Jennie Virginia Allen Turner was my maternal grandmother’s mother and Eliza’s daughter. This photo was taken about 1918, before my grandmother Fannie, married my grandfather. They lived in Montgomery, Alabama.
Jennie was a widow and was a seamstress, working for herself. Fannie managed her Uncle Victor Tulane’s grocery store. Daisy was a teacher and Alice was at home.
After her marriage my grandmother moved to Detroit with her new husband, Mershell C. Graham. Several years later, the rest of the family joined them.
Joe Turner was my 2X great grandfather. I have been able to follow him from the age of twelve in a slave census; through several lists of the enslaved in Wiley Turner’s probate record. Joe Turner was my maternal grandmother Fannie Turner’s grandfather. When Fannie was about three, her father Howard Turner and his father, Joe fell out over a land deal. Howard was murdered at a bar-b-que and ties were cut between my grandmother and her father’s family. Therefore I have no family stories or photographs of them.
I first found the Turner family in the 1870 census. I was able to follow them through various records both before 1870 and after.
Joe Turner’s birth year changes through the records from 1852, when he is listed as 15 and so would have been born about 1837; to 1843 in the 1870 census; 1841 in the 1880 and 1900 census; 1848 in 1910 and 1839 on his death certificate. I have used the earliest date to estimate his age over the years.
Sources for the information below is in italics at the end of the entries. All took place in Lowndes County Alabama, mostly in the Hayneville area. The links will take you to blog posts.
I first published a timeline in 2016. I have uncovered more information since then so decided to re-do it.
1837 Born into slavery in Alabama.
1850 slave census – 12 year old male mulatto listed among Wiley Turners enslaved. Possibly Joe Turner, as the only male mulatto in the right age range to appear below at 15 in 1852.
1865 December 18 – Slavery legally over in Alabama.
1866 Age 30 – Birth of Daughter Fannie Turner (1866–1880) 1870 US Census.
1866 Age 30 – Alabama State Census Hayneville, Lowndes County. Joe Turner: 1 male under 10 (Howard); 2 males 10-20 (Who are they?); 1 male 40 – 50 (Joe) 2 females under 10 (Fannie & Lidya) ; 1 female 30-40. (Emma)
1867 Age 31 – Birth of Son Joe Turner (1867–1920) 1870 US Census.
1867 Age 31 – Residence Lowndes, Alabama, USA Alabama Voter Registration Records.
I was not sure of the date of the above photograph of the staff at Annis Furs in Detroit. What I knew was that my great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Turner and her daughters, Daisy and Alice moved to Detroit in 1922. My grandparents, Mershell and Fannie (Jennie’s oldest daughter) had moved there in 1919. By 1930 Daisy was the only one still working at Annis. The photo had to be taken between 1923 and 1929. Looking at old family photographs, I saw that Daisy and my grandmother had their hair bobbed by 1926.
My great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Turner, learned her seamstressing skills from her mother Eliza, who had been a seamstress during slavery. My great grandmother did not teach her own daughters to sew.
Jennie V. Turner had been a seamstress working on her own account in Montgomery and worked at Annis Furs for several years after moving to Detroit, before she retired.
Daisy was “head porteress” at the store, according to the 1930 census. I do not know what Alice did when she worked there because she in 1930 census she was not employed. Daisy was also head numbers runner at Annis Furs. The “numbers” being an illegal lottery. The runner took the bets and gave them to the banker and then paid off from the banker if anyone won. See a link below if you want more information on the numbers game.
Mrs. Daisy Turner, 70, of 4536 Harding, was dead on admittance to Receiving Hospital last week after collapsing in the bedroom of her home.
Mrs. Alice Turner, 65, of the same address, a sister, told police that her sister complained of an upset stomach for several days prior to her death.
Neither Daisy Turner nor Alice Turner ever married, so the item should have read Miss Daisy Turner and Miss Alice Turner. Alice was born in 1908, she was actually 53 when her older sister Daisy died.
Click on the red links in the paragraphs below to learn more.
Daisy Turner was my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s younger sister. She was born in 1890 in Lowndes County, Alabama. Her father, Howard Turner, was shot to death at a barbque when she was one year old. She grew up in her mother’s parent’s (Dock and Eliza Allen) house in Montgomery. Her mother, Jennie Allen Turner was a seamstress.
