Category Archives: Slavery

Frequent Ablutions – a news item

This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations with them.

This year I ordered the files of the Cleage men who served in Co. I, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during the Civil War. Through these files I learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the files for this years challenge.

“Clint Cleage and Nelson Gettys, two enterprising gentlemen from Africa, believing in the efficacy of frequent ablutions, have each erected a Bathing House at this place and furnished them in good style, where they will be pleased to wait upon all who may wish to enjoy the “health-inducing shower.” Athens Post, June 2, 1854.

I found this little item while looking for articles about Cleages. I found no other mention of the bathing house and have no idea how it worked. After freedom both men operated various small scale businesses. Clint Cleage was Amanda Cleage’s father and also the father of Addie Cleage, Edmund Sherman‘s wife. I have a bill of sale for him to David Cleage which you can read in this post from the 2015 A-Z “Dick” Cleage. Both Clint Cleage and Nelson Gettys were enslaved at the time of their enterprise.

Clinton Cleage was Sallie Cleage Marsh’s husband. She gave birth to 14 children. He appears on the death certificates of those who died after death records were kept. He also appeared in the bill of sale mentioned above and this newspaper clipping. His daughter Amanda testified at her Widow’s claim hearing that he had a little restaurant in Chattanooga where she was married on her way West. And he appears below in Fanny Cleage Turk’s widow’s pension application. He appears in no census records, no death record of his own, and no directories. The last record he appears in was dated 1866. He must have died before 1870, the first census taken that he would have appeared in as a free man.

Clinton Cleage signed his mark attesting that Fanny Cleage Turk was who she claimed to be. Cleage is spelled three different ways in this document.

Widow’s Application for Army Pension

State of Tennessee County of McMinn

On this 7th day of July A.D. 1866, personally appeared before me Clerk of the County Court, A court of Record, within and for the County and State aforesaid, Mrs Fanny Turk a resident of the town of Athens in the State of Tennessee aged forty one years, who, being first duly sworn according to law, doth on her oath make the following declaration, in order to obtain the benefit of the provision made by the act of Congress approved (blank) That she is the widow of Isaac Turk, deceased who was a drummer in Company “A” commanded by Captain A. B. Elliotts in the 1st Regiment of U.S.C. Heavy Artillery commanded by Colonel John E. McGowan in the war of 1861 who died whilst the service aforesaid, at Knoxville in the State of Tennessee, on or about the 16th day of June A.D. 1864, from effects of disease in the service, while in the line of duty. She further declares that she was married to the said Isaac Turk in the town of Athens in the State of Tennessee on the 1st day of August in the year 1864; and that her name before her said marriage was Fanny Clage that her husband, the aforesaid Isaac Turk died on the day mentioned, and that she has remained a widow ever since that period, as will more fully appear by reference to the proof herewith accompanying or to be hereafter filed. She also declares that she had not in any manner, been engaged in, or aided or abetted, the rebellion in the United States. She irrevocably appoints A.J. Johnson of Knoxville Tennessee her attorney, with full power of substitution and revocation on his part in her said behalf, and authorizes him to receive the Pension Certificate when issued. Her Post Office is at Athens in the County of McMinn in the State of Tennessee. That her domicile or place of abode is near the Court House in Athens, Tennessee, and on the south side of the street from the Court House. That she has no children by her late husband Isaac Turk. She also states on her oath that Isaac Turk was a slave and remained as such until after the 19th day of April 1861.

Fanny (her X mark) Turk (applicant)

Attest: A. J. Ivans. Henry Rowley

Sworn to, subscribed and acknowledged before me, the day and year first above written, and also personally appeared Henry Rowley and Clinton Clage residents of the town of Athens in the State of Tennessee persons whom I certify to be responsible and entitled to credit, and who, being by me duly sworn, say that they were present and saw Mrs. Fanny Turk make her mark to the foregoing declaration; and they further swear that they have every reason to believe, from the appearance of the applicant and their acquaintance with her, that she is the identical person she represents herself to be, and that they have no interest in the prosecution of this claim. They further state that the foregoing declaration and this affivadit were read over to, fully explained and understood by them before the signing and execution thereof.

