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.
Abbie Allen Brown
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:
Pearl and Albert with their children and 3 of the grandchildren. My sister and I were at our other grandmothers and the youngest 4 were not yet born. 1951.
Because my family seemed to socialized mainly with each other and a few long time family friends, I saw a lot of my aunts and uncles. When I was growing up, we spent every Saturday with my mother’s sister, Mary V. and her daughters at our maternal grandparents. We all rode over and back together. We also lived down the street and went to the same school so we saw her often.
My father’s family was very close and worked on political and freedom causes together through the years. We all went up to Idlewild together. Uncle Louis was our family doctor. My first jobs were working with Henry and Hugh at Cleage Printers. I babysat one summer for Anna and Winslow. I worked at North Detroit General Hospital in the pharmacy with Winslow. I worked with Gladys and Barbara at the Black Star sewing factory. My mother married my Uncle Henry years after my parents divorced so he was like a second father to me. I raked their memories for stories about the past for decades.
My mother and her sister with cousin Dee Dee inbetween. Front row: Me, sister Pearl and cousin Barbara.
Aunts by blood and Uncles by marriage.
Aunt Abbie – my great grandmother Turner’s sister.
I had 4 aunts and 5 uncles, by blood. Two of my uncles died when they were children so I never knew them. All of my aunts married so there were 4 uncles by marriage. Three, Ernest, Frank and Edward, were eventually divorced from my aunts. I didn’t see them very much after that. Ernest lived in NYC and only appeared now and then so I didn’t know him very well beyond the fact he was very good looking and polite. Uncle Frank, who we called ‘Buddy’, was a an electrician. I remember him taking us to Eastern Market and boiling up a lot of shrimp,which we ate on soda crackers. And a story he told about a whirling dervish seen in the distance that turned into a dove. Edward, who we called Eddie was a doctor and I remember little about him except he was quiet and when I had a bad case of teenage acne, offered to treat it for me. Uncle Winslow was there to the end. I saw him often and I felt very connected to him. He had a wicked sense of humor and liked to talk about the past when I was in my family history mode. None of my uncles were married during my lifetime so I had no aunts by marriage.
We didn’t call our aunts and uncles “aunt” and “uncle”. We called them by their first names only. I did know two of my great aunts, my maternal grandmother’s sisters, Daisy and Alice. I knew one of my 2 X great aunts, Aunt Abbie. She lived with my grandparents until she died in 1966. Aunt Abbie was Catholic and I still have a Crucifix that she gave me.
I remember calling Daisy “Aunt Daisy”, but Alice was just “Alice”. Aunt Daisy had a distinctive voice and she laughed a lot. I remember going to dinner at their house once, and going by on holidays.
My maternal grandmother’s sisters, Aunts Alice and Daisy. On Bob-lo Island 1961.
There were a host of great aunts and uncles that I never met but I knew from stories about them so that I felt like I knew them. Aunt Minnie and Uncle Hugh were my paternal grandmother’s siblings. I must have met several of my paternal grandfather’s siblings but I was small and don’t remember them, Uncle Jake, Uncle Henry, Aunt Josie and their spouses. And on the maternal side I heard so much about my great grandmother Jennie’s siblings that I felt I knew them too. When I started researching, these were not strangers – Aunt Willie, Aunt Mary, Aunt Beulah, Aunt Anna.
2X Great Grandmother Eliza and her children. My 2X great aunts and uncle. Aunt Mary, Ransom, Aunt Abbie, Aunt Beulah, Eliza, Great Grandmother Turner, Aunt Anna and Aunt Willie. Don’t know why Ransom was just ‘Ransom’.
We didn’t call any of my parent’s friends ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’. Not surprising since we didn’t call our own aunts and uncles, ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’.
Left to right: My grandfather Albert Cleage with my great aunt and great uncles, Aunt Josie, Uncle Ed. Back L Uncle Henry, back R Uncle Jake.
By 1940 there were only 3 of Eliza’s children remaining in Montgomery, Alabama. Willie Lee Allen Tulane, Abbie Allen and Beulah Allen Pope. Willie Lee lived on S. Union. Abbie lived on Ripley. Beulah and Robert Pope lived on W. Jeff Davis Ave. Scroll down and to the left to see the blue pointer for their house. View the Montgomery Family – 1940 in a map on Google Maps. Enlarge to see the locations.
Willie Lee Allen Tulane. A photo from the 1930s.
Willie Tulane lived at 430 S. Union Street. She owned the home and had lived there in 1935. It was worth $2,000. She gave her age as 55 although, since her age on the 1880 census was 7, she was closer to 67. She had attended 8 years of school. Willie had not worked in the past year. She was the informant. Everybody in the house was identified as Neg(ro).
There were two boarders. Louise McHaney age 25, worked as a private maid. She earned $260 a year. She was single and had attended school for 8 years. The other boarder was Charles Williams, a 52 year old Insurance salesman. He had attended school for 7 years and was married but separated from his wife. He earned $1,040 in 1935. Both boarders had worked 52 weeks out of the past year. You can see a copy of the 1940 Census page with Willie Tulane on it on Ancestry.com HERE.
