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 hr 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.
The other day I was thinking about when the next census would released – 2022. I enjoyed finding my family and placing them in context in the 1940 Census. I thought that I know much of the information that would be asked on the 1950 Census. Why wait? I Googled a blank form for the 1950 Census. This is the first of a series based on all of the unpublished censuses – 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. I was there!
The 1950 Census is the first one in which I make an appearance. I was three years old. We lived at 643 Union Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. This was the parsonage/ community house located next to the church.
My father, Albert B. Cleage, was the “head” of the household. He was 38 years old and had worked for 52 weeks as the pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church. I do not know how much he earned the previous year, but I’m sure it was on the low side of the $2,992 average wage. He was born in Indiana and both of his parents were born in the United States. He had completed at least 1 year of post degree college work.
My mother, Doris G. Cleage, was my father’s wife. She was 27 years old and was born in Michigan. Both of her parents were also born in the U.S.A. She had completed four years of college and had not worked outside of the home the previous year. She had given birth to two children, both of them still alive. Three year old Kristin and one year old Pearl had both been born in Massachusetts. My parents had been married 6 years. Everybody in the house was identified as “Neg(ro)”. My mother took education classes at Springfield College in 1950 but I’m not sure if it was before or after April, when the census was taken.
Some things that I know about my family at that time that aren’t listed include that we did not own a car and that my father hoped to eventually find a church in Detroit so they could move back home. This happened the following year, 1951.
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.
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.
Dear Homer; Forgive me for not writing sooner, but don’t you know I did write but tore up the letter a few hours after. Mother is very ill now and has been since Easter eve. I am having a terrible time. I could not go to church Easter Morn and have just received an invitation to a friends at her birthday anniversary but had to send her my regrets. Pity me. Your little friend
P.S. I am in an awful hurry, forgive this writing.
P.S. Minnie’s address is #337 Colfax Ave. Benton Harbor Mich.
While looking for some of his ancestors last spring, my cousin Peter Olivier found
a packet of letters online written by my grandmother Pearl Reed
(Cleage) from 1903 to 1905. They were for sale by Michal Brown Rare
Books who “specialize in Americana, especially manuscript materials. We offer manuscript letters and archives, diaries, journals, personal and business correspondence from the 17th century through the 20th.“
By the time I found out that the letters existed, they had been sold to the University of Georgia in Athens. I thought it was strange because neither my grandmother Pearl Reed nor Homer Jarrett, the young man she was exchanging letters with, were well known. Homer seems to have saved every piece of mail he ever received. Eventually all of those hundreds of pieces (which included my grandmother’s letters) ended up being sold after his death. In their entirety they give a unique picture of the era in which they were written.
I immediately got in touch with Special Collections Library at The University of Georgia in Athens. I was able to purchase scans of all 41 letters and envelopes very reasonably. I was very excited to have a look into my 19 year old grandmother’s life through her letters. It was lucky that the University purchased them. I could never have afforded to buy them.
This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama. Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. All of the news items were found on Newspapers.com. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping. Click on any image to enlarge.
Rosa Nixon was a friend of my grandparents. One of her sisters married into the same family that one of my grandmother’s first cousins married into. She graduated in the class of 1906 at State Normal School for Negroes, as did Mattie Graham.
Miss Rosa Nixon Accepts Position In Baltimore
Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 20- Miss Rosa Nixon of this city, resigned her position as head of the Art Department of the local State Normal School on Monday of this week in order to accept a position in the Baltimore Colored High School. The resignation went into effect Tuesday, the 19th inst., and Miss Nixon will leave to take up her new work at Baltimore on Thursday morning, February 21st.
Miss Nixon is one of the leading art teachers of the race, having studied in the foremost art schools of the country. Her excellent work as a teacher, club worker and member of the local Red Cross Auxiliary in this community will be sadly missed and her host of friends here are loath to have her go to another field. Miss Nixon has been head of the Art Department in the Normal School here for several years, during which time she has enlarged and developed the department to a high standard of efficiency.
While looking through my grandmother Fannie’s photographs, I came across this picture of Rosa Nixon. I wondered who she was. On the back it says “Mershell C. Graham – Rosa. And then in my mother’s handwriting it says ‘Not related! – One of Daddy’s girls, I suppose – he didn’t marry until 1918.’“
Rosa Nixon was born into a family that started off after slavery with more advantages than most. Her grandmother Winnie Nixon, received land, livestock, furniture and money upon the death of her former slave master, William Owen Nixon of Lowndes County, Alabama in 1868. In 1870 she had real estate valued at $4,000 and personal property valued at $1,000. All except the youngest two of her nine children were attending school. One of them was Rosa’s father, Alfred Nixon.