Jennie married again and had one daughter, Alice Wright in 1908. After she and her second husband separated, she went back to her maiden name and Alice was always known as Alice Turner.
Daisy graduated from State Normal School and taught school for several years in the Montgomery area. Then she worked at her uncle, Victor Tulane’s store., also in Montgomery. Later Daisy worked at Annis Furs in Detroit.
My mother told me that Duncan Irby was the love of Daisy’s life. It was a star crossed love and they never married. Both devoted themselves to their families and died single.
Daisy Pearl Turner died November 24, 1961. My mother was afraid she had died of food poisoning and so threw out all the food at Daisy’s and Alice’s house.
I was 14 that year and working hard to buy everyone in the family the right gift. I remember thinking I would not be buying anything for Daisy that Christmas.
From Left to right My grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, peeking over my great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner’s, shoulder. My grandmother’s sister Daisy Turner. Behind and between Aunt Daisy and Aunt Alice Turner, is my aunt Mary Virginia Graham Elkins, although she was not yet an Elkins. At the end, behind Alice, is my mother, Doris Graham Cleage, although she was not yet a Cleage either.
Grandmother Turner was 73, about my age. My grandmother was 51. Daisy was 49. Alice was 30. My mother was 16 and her sister was 19.
They are posed in Grandmother Turner’s backyard on the East Side of Detroit at 4536 Harding. The house is gone now. They look like they just came from Plymouth Congregational Church, however the photo is dated July 4, 1939 on the back. July 4 was on a Tuesday that year. My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham took the picture.
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.
Jennie Turner was Fannie’s mother and my great grandmother. I knew her for a few years before she died when she was wheelchair bound and not really talkative. I knew my aunts Daisy and Alice for many years.
“Mrs. Jennie Turner and two daughter, Miss Daisy and little Alice, left last Friday for Detroit, Mich.”
My great grandmother Jennie and daughters were coming to visit my grandparents and their new baby daughter, Mary Virginia, who was born in April of 1920. They didn’t move to Detroit until 1922. My grandmother was a seamstress who worked for herself in Montgomery. My aunt Daisy taught school. In the photo with them are my great grandmother’s sister Beulah, who was also a seamstress, and her son Robert. The photo was labeled as being taken in 1921. Perhaps they came up again to visit when my grandparents second child, Mershell Jr. was born.
My mother Doris Graham Cleage’s memories of her grandmother, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner
Today I’m going to write about Grandmother. Grandmother Turner was born about 1872, nine years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Don’t know if she finished high school – but she did go. Her mother taught her to sew and it was a good thing she did because grandmother worked the rest of her life supporting herself and her children at sewing. That is, she worked after husband Howard Turner died. They married when she was about sixteen. Don’t know his age. He looked something like grandmother’s father and also like my father, mother said. He was a farmer’s son from around Hayneville, AL, but he preferred the big city – Montgomery. His father had three sons and planned to give each one a large share of the farm when they married. Howard and Jenny received their farm, but neither one liked the country. One day they were in Montgomery. He was at a Bar-B-Q. She was at her parents with their daughters, Fannie Mae, 4, and Daisy Pearl, 2. someone brought word that he had been shot dead. Apparently no one ever knew who did it, but mother always said grandmother thought his father had it done because he was angry that Howard would not farm and had even been talking about selling his part. The father did not want the land sold, but wanted it to stay in the family forever. (Bless his heart!). He and the son had had some terrible arguments before they left to come to the Bar-B-Q. I often wondered why he was there and grandmother wasn’t. She always seemed to like a good time.
I remember her laughing and singing and dancing around the house on Theodore. She was short, about five feet I guess, with brown eyes, thin dark brown hair that she wore in a knot. She was very energetic, always walking fast. She always wore oxfords, often on the wrong feet, and never had time to change them. We used to love to tell her that her shoes were on the wrong feet. (smart kids!)