Attest: A. J. Ivans.
Two Witnesses:
Henry Rowley
Clinton (his X mark) Clage

Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 7th day of July A.D. 1866, and I hereby…..


I wondered why I had no comments and checked and somehow I had turned of “allow comments”! It’s back on now.

EDMOND Shermon -“Charles A. Cleage was married twice.”

This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations with them.

This year I ordered the files of the Cleage men who served in Co. I, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during the Civil War. Through these files I learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the files for this years challenge.

Below is testimony given by Edmond Sherman in the widow’s pension hearing for Charles A. Cleage‘s widow, Martha Kieth Cleage.

U.S. Colored Troops 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment, Knoxville Tennessee. I like to think the men I studied are pictured here.


Deposition F
Case of Martha Cleage

18 February, 1909
Athens, Tennessee.

Edmond Sherman

I am about 74 years old. Laborer, P.O. Athens Tennessee. I have known Martha Cleage and Charles A. Cleage ever since Charles was young and ever since Martha was a baby. Charles A. Cleage was married twice. His first wife was Amy. He and Amy were living together when I first knew him. Amy Cleage died some years before the war, but I don’t remember what year it was. I was at her funeral and know she died some years before the war.

A year or two after Amy died, Charles A. Cleage married Martha Kieth. I was not at their wedding but I know they were married for I heard of it at the time and have often been at their home since and know that they lived together and recognized each other as husband and wife until he died.

I know that Martha Keith was never married before she was married to Charles A. Cleage for I had known her from her babyhood and she was young when she was married. I know that Martha has never been married but the one time and if Charles A. Cleage was ever married before he was married to Amy, I never heard of it, though I did not know him until after he and Amy were married. But I know that he was never married after Amy died except to this claimant Martha Cleage.

Charles A. Cleage belonged to Co A 1 U.S.C.H.A. and I belonged to Co. C of the same regiment. I have lived near Charles A. and Martha Cleage ever since they were married and I know they lived together until his death and that she has not remarried since his death.

I have no interest in this case. I have understood and heard above read and am correctly recorded. I cannot write.

Edmond (his X mark) Sherman

Chifford Shoffeitt
No other available

CHARLES A. CLEAGE “I was a sound man when I enlisted”

Through the pension files, I have learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the files for this years challenge.

In 2016 I discovered Thomas Allen, a previously unknown by me, uncle of my grandmother Pearl Cleage. Thomas Allen served in the United States Colored Troops. I used his pension file as the basis for my 2017 A – Z. This year I ordered the files of the Cleage men who served in Co. A, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during the Civil War.

This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations.

Charles A. Cleage’s Grave stone in Hammond’s Cemetery, Athens, McMinn County, TN

You can read the 2015 post about Charles A. and Martha Cleage at this linkCharles A. Cleage.


Deposition D

26 August 1890
Athens, McMinn, Tennessee

Charles A. Cleage.

My age is 73 years. Occupation farmer. P.O. address Athens, McMinn Co. Tenn. I was a private in Co. “A” 1 U.S.C.H.A. Enlisted in February 1864 at Knoxville and was mustered out with Company at Chattanooga, Tenn, March 31, 1866. I was a sound man when I enlisted. Had never had any severe sickness before I enlisted. Never had rheumatism or palpitation of heart or shortness of breath before that event.

I claim pension on account of palpitations of heart, contracted in service and line of duty at Roane Creek Gap in Upper Tennessee after we got the news of the surrender of Richmond Va. In the Spring of 1865. I had no sign of the disease before that time. Had never attended sick call but one time before that date. Attended sick call one time at Knoxville Tenn. on account of diarrhea. Had recovered from diarrhea before the attack of palpitation of heart. I had the diarrhea for which I attended sick call in the Spring following my enlistment.