Rosa Nixon was born in September, 1889 in Montgomery, Alabama, the second of the four daughters of Alfred and Hattie (Clayton) Nixon. Hattie and her youngest baby girl, Zenobia died within a few months of each other in 1895. Zenobia was a year old. Hattie was 25.
Alfred Nixon worked as a porter and then as a bar tender. He remarried in 1901. He and his second wife, Mattie Coleman had three children together. One died. Two boys, Alfred Floyd and William O. Nixon were born in 1902 and 1904. Rosa graduated from Normal School in 1907. My grandmother Fannie and all of her cousins also graduated from this school, which went from first grade through high school.
Graduation At Normal School For Negroes
Program Includes Addresses by Tom Benjamin, Music and Addresses by Principal Paterson, and Several Friend of School
Twenty-four students, seventeen girls and seven boys received diplomas yesterday morning from the State Normal School for negroes (sic.). The graduating exercises included addresses by ten of the students, vocal and instrumental music, and remarks by Principal W.H. Paterson and friends of the school. The dominant note in each of the speeches made to the students and patrons of the school was that the negroes must educate their children, that they must supplement the work being done, by the State and that they must throw safeguards around the morals of their children as well as giving them assistance in securing knowledge.
Incidentally, the municipality of Montgomery was criticized for its failure to give negro children equal opportunity with white children in the schools and the lack of school room for negro children in this city was pointed out.
The closing exercises were held in the chapel, which is on the second floor of the main building. The twenty-four graduates formed a double semi-circle on the stage, which was decorated in the colors of the school, and the class of 1907. Sitting with the class on the stage were many of the negro preachers of Montgomery, including Bishop J. W. Alstork.
Simplicity marked the dress of the girls in the graduating class. They wore calico dresses. Frequent allusion was made to this simplicity of dress by Principal Paterson and the other speakers. The Principal said he had promised the girl students that he would provide the cloth if the girls would make the dresses and wear calico. they had readily consented and this simplicity of dress, he said, would be adhered to in the future. It was done, he said, in the interest of the poor parents of many of the student.
The graduating class consisted of Frederick D. Adair, Edna T. Barnett, Maris H. Brown. Dora D. Beverly, Melissa B. Culpepper, Mattie E. Graham, James B. Hatcher, Nora J. Holly, Olivia C. Hunter, Helen E. Jones, Adam J. Joseph, Queenie V. Lee, Gertrude R. Lucas, Rose H. Nixon, Alfred A. Poole, Sadie M. Richardson, Olivia A. Royal, Mary L. Sawyer, Rosa L. Shaw, Emmaline L. Simpson, Cornelius S. Sampson, Henry J. Todd, Charles D. Watkins, Ellen A. Wimbs.
According to the custom of the school, the ten students making the highest marks, prepared essays. Three essays were delivered without reference to manuscripts. They gave evidence of careful preparation and some of them were delivered with fine effect. None but members of the graduating class were on the program, which was as follows.
Piano Duet, “Jeunesse Doree” – (Smith)-Helen Jones and Rosa Nixon.
Salutatory and Oration, “The Christian Ministry” – James E. Hatcher
Oration, “Nature & Mysteries” – Emmaline Simpson.
Vocal Quartet, “Over the Hills at Break of Day” – (Geibel) – Olivia Royal, James S. Hatcher, Sadie Brown, Alfred Poole.
Oration, “The Conditions and Needs of Women Wage- Earners” – Hosea L. Shaw.
Essay, “The Leisure Class” – Olivia A. Royal.
Piano Solo. “Fanfare” – (Ascher) – Nora Holley
Oration, “The Genius of Japanese Civilization” – Olivia C. Hunter
Essay, “The Most Lasting Monuments” – Sadie B. Brown.
Vocal Duet, “When Gathering Clouds” – (Shuey) Sadie B. Brown, James E. Hatcher
Piano due, “La Baladine” – (Lysberg) – Mary Sawyer and Dora Beverly.
Oration, “The Duty of the Hour” Rosa Nixon
Essay, “The Results of Fraternities” Harry J. Todd
Sojourner Truth Club Essay – Helen N. Jones
Valedictory. “Through Trials to Triumphs’ – Dora Beverly.
Presentation of Diplomas
“My Old Kentucky Home” – By the Class
Principal Paterson announced that Helen Jones had won the prize annually offered by the Sojourner Truth Club, an organization of negro women, for the best essay on achievements by the race. The Jones girl then went forward and read the essay written on “Self help.” It was also announced that Wilson Walker, Sadie Castle, Effie May Todd and Lena Davenport had won prizes for garden work.
At the conclusion of the graduating exercises, brief addresses were delivered by Bishop Alstork, Nathan Alexander and other friends of the school.