She never did thing with us like read to us or play with us, but she made us little dresses. I remember two in particular she made me that I especially liked. My “candy-striped” dress – a red white and blue small print percale. She put a small pleated ruffle around the collar and a larger one around the bottom. I was about Deignan’s (note: that would have been about 5) size, I guess, and I really thought I was cool! The other favorite was an “ensemble” – thin, pale green material with a small printed blue green and red flower in it – just a straight sleeveless dress with neck and sleeves piped in navy blue – and a three – quarter length coat of the same material – also straight -with long sleeves and lapels – also piped in navy blue. She never used a pattern. Saw something and made it! She taught us some embroidery which she did beautifully but not often. She never fussed at us – never criticized – and I think she rocked me in the upstairs hall on Theodore when I was little and sick. The rocker Daddy made stood in that hall. I remember lots of people rocking in that chair when I was small.
Grandmother went to work when her husband was murdered – sewing for white folks – out all day fitting and sewing – and sewing all night – finishing while mother and Daisy stayed with their Grandfather Allen, who would tell on them when Grandmother came home and she would spank them. Mother said she remembered telling Daisy to holler loudly so Grandmother wouldn’t spank them hard or long and it worked!
Grandmother stayed single until she was about 37 or 38 when she married someone Mother hated – looked Italian, hardly ever worked. Liked a good time. Fathered Alice and left when she was very small. Somehow when mother spoke of him I had the feeling he would have like to have taken advantage of her. She was about 20 and had given up two college scholarships to stay and help Grandmother.
Sometimes after her husband’s death, Grandmother took the deed to the farm to a white lawyer. (was there any other kind?) and told him to sell it for her. He went to see it and check it out – told her to forget it – her title wasn’t clear, but he never gave the deed back and she figured he made a deal with her father-in-law.
Aunt Abbie (note: Jennie’s sister) said the father-in-law built Grandmother and Howard a “shotgun” house on the farm. She would turn up her nose as she said it. You know that is a house like this – no doors on front or back, you could shoot a gun through hall without damage. Animals (pigs, dogs) would wander into the hall and have to be driven out. Aunt Abbie only stayed there when the plague was raging in Montgomery. Yellow fever (malaria) and/or polio every summer. Many people sick or dying. Huge bonfires in the streets every night to ‘purify’ the air”, and closing the city if it got bad enough – no one in or out. More than once they fled the city in a carriage through back streets and swamps because they were caught by the closing which was done suddenly to keep folks from leaving and spreading the “plague”
In Detroit, when they came in 1923 when Mother and Daddy had bought the house on Theodore and had room for them (room? only 5 adults and 3 children!) Grandmother, Daisy and Alice got good jobs, (they were good – sewing fur coats, clean work and good pay.) at Annis Furs (remember it back of Hudsons?) and soon had money to buy their own house much farther east on a “nice” street in a “better ” neighborhood (no factories) on Harding Ave. While they lived with us I remember violent arguments between Alice and I don’t know who – either Grandmother or Daisy or Mother. Certainly not Daddy because when he spoke it was like who in the Bible who said, “When I say go, they goeth. When I say come, they cometh.” Most of the time I remember him in the basement, the backyard or presiding at table. Daisy and grandmother were what we’d call talkers.
Grandmother got old, hurt her knee, it never healed properly. Daisy worked and supported the house alone. Alice only worked a little while. She had problems getting along with people. Grandmother was eventually senile. Died of a stroke at 83 or so. Alice spent years taking care of her while Daisy worked. Daisy added to their income by being head numbers writer at Annis!!
This information came from family information. The photo is from my photo collection. The news item is from Newspapers.com. The links within the story are to other blog posts about the topic.
I always wondered about Duncan Irby, my Aunt Daisy’s lost love. Over the years I looked for him online, with no luck. Recently, I tried again. Lo’ and behold, I found Duncan Irby in Selma, Alabama. There was a small item from The Emancipator. Records and more news items began to show up.
In 1980 my mother wrote her memories of family memories. They proved to be an invaluable source when I started my research. She wrote the following about her mother’s sister, Daisy Turner. Some of my mother’s memories were a bit off, but close enough that I recognized Duncan Irby when I found him.
