freedman’s Bank. She states she was born in Charleston, South Carolina and now resides on St Simons Island. She was 41 years old and had a dark complexion. Her husband, Randolph, was deceased. The children are again listed. Betsy 29; Lewis 18; Eliza 15; Briston 13; Joseph 11; and Thomas 10. Her father’s name was Thomas Richardson and her mother was Chloe. Both were deceased. She had eight sisters and brothers. One, Maria, was deceased. The others were Daniel, Stephen, Thomas, Richard, Sarah Kennon and Charlotte
United States, Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1874 (Familysearch.com)
The ages on various records are inconsistent because people often did not know exactly when they were born or how old they were.
United States, Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1874 (Familysearch.com)
Freedmen’s Bank Fails, Devastating Black Community The Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company, more commonly referred to as The Freedmen’s Bank, failed in June 1874, taking with it millions of dollars in Black wealth. The bank was first incorporated on March 3, 1865, the same day the Freedmen’s Bureau was created, and formed to help previously enslaved people economically transition to freedom.
During the next several years, Rev. Nyle of First African Baptist Church, officiated at the marriages of Susan Abbott’s children.
Susan Abbott was eligible for a pension as the widow of a soldier who fought in the Civil War. She filed for her widow’s pension in in 1890. Apparently she received it, according to her obituary. When the National Archives reopens after the pandemic, I will be able to order a copy of the pension file. There is usually a wealth of information available in the files that contain the transcribed words of the person applying and their witnesses. Some of the people who were enslaved on the Hazzard plantation with her should have testimony swearing that she and Randolph were married and if there was a ceremony or celebration and about the birth of the children.
In the 1900 census Susan Abbott was enumerated twice. On June 1, 1900 she was enumerated next door to her Son Thomas and his family on St Simons Island. She was listed as 65, living in a house (as opposed to a farm). She had given birth to six children and four were still living. Her daughter Betsey and her family and son Joe and his family lived on the same road. She was still unable to read or write but her children and grandchildren were literate and the grandchildren of school age attended school. They owned their own farms free of mortgage.
She was also enumerated as housekeeper living with the white Crovatt family in the city of Brunswick, on June 2, 1900. A. J. Crovatt was 41, his wife Mary was 40. There were two sons, William 18 and Alfred 17 and one daughter Mary L. who was 14. All of the children were in school.
Susan Abbott was about 80 years old when she died in 1909. She lived a long life and came from slavery to freedom and saw her children and grandchildren grow up to become literate property owners.
Georgia Glynn County
Know all men by these presents that we Thomas Abbott principal and Peter Joseph security are held and firmly bound into the Ordinary for said county, and his successors in office and assigns, in the just and full sum of the fifteen hundred dollars full sum of fifteen hundred dollars for the payment of which sum to the said Ordinary, and his successors in office, we bond ourselves, our heirs, executors and administrators in the whole, and for the whole sum, jointly and severally and firmly by these presents.
Sealed with our seals and dated this 3rd day of May 1909.
The condition of the above obligation is such, that if the above bound Thomas Abbott do make a time and perfect inventory of the goods, chattels, rights, credits , lands tenements of Susan Abbot late of Glynn County, deceased, which have or shall come into the hands, possessions of the said Thomas Abbott, or the hands of any person or persons for him and the same so made, do exhibit into the said Ordinary, when he shall be here until required; and such good chattels, credits, lands and tenements, do well and truly administer, according to the law, and to make a great and true account of his doings and acting there in when he shall thereunto be required by the court: Shall deliver and pay to such person or persons, respectively, as they may be entitled to the same by law, and if it shall here after appear that my last will and testament was made by the deceased, and the same proven before the court of ordinary, and the executor obtain a certificate of the probate there of and Thomas Abbott in such case, if required, render and deliver up said letters of administration, the this obligation to be void else to remain in full force signed, sealed and acknowledge in open court.
Earlier this year my daughter shared this photograph of Susan Richardson Abbott and her obituary from a newspaper in 1909. I decided to see what I could learn about her in addition to the stereotypical “good old mammy” obituary. This is what I found.