Abbie Allen, photo – 1966.
Abbie Allen had stopped using her married name, Brown, in the 1930 Census and she still was using her maiden name. She’s listed as a widow. She owned her home at 444 Ripley Street where she had worked as a seamstress for 40 weeks during the past year. She gave her age as 42, although being age 5 in the 1880 census, she was closer to 65. She was identified as Neg(ro). She had lived in the same house in 1935. It had been her parents home and she had lived there since about 1900. It was valued at $500. She had gone to school for 7 years. Abbie was the informant. You can see a copy of Abbie Allen’s 1940 census page on Ancestry.com HERE.
Robert and Beulah (Allen) Pope. Date of Roberts photo not known. Beulah’s photo is from the 1950s.
Beulah and Robert Pope owned their home at 235 W. Jeff Davis Ave. It was worth $400. They had lived there in 1935. Beulah had attended college for 2 years and was not working outside the home. Robert had completed 4 years of college and was a clerk for a wholesale drug company. He had worked for 52 weeks during 1939 and earned $1,720. Both were identified as Neg(ro). He was listed as 58. In 1880 he was listed as 6 years old so he was actually about 66. Beulah was listed as 53. In the 1880 census she was listed as 1 year old so she was closer to 61. Beulah was the informant.
I became interested in how accurate the ages were when I noticed that Aunt Abbie was younger than the youngest sister, Beulah. I went back to the 1880 census to see what ages were given when they were close to their births. I wonder if they just didn’t keep up with how old they were or if they were trying to seem younger.
Aunt Abbie, my great grandmother’s sister, lived with my grandparents , Fannie and Mershell Graham since the time I was born. Aunt Abbie’s son, Alphonso, came to visit her sometimes during the summer. My mother told me that he never married and lived alone in New York, as did his brother, Earl.
While looking through New York records for anything I could find about Alphonso or Earl, I came across a marriage record for Alphonso Brown and Helen Wilson. I immediately sent for a copy. It arrived today. Aunt Abbie’s son was indeed married Dec. 17, 1928 to Helen Wilson in New York. More family information/memories proved wrong. This is my second bachelor uncle to actually have been married.
Here are my mother’s memories of her great Aunt Abbie, who lived with my grandparents until I was twenty. Aunt Abbie became very frail and was no longer mobile. My aging grandparents were unable to care for her and she was sent to a nursing home where she died several months later.
Abigail Allen Brown
By Doris Graham Cleage
Aunt Abbie married a Mississippi Riverboat gambler, swarthy and handsome and no good, who stayed home on two visits long enough to give her two sons and then sent her trunks of fine clothes to wear or to sell to take care of herself and the boys. Whenever she talked about him she sounded like she hated him. She resented the lack of money. Said once the oldest boy Earl (named for his father) screamed for days with toothache and she could not take him to the dentist, who didn’t want any fancy clothes or jewelry. She resented raising the children alone. I got the feeling she hated them and they hated her and she resented him being off having a good time while she stayed home with the problems.
She talked about him in a completely different way than she talked about her Jewish policeman, who bought her a house on Ripley St. Spent much time there, for whom she loved to cook and keep house. She came to live with Mother to take care of Daddy(!) so Mother could come to Springfield and help me when Kris was born. In later years when they lived on Fairfield, Mother and Daddy used to argue about this and they would call me in to referee. He’d say he took Aunt Abbie in out of the goodness of his heart like all the rest of her family. And she was not supposed to stay on (!) them forever but was to go to live with Aunt Margaret. Mother would say Aunt Abbie came to take care of him because (here she would make a mouth at me) he could not take care of himself and work even though he could cook better than she and do everything else in the house too. (I think we are always angered at the way men can say this is the limit. I can’t or I won’t do this or that and we seem to have lives where you do what is to be done since you have no one who will hear you if you say you can’t or won’t. Hold my hand Charlie Brown!) And that he knew very well she was going to live with them and visit Margaret occasionally. Mother was right. He said Aunt Abbie came to have cataracts operated on and to be taken care of. He was wrong. Her eye operations came years later. He said to me once that he had always taken care of Mother’s people and she would have nothing to do with his. I know how Grandmother depended on him to fix things around their house. And he was most agreeable and I always thought he loved it. They made over him when he came with his box of tools. I was always there as helper, but he got very tired and mistreated about having both Alice and Aunt Abbie to take care of. He didn’t like either one. But I never could get him to send them to a nursing or residence home to live. He always said “What would people say if I did that?” When people talk like that I give up because they are obviously making the choice they prefer.
Back to Aunt Abbie. She loved to cook and do everything else about the house. Mother would not let her do anything except clean her own room and do her own washing and ironing…..and Mother hated everything about housekeeping except cooking; but she said her husband expected her to take care of him and his house and (she didn’t say this,) she’d be damned it she’d let anyone else do it as long; as she could. I couldn’t talk to her about it.. Aunt Abbie tried to get her sons to let her come to NY and live with them. They wouldn’t even answer her letters. Sad.