In concluding the exercises, Principal Paterson said the school now owned property valued at $30,000, and that plans were making for an extension of its work another year.
During the year just closed, the school enrolled 1,055 pupils.
Rosa’s father died in 1908. There are no death certificates in Alabama at that time but I found a notice of his death and funeral in the local Montgomery paper.
“The friends and acquaintances of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred F. Nixon, are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of the former, from the Old Ship Church at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1st, 1908.”
Alfred Nixon owned his house free of mortgage when he died in 1908. In 1910, Rosa and her older sister Eugenia were both teaching. The three youngest children were all attending school. Her step-mother was not working outside of the home. The step-mother’s mother also shared the home.
Rosa taught at art at State normal School. She was active in community and social activities, heading the Red Cross Drive in 1917. In 1918 the art department, under Rosa Nixon’s supervision, bought a potters wheel. The students were all excited and looking forward to making a plate each.
We have now reached the article that started this post. Rosa Nixon, now 28 years old and the head of the Art Department of State Normal School, is headed to Baltimore, Maryland to head the Art Department at the Colored High School there. She boarded with several other teachers. That summer she attended art classes at Columbia University in New York City.
In 1921 Rosa was appointed to head the Art Department of Dunbar High School in Washington DC. Over the years she organized trips to museums, art galleries and other places of interest to her art students. She also continued to expand her own skills with workshops and classes.
In 1929 Rosa married John Henry Hampton, a postal worker. She continued to teach at Dunbar although she and her husband maintained a house in Baltimore. In 1940, Rosa’s widowed older sister, Eugenia and her two sons, both young men, were living in a separate flat in Rosa and her husband’s house. In 1951, after 30 years of service, the school board retired her. It doesn’t sound like she went willingly. She was 61 years old. Rosa’s husband died in 1961. One of her nephews was living with her when Rosa died suddenly at the age of 81, on December 11, 1970.
Suddenly, on December 11, 1970. Rosa N., of 2004 North Bentalou Street, beloved sister of William and Alfred Nixon. She is also survived by three nephews, Samuel N. and William W. Phillips and Rene Alvarado, four nieces, Mrs. Joyce Davis, Mrs. Myrtle Lancaster, Mrs Laura Nixon, and Mrs. Camille Lee and other relatives.
Friends may call at the Charles R. Law Funeral Home, 802 Madison Avenue. Services on Tuesday, 12 Noon from St. James Episcopal Church, Lafayette & Arlington Avenues. Family will receive friends on Monday evening from 7 to 9 P.M. at the above funeral home. Interment Arbutus Memorial Park.
I found this information on Ancestry.com in Census Records, Directories, Death Records and Military Records. The news item was found on Newspapers.com and Genealogy Bank. The photograph is from my personal collection.
For the past month, I have been lost in researching my cousin Anna Belle McCall Martin Martin Giampino’s life. My plan was to write her up for the second person in my 52 ancestors in 52 weeks series. Right now I am behind by about six weeks. While looking I found a third husband, an eighth child and her death, among other things.
One of these was a newspaper article that described a recital where Anna Belle McCall sang “Oh Dry Those Tears”. I realized that my grandmother Pearl Reed had sung the same song at a different recital. You can hear this song at the end of the post.
Twenty two year old Anna Belle sang in Montgomery in 1904. She had graduated from and taught at Alabama State Normal School, where the program was given. At the time she lived at home with her parents and siblings.
My grandmother Pearl sang in Indianapolis Indiana in 1909. She was twenty three and lived at home with her mother and brother. She sang with her church choir at Witherspoon Presbyterian Church on Sundays and regularly in community and church programs. Several years ago I found this news clipping among family photographs.
Sings in Concert at Simpson Chapel
“The violin recital of Clarence Cameron White will be given this evening at Simpson Chapel under the direction of the colored Y.M.C.A. Orchestra. He will be supported by the best local talent.
The following program will be given:
Overture-“Northern Lights,” Y.M.C.A. Orchestra. Violin- Hungarian Rhapsodie, Clarence Cameron White. Solo – “Oh, Dry Those Tears.” Miss Pearl D. Reed. Piano – (a) Valse in C sharp minor: (b) Polaise in A major, Mrs. Alberta J. Grubbs. Violin – Tran Merci; (d) Scherzo. Clarence Cameron White. Intermission Orchestra – “The Spartan” Orchestra Vocal – “Good-bye” Miss Pearl D. Reed. Readings – A.A. Taylor Selection – “The Bird and the Brook” Orchestra
An Evening With McCall
Poems of Blind Negro Poet Recited at Normal School
“A goodly crowd of representative negro citizens of Montgomery was present last night at the chapel of the State Normal School to participate in an “Evening with Poet McCall.” The entertainment consisted of recitations of some of the works of Montgomery’s blind negro poet interspersed with musical selections both vocal and instrumental.