I was attacked with palpitations of heart under the following circumstances. Our regiment, with a number of white troops under General Stoneman (I think) were going to North Carolina. When encamped at or about, Roane Creek Gap, we heard of the capture of Richmond by the Federal Forces, and the artillery were ordered to fire salute in honor of the event. I was on guard duty on post, about from 50 to 75 yards from where the artillery fired the salute. I think there were twelve pieces of horse artillery in line, I don’t know how many rounds were fired. The first round was fired unexpectedly to me, and I was shocked to such an extent as to cause bleeding at the nose, a heavy roaring in my right ear and giddiness that has followed me ever since.

When the relief guard came, I was excused from further duty for the time and sent to my camp. I was not placed in hospital. We had no hospital at Roane Creek Gap. We only remained there about three days after hearing of the surrender of Richmond. We then came back to Greenville Tenn, remained there about a month and then went on to Ashville N.C. and again came back to Greenville. I remained with the Co. all that time. Marched with the Co. to Ashville and between, I was never in hospital while I was in the service, we were at Chattanooga from September 1865 till mustered out in March 1866.

I had an attack of palpitation of the heart a few days after the shock from the Artillary salute occurred. I had the palpitations of heart at Chattanooga Tenn, at times and was put on light-duty on account of it. I did not attend sick call at Chattanooga but Lieut Harrod of my Co. gave me a prescription to get some pills at a store in Chattanooga.  Yes Sir, he knew I had palpitations of the heart, knew it because I told him of it. He and the captain ordered me to be put on light duty. When I was discharged I was troubled with shortness of breath and giddiness of head. The first noted attack of palpitations of heart, that I had after my discharge was in the summer following that event.

Yes sir, I had an attack of acute disease after my discharge. Before that attack of palpitation of heart, I had the small pox here at Athens, Tenn in May following discharge. I was working at carpentering when I was taken with small pox. Was working for James Turner (deceased) Don’t know how I contracted small pox, had not been about where small pox was since my discharge. Yes I had a pretty severe attack of small pox, think I was in bed about six weeks with it.

Can’t say just how long it was after the small pox before I had an attack of palpitation of the heart, but it was in harvest time that summer. I went out to do some mowing, when the palpitations came on and I had to quit. The attacks have gradually grown more frequent. I want it understood that I had palpitations of heart while I was in the service as stated, but did not have an attack after discharge until after I had the small pox. I don’t know that any persons, or commands engaged in firing the salute on the fall of Richmond, but the horse artillery. Our regiment carried muskets at the time. We did not join in the firing. I think it was generally known in the Co. that I had palpitations of the heart after that salute was fired.

Yes, I had some pains in my shoulders and arms while in service, and also had pains in my knees when we had hard marching. Don’t know whether the pains were caused by rheumatism, I have these pains more or less ever since. I have never been able to do a full days work since I was discharged. Was partially disabled before I had small pox. Can’t say how much I was disabled before that time, but by the way I felt when at work, I think I was fully one fourth disabled for purposes of manual labor before the time I had small pox.

Yes, I have heard you read over the depositions of James Hurst, Thomas Bradford, Nelson Cate, Amos Jackson, Thomas Lillard, Catherine D.Keith, Charles F. Keith, and Mrs Martha M. Cleage. Don’t wish to introduce any other witnesses. I wish to be notified if the claim is further examined elsewhere. A.W. Bellew of Lily Band Ga. Is my Atty. I made no contract or agreement as to fee with him. Have paid him nothing, I have no complaint to make, as to conduct, manner of fairness of the examination of my claim. I understood your questions.  My answers are correctly recorded in this deposition.

Charles A. (his X mark) Cleage Deponent

Attest Joseph Matthews


BOTH BURIED in Plot 40

This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations with them.

Late last year, I ordered the Civil War Pension files of the Cleage men who served in 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during that war. Through these files I learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the pension files for this years challenge.


Abraham/Abram Cleage, Amanda’s husband, died at the Long Beach City Hall in April 1908. A newspaper account is below. He was buried in the Long Beach Municipal Cemetery in a well attended funeral. His granddaughter, Avalon Pierce, age 14 who was being raised by Amanda and Abram, died of tuberculosis in October of the same year. She is buried in the same plot as her grandfather. I received some comfort from finding that they were buried close together. His gravestone was vandalized some years ago. There is now talk of replacing it.