SUDDEN DEATH OF OLD SERVANT—For Many Years a Faithful Servant in Family of Judge Crovatt. There will be genuine sorrow expressed by a very large number of white people when they learn of the death of “Mammy Sue,” who has been faithful servant in the family of Judge A.J. Crovatt for the past thirty years. Everybody knew “Mammy Sue”; she had been so identified with the family of “her people” as to be one of them. Born in Charleston, a slave, Susan Abbot [sic], as she was known, was brought to St. Simons Island and was the servant of the Hazzard family there. At the close of the war, Susan became a member of the family of Col. C.L. Schlatter, the father of Mrs. A.J. Crovatt. After the marriage of Miss Mary Lee Schlatter to Mr. A.J. Crovatt, “Mammy Sue” went with her young mistress and was the nurse of three children of Judge and Mrs. Crovatt. As the widow of a soldier in the Federal Army during the war, Mammy Sue was awarded a pension by the government. Though her husband fought on the Federal side, Mammy Sue staid [sic] with her “own people.” Famous as a cook, devoted to the interests of those with whom she had been so many years, the death of Mammy Sue removes another of the rare ante-bellum negroes. Her illness was of only a few hours duration; the young daughter of the house, Mary Lee Crovatt, had gone to see the old woman at ten o’clock to give her a cup of tea; Mammy did not complain of being ill, and had been about her usual duties all day yesterday. Though eighty years of age, Mammy Sue was remarkably active, and was in full control of all her faculties. At one o’clock another of the servants heard the old woman calling, and Miss Crovatt and her brother went to the room in the servant’s house. When the door was opened, Mammy Sue was unconscious and died with(in) a few minutes. Four children survive, Thomas and Joseph Abbot and Eliza Cuyler, all of whom live on St. Simons. Another son, Randolph Abbot, being in Charleston (note: no Randolph found). The body will be carried to St. Simons where it will be interred tomorrow.
FUNERAL OF MAMMY SUE HELD ON ST. SIMONS The body of Susan Abbott, or “Mammy Sue” the aged servant of Judge A.J. Crovatt, was carried to St. Simons this morning for interment. Services were held last night in the First African Baptist Church, of which church, Mammy Sue had long been a member. The Brunswick Journal; Tuesday 19 January 1909; pg. 1
Almost two hundred years ago Susan Richardson Abbot was born into slavery on the plantation of Thomas Boone in Charleston, SC. After Boone died 28 October, 1831, his wife began selling off land and people.
On 13 December, 1831, Mary Boone sold eleven people, including Susan, her mother Chloe and her brother Richard, from her husband’s estate in Charleston S. C. to William W. & Mary Hazzard.
State of South Carolina
KNOW ALL MENby these Presents, that Mary S Boone executrix of Thomas Boone for and in consideration of the sum of three thousand three hundred and eighty dollars to me in hand paid, at and before the sealing and delivery of these Presents by John Halsett & Corro B Lining trustees of Wm W Hazard & Mary Blake Hazard his wife (the receipt whereof do hereby acknowledge) have bargained and sold and by these Presents, do bargain, sell and deliver to the said Mr. Hazlett and Corro B Lining trustees aforesaid the following negro slaves – viz Sue – Chloe, Richard, Sue, Margaret, Maria, Hannah, Limas, Celia, Cyrus, Abe, Mily & Venus
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, THE SAID above named negro slaves with the future issue and increase of the said females-unto the said John Haslett & Corro B Lining trustees aforesaid them…
In Witness thereof, have herunto set my Hand and Seal Dated at Charleston – on the twenty sixth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty three and in the fifty seventh year of the Independence of the United States of America.
Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of J. H. Peters, South Carolina
Mary J Boone executrix of Thomas Boone by her atty H A Devaussure
Recorded 26 Feb 1833.
William Wigg Hazzard was one of fourteen large slave holders on St. Simons Island. The much prized Sea Island Cotton, was grown on their plantations. Long staple-cotton had a different culture than the cotton grown inland. It required more hand work. In 1810 Hazzard enslaved 53 people. By 1860, he enslaved 93. They were housed in 16 slave dwellings, making a little over 5 people per dwelling.