The poems presented were well selected, embracing lyric, epic, didactic and satiric compositions of James Edward McCall and were rendered in a suitable and sympathetic manner by members of his race. The poet himself was present, seated among the audience.
N.H. Alexander acted as master of ceremonies and in a few introductory remarks dwelt upon the character of McCall’s work and stated that the object of the meeting was to pay tribute to the genius of one of their own race.
Also noteworthy were the remarks of William Phillips who gave a sketch of the life of the blind poet and spoke of the favorable appreciation his poems had met with both among his own race and the white people in Montgomery and elsewhere.”
Lyrics: O dry those tears and calm those fears Life is not made for sorrow ‘Twill come, alas! but soon ’twill pass Clouds will be sunshine tomorrow ‘Twill come, alas! but soon ’twill pass Clouds will be sunshine tomorrow
O lift thine eyes to the blue skies See how the clouds do borrow Brightness, each one, straight from the sun So is it ever with sorrow ‘Twill come, alas! but soon ’twill pass Clouds will be sunshine tomorrow Then lift thine eyes to the blue skies Clouds will be sunshine tomorrow O dry those tears, life is not made for sorrow
words and music by Teresa del Riego published by Chappell & Co. Ltd., London
While reading about Dr. Turner, who I talked about in Part 2 of this 3 part series, I became interested in the story of his wife, Leota Henson Turner and her uncle, Frederick J. Loudin. Frederick Loudin, although not a student at Fisk, became a member of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers. They toured the United States and Europe singing Spirituals and other songs that came down from slavery, to raise money for Fisk College. When the tour ended and the Fisk singers were disbanded, Loudin decided to keep the group together as the Loudin Jubilee Singers and under his direction they went on a six year tour of Australia, New Zealand, India, Burma, Japan and sang before the crowned heads of Europe. (Aside – My father used to tell us that he danced before the crowned heads of Europe so I like writing that. He was joking.). Loudin’s niece, Leota Henson trained for two years in Germany as a pianist. She later joined the group and toured with them as their pianist. There are a lot of articles about the tour out there and they received almost universal acclaim with full houses and bravos everywhere. She kept a detailed diary of the trip and wrote a series of articles for The Gazette after her return.
There is a lot more to tell about Loudin – how his ancestors were enslaved in the north and free by 1850, how he became a printer but could get no business, how he went to Pennsylvania where he met his wife Harriett. I could talk about the time the group sang spirituals in the Taj Mahal. I could write about the relative lack of discrimination the singers faced everywhere else in the world and the overabundance of it they found in the USA. I could tell about his invention of the key chain and how for a short period of time he owned a shoe factory in Ravenna, Ohio. However, I am going to tell only one more story, which ties into my family.
While reading the book “Out of Sight – The Rise of African American Popular Music 1889 – 1895”, I came across the following passage on page 77 describing Frederick and Harriett Loudin’s home in Ravenna, Ohio.
“Facing one as they enter the beautiful stained glass door of the house, stands a clock similar in size and form to the grandfather’s clock of ye olden time, which is made of teak wood and was brought by Mr. Loudin from Burma. It was made in Rangoon at the government prison..by a Burma convict. The wood is almost as heavy as iron, and resembles the polished face of dark granite. A year and a half was requird to make it…The clock stands eight feet in height and is one mass of bas-relief, gods, dragons and various monsters…”
As I read it, I realized that I had heard this story before, it was one my Aunt Barbara Cleage Martin had told me several years ago about a clock that stood in my Cleage Grandparent’s dining room for as long as I could remember and which now stands in my cousin’s home. When I turned the page, there was a photograph of the very same clock!
At my Aunt’s 90th birthday party, I asked her how we came to have this clock in the family. She told me that Dr. Turner’s wife had been a pianist who played all over the world. While traveling in Burma, they bought this clock. When the Turners were leaving Detroit they asked my Uncle Louis to keep the clock for them.
My sister Pearl interviewed me in 2010 about my interest and findings in family history research. I talked about some of the stories I’ve blogged about – Dock Allen’s Escape, finding Eliza in the 1860 census and slave documents. I have found more information since the time of this interview – court records about the land case between the Turners, newspaper articles, and several Wills from slave holders who owned my Cleages and Turners.
It gives you a chance to hear my voice and my thoughts about how to start your research. I highly recommend being interviewed. I am enjoying listening to myself talk, for one thing. If you can’t find anyone to interview you, interview yourself! I think it makes a great addition to the legacy we are leaving for those following us.
2010 Story Corps interview with my sister Pearl asking me about my research and findings.