Map of lots in the Long Beach Municipal Cemetery.
Click to enlarge
His father’s name was Jim Hurst (not Hearse) but Abram went by Cleage
Click to enlarge

Died at Work at City Hall

Aged janitor afflicted with acute indigestion and heart failure.
Long Beach Press, April 14, 1908
Had Long Served City
Abram Cleag, Colored, Friend of Many Administrations, Suddenly Stricken

A few minutes before seven o’clock this morning Abram Cleag, of 903 East Eleventh street, the old colored janitor who for many years has served the city most acceptable and faithfully as janitor of the city hall, died in the office of the tax and license collector where he had been taken by members of the police department and Dr. J. W. Wood who had been called a few moments before to attend him.

Mr. Cleag was not well this morning and feeling unable to do the work of sweeping and cleaning up around the city hall was accompanied to the building by his wife and granddaughter who were doing the work.

When Officer McMillan came to headquarters a few minutes before six o’clock he found the aged colored man sitting on the front steps of the building. He was very sick at that time and said so in response to McMillan’s greeting. But he did not want a doctor. A little later he went inside and sat on a chair and soon became so much worse that a physician was called regardless of the sick man’s desires. It was less than half an hour after the arrival of the physician that Mr. Cleag had died, suffering considerably before his death. His death was due to acute indigestion and heart trouble. The body was taken to Allen Walker’s undertaking parlors.

Members of the city hall force contributed to a fund this morning to buy flowers for the funeral of Mr. Cleag as a tribute to his faithful service at the city hall as janitor.


Abraham Hearse (Hurst) was the real name of the man who was born in slavery at Athens, Tennessee, about 1840. He served in slavery until the emancipation proclamation of Present Lincoln freed the slaves and immediately thereafter enlisted in the heavy artillery at Knoxville, Tennessee, serving through the war and being mustered out at Chattanooga at the close of the war.

Soon after the war he was married and came west, stopping first in Texas and later coming to California. The family owned a home in Los Angeles which they sold about four years ago and bought the home in which they have been living here.

Hearse (Hurst) was drawing a pension from the United States government on account of his service in the war.

Deceased went by the name of Cleag because he was owned by a man of that name in his slave days.


Yesterday’s post Amanda Cleage talked about Abram’s wife.


This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee.

Since that time I have learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than I could learn from census, death and other records. Some of the suppositions I made were wrong.

Historical Society Long Beach Cemetery Tour 2018 – Zadie Cannon as Amanda Cleage
Photo by Kayte Deioma

In August last year, I received a comment on this blog from Roxanne Padmore of the Historical Society of Long Beach offering me information about the death of Abraham Cleage. Of course I was! We began several months of sharing information and gathering more about Abraham and Amananda who had relocated from Athens, TN to Austin, TX to Los Angeles, CA and finally (for Abraham) Long Beach, CA.

The Historical Society puts on a graveside reenactment at the end of October in Long Beach Municipal Cemetery, where Abraham is buried. Abraham was highlighted in the past but in 2018 they wanted to tell the story from Amanda’s point of view.

After sharing newspaper articles and information from records and speculating, we ordered Abram’s and Amanda’s Civil War Pension files. The information we found there changed the narrative significantly and prompted me to order the pension files for other men who served with Abram Cleage and their widows in Company I, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery, during the Civil War.

You can read the original “A” post from 2015 by clicking this link Abraham and Amanda Cleage. We will begin with Amanda Cleage as she talks about her life with Abram Cleage in this Deposition from her pension file.


Deposition A

Amanda Cleag
25 May 1909
Long Beach, County of Los Angeles, California

I am 58 years of age. My post office address is No. 903 East 11th Street Long Beach, Calif. – Occupation, Domestic. I am claiming a pension under the Act of April 19, 1908, as the widow of Abram Cleag, who served in CO I, 1st U.S.C. Heavy Artillery, during the Civil War.