“Maybe here a word about Aunt Daisy. Look at her picture, sweet, soft, pretty, taught school awhile in Montgomery (with high school diploma) loved Congregational preacher named Duncan Erby who loved her and waited for her for years. Had the church in Buffalo, NY. Whenever she really considered leaving, Grandmother did the old guilt trick “How can you leave me to take care of Alice all by myself?” and “No man in this world is good enough to touch your little finger. They are all no good except (maybe) Shell.” (note: Shell referred to my grandfather, Mershell Graham.)and Daisy listened and stayed and played numbers, studied dream books and drank a little apricot brandy. I always found their house light, cheerful, full of magazines (McCall’s, Journal, etc.) which I loved to read, full of good things to eat. All three were super cooks and they had always just had a bunch of friends to dinner and to play cards or just about to have.
Daisy took us downtown to the show every summer and to Saunders for ice cream afterward. And I always ended up with a splitting headache. Too much high living I guess. She and Alice would buy us dainty, expensive little dresses from Siegel’s or Himelhoch’s. They all went to church every Sunday, Plymouth Congregational. Daisy always gave us beautiful tins of gorgeous Christmas candy, that white kind filled with gooey black walnut stuff, those gooey raspberry kind and those hard, pink kind with a nut inside, and chocolates, of course! She loved to eat and to cook. Never seemed bitter or regretful about her lost love.”
“Mr. Duncan Irby, accompanied by his mother and little sister, also Mrs. Mollie Dillard and Miss Daisy Turner, motored from Selma to this city last Sunday and visited Camp Sheridan.” The Emancipator, Montgomery, Alabama Sat. Oct 20, 1917.
Duncan Irby was five feet nine inches tall, stout, light complected with brown hair, brown eyes and freckles.
Duncan’s parents, Duncan Irby, Sr and Mary Smith were married in Selma, Alabama on Christmas Eve, 1890. Mary was the daughter of a house painter. Duncan’s mother, Emmeline Gee, inherited over 100 acres and a horse from a former enslaver Josiah Irby. I do not know if Emmeline was enslaved on Irby’s plantation. At his mother’s death, Duncan was to inherit the property.
After this, Duncan used the surname “Irby” instead of “Gee”. I do not know if they were allowed to take possession of the property. Both Duncan Sr and his wife Mary were literate. His mother lived with the family until her death in 1901. The Mary Smith mentioned in this article was Duncan Irby Sr’s older sister. It was very confusing to have three Marys (sister, wife and daughter) and two Duncans (father and son).
The younger Duncan Irby was born in 1892. The following year Duncan Sr, a blacksmith, suffered injuries when he was trampled by horses while making some repairs on a hack. He recovered.
Mr. Duncan Irby Seriously Injured.
“Selma, April 4.-(Special.)_ This evening Duncan Irby, a blacksmith, while making some repairs on a hack, was run over and seriously wounded. Mr. Irby was in front of the horses when they started on a run, dashing the unfortunate man to the ground and trampling upon him. The horses were finally stopped. Not much damage was done to the hack.” The Montgomery Advertiser Montgomery, Alabama Wed, Apr 5, 1893
Mary, Duncan Sr and Mary’s only other child, was born the following year. Both Duncan Jr and his sister Mary attended school. In 1908 they were both enrolled in Talledega College, a boarding school, in the College Preparatory Course. They studied Latin, Algebra, English Literature, Ancient history and Drawing along with hands on courses in Agriculture and Wood-Turning for young men and Dressmaking and Nurse-Training for young women.
Mary became a teacher. She married Edwin Gibson, a teacher and a principal. They had one son, Edwin Gibson Jr. They later divorced.
Duncan worked with his father in his blacksmith shop and later became a mechanic. The elder Duncan Irby died in November of 1915.
“Duncan Irby, one of the best known colored men in this section, is dead. He was a most reliable man and his death is regretted by whites and blacks.” The Selma Mirror, Selma, Alabama, Fri, Oct 15, 1915
“Duncan Irby, a Selma negro blacksmith, left a $30,000 estate. He had never made any considerable sums, but lived the time honored method of saving something all the time. As a rule negroes do not care to save. It is a race characteristic to spend to the limit, but occasionaly one like Irby has the nerve to save. – Birmingham Ledger.” Our Mountain Home, Talladega, Alabama, Wed, Oct 27, 1915
Duncan Irby senior, left everything to his wife Mary with the proviso that should she ever remarry, everything would go to their children.