The housing was built using tabby, composed of the lime from burned oyster shells mixed with sand, water, ash, and other shells. The buildings, about 18 ft x 18 ft, consisted of one room. A fireplace at one end, was used for cooking and heat in cool weather.
Furnishings would have been minimal. Blankets were given out once every few years. Food and clothing rations were sparingly distributed. They may have been supplemented by gardening, hunting and fishing in the time not taken up by work.
Susan Richardson Abbott’s husband, Randolph Abbott, was enslaved on the plantation of Captain Charles Stephens, located next to the Hazzard’s plantations. Stevens made his money through shipping.
Randolph and Susan’s oldest child, was born in 1855, She was named Betsy. Over the next eight years five more children were born. Daughter Eliza was born in 1857. Son Bristol was born in 1858. Son Lewis was born in 1859. Son Thomas in 1861.
Susan Abbott and her husband were probably among the founders of the First African Baptist Church which was organized by enslaved people in their quarters below is the description From the church website.
The First African Baptist Church was organized at Pike’s Bluff Plantation in the year 1859. Members of this African American congregation traveled from all around the island to attend worship services every Sunday. The early pioneers worshiped in a little tabby church located near their quarters at West Point Plantation…
In December 1862, Susan Abbot’s husband, Randolph Abbott, joined the United States Colored Troops on St. Simon’s Island. At that time she was pregnant with the sixth child. Joseph, who was born in January of 1863, the same month his father was mustered into the USCT. He served for three years. On January 31, 1866 he was mustered out in Charleston, SC.
Civil War and Beyond
from the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 put a sudden end to St. Simons’s lucrative plantation era. In January of that year, Confederate troops were stationed at the south end of the island to guard the entrance to Brunswick Harbor. Slaves from Retreat Plantation, owned by Thomas Butler King, built earthworks and batteries. Plantation residents were scattered—the men joined the Confederate army and their families moved to the mainland. Cannon fire was heard on the island in December 1861, and Confederate troops retreated in February 1862, after dynamiting the lighthouse to keep its beacon from aiding Union troops. Soon thereafter, Union troops occupied the island, which was used as a camp for the formerly enslaved. By August 1862 more than 500 former slaves lived on St. Simons, including Susie King Taylor, who organized a school for freed slave children. But in November the ex-slaves were taken to Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Fernandina, Florida, leaving the island abandoned. After the Civil War the island never returned to its status as an agricultural community. The plantations lay dormant because there were no slaves to work the fields. After Union general William T. Sherman’s January 1865 Special Field Order No. 15 —a demand that former plantations be divided and distributed to former slaves—was overturned by U.S. president Andrew Johnson less than a year later, freedmen and women were forced to work as sharecroppers on the small farms that dotted the land previously occupied by the sprawling plantations.
Unidentified young women from my grandparent’s photo album. I believe the one on the left is Madeline Abercrombie, based on a newspaper photograph of her several months before her death in 1973. More about that on the A post.
In 2018 I did a series of posts for the A to Z Challenge based on articles taken from The Emancipator, an African American newspaper published by my cousin in Montgomery Alabama around 1920. I mentioned the Edelweiss Club in several posts.
Who were the members of the Edelweiss Club? Thirty seven women attended the monthly meetings judging from news items that appeared in The Emancipator, starting January 12, 1918 and continuing monthly until May 3, 1919. Some of the women were members and some were guests and not all were present at every meeting. Thirty of them were teachers. One was a seamstress. Three worked in family businesses. The other three did not have employment and were relatives of members. Most of the members were single, some married as time went on. Some moved out of town. A good number never married.
All of them came from literate homes. Most of their parents owned their homes, some free and clear, some mortgaged. Their fathers tended to work for themselves as barbers, carpenters and plasterers. Bertha Loveless’ father was an undertaker. Madge Brown’s father was a farmer. Alberta Boykin’s father was a mail carrier. Several lived with their widowed mother or an aunt. Most had multiple siblings.
Their parents were born in the mid 1850s to the 1870 so they would have been teenagers when slavery ended or were born during Reconstruction.
There were no more reported meetings after May 3, 1919.
There were 37 young women who attended the club meetings, more than enough for 26 “A to Z” posts. This year I will present the lives of some of those women as my A to Z theme. This will be my ninth year participating in the A to Z Challenge.