My husband, the soldier, enlisted in said organization in Knoxville, Tenn., July 12, 1864,, and was mustered out in Chattanooga, Tenn., March 31, 1866, as shown by his discharge certificate now in my possession and exhibited to you.

So far as I know, my late husband only rendered this one U.S. service, either military, naval or marine.

My husband was pensioned under the Act of June 27, 1890, Certificate No. 1064324, at the rate of $6 per month before his death, and I now hand you his pension certificate and an unexecuted voucher for filing in my pension claim.

I am not a pensioner, but I have this one pension application pending. I was married to the soldier under maiden name of Amanda Armstrong, in Chattanooga, Tenn., in about the winter of 1868. The soldier had been out of the army about two (2) years when we were married. I can’t fix the time any better than that. No, we were not married in Athens, Tenn. in the year 1862, as stated by my husband, the soldier, during his lifetime, in his marital history circular. No, I did not marry him before he went into the army. It was after he came out of the army – two years afterwards.

We were both then traveling with some white people, Mr. Ben E. Tucker and wife and children, on our way from Athens, Tenn. to Austin, Texas, and the soldier and I got off the train at Chattanooga, Tenn., and were married by a colored preacher, Rev. Henry Rowley, of the Methodist Church. Yes, sir, they gave me a marriage certificate, but I lost it here in Los Angeles, some way unknown to me.

My father, Clinton Armstrong, and brother Robert Armstrong, both then of Chattanooga, Tenn., but now both dead, were witnesses to my said marriage to the soldier. No one else was present. We were married in my father’s little restaurant in Chattanooga, but can’t give the exact locality. My father and brother used to go by the surname Cleag too, as he used to own us. We had to change cars at Chattanooga, Tenn., for Texas, and lay over there for about 2 hours, and that was when the soldier and I were married. I can’t say, whether or not a license was obtained authorizing our marriage. No, I do not know whether or not there is a public record of my marriage to the soldier.

I had known the soldier all my life, before my marriage to him. I was raised and owned by Thomas Cleage, near Athens, Tenn., and my husband was raised and owned by Alexander Cleag, the father of Thomas Cleag. I meant to say that I lived in Athens, Tenn. where I grew up. My owner, Thomas Cleag, having a wholesale dry goods store there, and my husband, the soldier was raised on the farm of Alec Cleag, near Athens., Tenn. Husband was a good deal older than I, but I knew him when I was a slave. He was bought in by our people from Russell Hurst, before the war. My father was raised by the Amstrongs and then sold to David Cleag, Alec Cleag’s brother. The Cleags never sold any of their slaves.

When General Sherman’s army came into Tennessee the Cleags were held as prisoners of war as they wouldn’t take the oath of allegiance, and they were sent North and I do not know whether or not, they – or any of them ever got back to Tennessee. I never saw any of them around there after the war was over.

One Thing Leads to Another

This is my 6th year participating in the A to Z blogging challenge. You can find the other 5 years at this link A to Z posts. And this link will take you to other Theme Reveals.

This post reveals my theme for A-Z 2019

During this A to Z Challenge I will, as usual, be focusing on family history. I want to do two things. First, I want to show that finding one document can lead you to other information in ways you never expected. Second, I want to follow some of those leads to bring more humanity to the formerly enslaved Cleages of Athens, McMinn County Tennessee, and their community.

During the past year I have completed two long running investigations where I posted daily, for 42 days each. In the first I used letters written by my grandmother, Pearl Reed Cleage, to her friend, Homer, from 1903 to 1905. In the second I used testimony from Katie Cleage’s Widow’s Pension File to tell her story in the words of those involved.

While doing them I learned the value of a good title. I hope that this knowledge will stand me in good stead during this year’s challenge and give me a little more leeway in presenting the posts in both alphabetical and time order.

Dropped from the rolls

The last paper in Katie Cleage’s file was an announcement that she had failed to pick up her $12 pension check after November 1893. In 1898, they dropped her from the rolls. After fighting for her pension for over ten years, she received it for one year.