Duncan Irby’s widow, Mary Irby, remarried in 1921. She married Rev. Marshall Talley and that is where my mother got the minister. The family relocated to Homestead, Pennsylvania. This was the move to the northeast. Duncan was 35 in 1930 and worked as an auto mechanic in Homestead.
Several years later, they all relocated to Indianapolis, Indiana. Duncan, his sister Mary, who was divorced from her husband by this time and her son Edwin Gibson Jr. formed a household. Edwin Jr grew up to become a well known architect and the first black architect registered in Indiana.
In 1966 Duncan Irby died of pneumonia brought on by lung cancer. He was 74 years old and had lived in Indianapolis for 34 years. He never married.
“Death Notices – Irby. Mr. Duncan Irby, age 74, 1238 North West St., died Wednesday at Methodist Hospital, beloved brother of Mrs. Mary Gibson, uncle of Edwin Gibson. Funeral Friday 10 a.m., Jacobs Brothers Westside Chapel. Cremation following. Friends may call after 4 p.m. today.” The Indianapolis News, Indianapolis, Indiana, Thu, Aug 4, 1966
In writing this story I used writings by my mother, Doris Graham Cleage; Census, death, and other records from Ancestry.com and a surprising number of news stories found on Newspapers.com. I discovered I could share them by embedding them in the post and may have gone overboard.
Howard Turner of This City Killed at a Colored Folks Picnic.
Hayneville, June 30. -[Special.]- Last Saturday the colored people had a picnic across Big Swamp near Hayneville. The result is Howard Turner, who came from Montgomery was killed by one Phillip McCall. Too much whisky and too many pistols. Phillip surrendered this morning.” The Weekly Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama) Thursday, July 10, 1891 Page 2
We were always told that my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s father was killed at a barbeque when she was four years old. After years of being unable to find any documentation, I found this news item on Newspapers. dot com today. I was just looking for various people in the newspapers when I came across it.
I have found so much new information since I started this blog that I feel the need to go back and put it all together for the various branches. My project for 2018.
These are the family groups I picked out from the first (1852) appraisment done of Wiley Turner’s Lowndes County, Alabama estate. I will follow those I can through the other three lists and then see what families I can find in the 1870 census. My 2X great grandfather, Joseph Turner, is listed as “Joe (white)” on page 3. He was too old to be in a family group at 15, so I do not know if his mother was on this file.
There are four family groups on page one (above) of the 1852 probate record.
Forty year old Ellen and child, and Abby, age fourteen and Little Margaret age ten.
Thirty year old woman Maria and child Ransom, nine year old little Jane, four year old Louisa and two year old Adella.
Doctor, Mary and fourteen year old Eliza went to Wiley Turner’s wife and so do not appear in later lists. Twelve year old Minerva and Ten year old Amanda, who may be part of this family, were not included in Francis Turner’s group.
Twenty two year old Adam, eighteen year old Mary Ellen and child Edward.
Fifty year old William, fifty year old Rachell and eight year old little Charles.
There are six possible family groups on page 2 (above) in the 1852 record.
Eliza 36 and Harriett 5.
Robbin 25, Cherry 36 and child Louisa, Prince 5
Rachell Patton 28, Robert 11, Frank 6
Rose 28 and child Gabriel – to Francis Mosely Turner.
Abigail 23 and child Ema
Clara 35 and child Alford, Sylvia 12, Lucy 10, Alice 8, Freeman 6, Harrison 6, Julia Ann 3.
There were five family groups on page 3 (above) in the 1852 appraisment.
Man Old Jim 45 years, Minty 45, Daniel 3 – to widow Francis Mosley Turner
Ben 33, Mary McQueen 28, Henry 12
Hannah 55, George 13
Betsy 23, child Caroline, Phillis 8, Peggy 3
Achilles 43, Mariah Mosely 35, Elvira 14 – to widow Francis Mosley Turner
There was one family group on page 4 (above)
Yellow John 24 (from previous page), Yellow Milly 30, Anthony infant, Little William 10, Carter 6, Braxton 4
I will be taking each family as far as I can in time, through the other probate lists as groups are made up to give to various family members and into the 1866, 1870 and for some beyond to later censuses.
The photograph is from the National Archives. The pages from the Estate File are from Ancestry.com.