Today I’m going to write about my mother’s parents, Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham grandparents in my preview of the 1950 Census.
In 1950 Mershell and Fannie Graham were still living at 6638 Theodore Street. The single family frame house was built in 1913 and was probably worth about $7,000. The Grahams bought the house in 1923. If they had a 30 year mortgage, they would have had 3 more years until it was paid. I like to think that they had already paid it off. The house probably cost less than $2,000 when they bought it in 1923.
The house was heated with forced air using a converted coal to gas furnace. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom complete with indoor plumbing and running water upstairs, including a claw foot bathtub and a flush toilet. Downstairs were three more rooms, making six in all (not counting the bathroom). The kitchen had an electric refrigerator and a sink with hot and cold running water. There was also a full attic and full basement. They did not own a television but did have a radio, probably more than one. I remember one in the kitchen and one in my grandfather’s bedroom.
Mershell Graham had worked 52 weeks as a stock clerk in an auto factory. His annual wages were probably about average, $3,210. He had completed 8 years of school. He was not a veteran. Mershell and Fannie had been married once and this marriage had lasted 31 years. Fannie had birthed 4 children. She had completed high school, and had not worked outside of the home.
Living with them was Fannie’s 75 year old widowed aunt, Abbie Allen. Abbie had birthed 2 children and her 1 marriage occurred 46 years ago. She hadn’t worked in the past year. She had completed 7th grade.
All three of them would have given “Negro” for race, but if the census taker didn’t ask and assumed, they may have been enumerated as “white”. All three were born in Alabama and all of their parents had been born in the United States.
Helpful links for figuring out costs and wages were:
Today I am previewing my paternal grandparent’s, Albert and Pearl Cleage’s, household in 1950.
In 1950 the Cleage household consisted of Albert B. Cleage, his wife Pearl and five of their seven children. Albert was a Physician. He was 66 years old and had retired from his medical practice, my Aunt Gladys remembers. He was born in Tennessee and both of his parents were born in the United States. He had completed over 5 years of college. He and his wife had been married for 40 years. This was the only marriage for both.
Pearl D. Cleage was 64 years old. She had given birth to seven children. She was born in Kentucky and had completed 12 years of school. She kept house and had not worked or sought work outside of the home during the past year. Her parents were born in the US.
Louis Cleage, their son, was 36 years old and also a physician in a private practice. He had completed over 5 years of college and never been married. He worked 52 weeks. Henry Cleage, a son, was 34 years old. He had worked 52 weeks as an attorney in private practice. He had been married once and divorced about 6 years. Hugh Cleage, a son was 32 years old. He had never been married. He worked 52 weeks as a postal worker at the US post office. Not sure of his salary yet. He had completed 2 years of college. None of them had been in the military.
Barbara Cleage, a daughter, was 30 years old. She had worked the previous year as receptionist her brother’s doctor’s office. She had never been married and had no children. She had completed a year of college. Anna Cleage was the youngest daughter at 26 years old. She had completed over 5 years of college and had worked the previous year as a pharmacist in her brother’s doctor’s office. She had never been married and had no children. All of the children were born in Michigan. Everybody in the household was identified as Neg(ro).
By 1950 the Cleages had moved from their house on Scotten Avenue to 2270 Atkinson. This three story brick home with full basement was built in 1919. Because it was bought only 2 years before, in 1948, I believe there was a mortgage.
There were two full and two partial bathrooms. There were four bedrooms on the second floor and two in the attic. On the first floor there was a kitchen; a breakfast room; a dining room; a living room; a library and a sun room, adding another six rooms and making twelve rooms in total.
The house was heated by steam heat, with radiators in every room. The house was fully electrified, had hot and cold running water and indoor plumbing. There were two bathtubs and 4 flush toilets in the various bathrooms. In the kitchen there was an electric refrigerator. The stove was gas. The sinks all had hot and cold running water. There was a radio and probably a television. A friend who lived across the street from my grandparents says that his parents bought their house for $15,000 in 1952. My cousin Jan found papers about 2270 Atkinson. When my grandparents bought it early in 1949, the cost was $12,600.