It took me a lot of looking to find a death record for Katie Cleage. I found the record below on, but I first disregarded it because I thought the “W” in the fifth column meant she was white. In fact, I had earlier attached it to Kate Cleage, the white daughter of slave holders Jemima and Alexander Cleage.

After looking and looking for a record for my Katie, I took a closer look at the white Katherine, although the birth date was right for her, I discovered that she had married in 1890 and over the following years had given birth to four children. She did not die until 1936.

I went back to the death record above and saw that the “W” in the fifth column stood for “widow”, not “white”. The age was off by about ten years, but everything else was right. Who was there giving the information at her death bed? A neighbor? Her ten year old son or seven year old daughter? The race column is sort of blurred, but shows with ditto marks that the race is black. Given the date of November for the last pension check, and the December 16 date of death, I decided that this was my Katie Cleage.

City Cemetery was listed as the place of burial on the death record. I had a hard time finding it using maps of present day Chattanooga, google and find-a-grave. Finally, with the help of other researchers and the Chattanooga Historical Society, I learned that City Cemetery became present day Citizen’s Cemetery.

That completes what I know about Katie Cleage. Things I wish I knew – what happened to her two children? What did she do during that last year of her life? I hope that no one took advantage of her and stole her money.

Citizen’s Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Google photo.

“Miss Kate Cleage of Chattanooga recently received…”

“Miss Kate Cleage of Chattannoga, recently received $3,000 pension from the government”
From- “State Capital” Springfield, IL This included back pension from 1866 forward

According to the inflation calculator, $3,000 in 1892 would be equivalent to $83,332 in today’s dollars.

$8 a month commencing February 20, 1866 and $12 month March 19, 1886. Thomas Giffe, recognized attorney receives a fee of $10.

There is no information about how Katie Cleage’s life changed after receiving her pension. She does not appear in any more news stories.


Information from Katie Cleage’s Pension file. The newspaper clipping is from

For links to the other posts in this series, click this link – Katie Cleage’s Pension Hearing

Appeal Allowed

The Commissioner of Pensions,


I return herewith the papers in the claim of Katie Clegg, No. 288,391, examined in connection with an appeal entered from the adverse action of your Bureau.

The records of the War Department show a service of the soldier from Feb. 4, 1864, to Feb. 19, 1866, when he died by reason of small pox.

The appellant filed her claim for a pension, as the widow of the soldier, in 1881, and the same was rejected in 1891, upon the ground that the claimant was not the legal widow of the soldier.

The contention of the appeal is that an injustice was done the appellant by the adverse action of your Bureau, and that in fact she is the widow of the soldier upon whose death the claim for a pension is made.

The claimant and the soldier were both slaves, and the only ceremony of marriage which is claimed to have been preformed was by the master, and in the period when both were held as slaves.

The claim of this alleged widow has been twice referred for a special investigation, to determine the question of slave or other marriage.

From the evidence thus obtained and otherwise filed in the case, it appears that this claimant and the soldier were both owned by one master in company with about one hundred other slaves. The claimant then being a house-servant, (seamstress), and the soldier a wagoner and sometimes acting as a coachman.

Neither of these two persons are shown by the evidence on file as having had martial relations with any of the other slaves, nor will the evidence in the case show as a fact that these two persons, while slaves, had martial relations, or were in any sense considered as husband and wife.

Whether as a fact, the claimant and the soldier were married by the master, in accordance with the customs of slave times, cannot be proven, in as much as the master is dead and no witnesses were present when the alleged ceremony was performed. It is shown by witnesses, whose testimony cannot be ignored, that the claimant and the soldier, at the date of his death, were recognized as husband and wife, and no good reason appears why this relation, at said date, is not as fully warranted as it might have been or possibly was, prior to the date of enlistment.

At the time the slaves, who were upon the plantation were this claimant and the soldier were owned, were dispersed by the advent of the Union Army in 1863, this claimant went to Chattanooga, and after the regiment to which the soldier belonged went to Chattanooga and was stationed there, these two parties met, and from this time they assumed the relation of husband and wife. That this relation was known and recognized by the soldier’s comrades and officers is clearly established – one of the regulations of the camp being, that none but married women whose husbands were stationed therein could be admitted. This claimant is shown by the evidence to have been admitted to the camp and to have occupied quarters therein with the soldier, as his wife; and it is also shown that she was with him when he was removed to the hospital. The relation which thus existed, and was recognized as lawful in these two parties, is one which Sec. 4705, R. S. apparently contemplates; and while this relation is not established as having existed in fact at the date of enlistment, yet, during a portion of the period of the soldier’s service it existed and so existed at the date of his death.

Some doubt has been thrown upon the merits of this case by the negative testimony of the claimant’s former mistress, who does not remember the circumstances surrounding the slave life of the claimant and the soldier; but, in this respect, she also expresses ignorance as regards the other slaves who were owned by her husband. It further appears that, in 1872, the hon. Second Auditor of the Treasury paid to a brother and sister of the soldier arrears of pay, upon evidence to him satisfactory as to the fact of the soldier’s celibacy. One of the witnesses was the former owner of the soldier, and when the soldier died in 1866, the laws of many of the Southern states did not recognize the marriage of people of color.

The pension laws recognize a condition as sufficient to admit a pensionable status and the condition of this claimant at the date of the soldier’s death is held as coming within the purview of Sec. 4705, R. S., and therefore, the action of rejection of the appellant’s claim is overruled and set aside.

You are therefore requested to issue a certificate for a pension in favor of the appellant as the widow of the deceased soldier.

Very respectfully,

Cyrus Bussij
Assistant Secretary

“and thus they were separated forever”

Claimant’s Appeal to the Secretary of the Interior

Atty Thomas Giffe

State of Tennessee County of Hamilton in the matter of claim for Widow’s Pension No. 288 -391 Katie Cleage claimant. On this Apr 6 1891.

Personally came before me Notary Public in and for aforesaid County and State the said Katie Cleage, Widow of Philip Cleage alias Klegg late a sergeant of Company A 1st U.S.C. artillery heavy volunteers a citizen of the town of Chattanooga, county of Hamilton State of Tennessee, well known to me to be reputable and entitled to credit and who, being duly sworn declares in relation to the aforesaid case as follows:

That her claim or widow’s pension, having been rejected for the following reasons: that the evidence fails to show that she is the lawful widow of the soldier, or was ever married to him.

It has been shown that ever since the death of her husband that her sister-in-law and her brothers-in-law has been trying to supplant her and cheat her out of her just dues. And she believes that they have imposed upon the Hon. 2nd auditor by stating that the soldier had no wife and did they, perhaps, receive the pay, which was justly and rightly due to her. And she is willing and anxious to submit to the strictest scrutiny of this case. And therefore the Claimant appeals for a reconsideration of her Claim for the reason that gross injustice has been done to her in the rejection of this her claim.

As it has been shown that she was a poor ignorant slave, young and childish, about 14 years of age when Mr. Cleage, her master insisted that she should marry Philip, another slave and while Mrs. Cleage was absent home, he – the master – read something, or at least had a book in his hand, and told them that they were married. And as her master is dead and her husband is dead and she has been unable to find any person who was present at the time except other slaves.

She has proven that they were furnished by her mistress, Mrs. Cleage, with a cabin in which to live, that two children were born to them, that the soldier acknowledged her as his wife that they were recognized by officers and others to be husband and wife, that they were permitted to room together in camp when all women not having husbands in the Regiment were ejected and that she insisted on accompanying him to the pest camp to wait upon him and minister to him, but was denied that privilege and thus they were separated forever.

And she had remained his widow these 25 long years, and when at last she asks for her lawful rights she is asked to prove her marriage, a thing which was never at that time recognized by the white people or slave owners, except that it served to keep them at home, by making them believe that they were married.

She hereby appoints, with full power of substitution and revocation, Thomas Giffe of Chattanooga as her true and lawful attorney to prosecute her claim. Her post office address is Cedar St. Chattanooga.

Katie (her X mark) Cleage


I found the information used in this post in Katie Cleage’s Pension file.

For links to the other posts in this series, click this link – Katie Cleage’s Pension Hearing