Note: I remember her son Alphonso visiting several times. Aunt Abbie was fixing him tongue because he really like it. KCW
My mother wrote this as part of her family history memories for my sister and me in 1980. I am putting the whole piece here then I will reprint each sister’s section with the new information I found and corrections that needed to be made after I found descendants for most of them. My mother’s grandmother was Jennie Virginia Allen Graham. The women she writes about are her grandmother’s sisters, her great aunts. When “grandmother” is mentioned that is Jennie Virginia.
Willie holding grandson Conrad, daughter Naomi looking on.
Now a word about her sisters….Aunt Willie was the oldest….married well…Victor Tulane (Tuskegee trustee and owner of a general store and many houses). He was not what you’d call a “faithful” husband, but Aunt Willie (the family said) looked the other way because he always took such good care of his wife and only child, a daughter Naomi, who was sent to Howard, married a doctor and went to live the high life in New York. Aunt Willie had a beautiful apartment over the store. Always had a maid and never worked. She was living like this when Grandmother was a struggling widow. She was the last sister to leave Montgomery. She died in New York. Her son-in-law had died, left her daughter wealthy with apartments in NY paid for, insurance, money for the education of the four children in the bank, etc. I remember shoes hand made in Italy being in the boxes of impossible things she sent mother. They were always distant “rich relations”. Don’t remember even seeing any of the children except one young woman who came to Detroit briefly, stayed with Margaret McCall. Saw Aunt Willie once. She and Aunt Abbie came to visit us when I was small. Don’t remember her saying much or ever smiling while Aunt Abbie was as you remember her, friendly.
Abbie Allen Brown
Aunt Abbie married a Mississippi Riverboat gambler, swarthy and handsome and no good, who stayed home on two visits long enough to give her two sons and then sent her trunks of fine clothes to wear or sell to take care of herself and the boys. Whenever she talked about him she sounded like she hated him. She resented the lack of money. Said once the oldest boy Earl (named for his father) screamed for days with toothache and she could not take him to the dentist who didn’t want any fancy clothes or jewelry. She resented raising the children alone. I got the feeling she hated them and they hated her and she resented him being off having a good time while she stayed home with the problems. She talked about him In a completely different way than she talked about her Jewish policeman who bought her a house on Ripley St. and spent much time there, for whom she loved to cook and keep house.
She came to live with Mother to take care of Daddy (!) so Mother could come to Springfield and help me when Kris was born. In later years when they lived on Fairfield, Mother and Daddy used to argue about this and they would call me in to referee. He’d say he took Aunt Abbie in out of the goodness of his heart like all the rest of her family, and that she was not supposed to stay on them forever but was to go live with Aunt Margaret. Mother would say Aunt Abbie came to take care of him because (here she would make a mouth at me) he could not take care of himself and work even tho he could cook better than she and do everything else in the house too. I think we are always angered at the way men can say this is the limit. I can’t or I won’t do this or that and we seem to have lives where you do what is to be done since you have no one who will hear you if you say you can’t or won’t…hold my hand Charlie Brown! And that he knew very well she was going to live with them and visit Margaret occasionally. Mother was right. He said Aunt Abbie came to have cataracts operated and to be taken care of. He was wrong. Her eye operations came years later. He said to me once that he had always taken care of Mother’s people and she would have nothing to do with his. I know how Grandmother depended on him to fix things around their house and he was most agreeable and I always thought he loved it. They made over him when he came with his box of tools. I was always there as helper, but he got very tired and mistreated about having both Alice and Aunt Abbie to take care of. He didn’t like either one. But I never could get him to send them to a nursing or residence home to live. He always said what would people say if I did that. When people talk like that I give up because they are obviously making the choice they prefer.
Back to Aunt Abbie. She loved to cook and do everything else about the house. Mother would not let her do anything except clean her own room and do her own washing and ironing and Mother hated everything about housekeeping except cooking, but she said her husband expected her to take care of him and his house and (she didn’t say this) she’d be damned if she’d let anyone else do it as long as she could. I couldn’t talk to her about it.
Aunt Anna was the sister who went to Chicago, got a job as teller in a bank, married the bank manager who was a widower with children. He knew she was black but no one else in his family ever did. I’ve often wondered what they did for birth control. They were young when they married. He was well to do. She used to write Mother and Mother would write back c/o general post office. Said she loved him but felt very lonely all the time not to be able to see her family and knew the children would have nothing to do with her if they knew. She was supposed to look like Margaret McCall. She got sick. Wrote Mother she was not to live long. That there might be no more letters. That she would dearly love to die with her family He had died years before…had left his money to her…had asked her to promise to stay near the children to pass so they would not be embarrassed…and leave the money to them. She promised and told mother she had made her bed and would lie in it to the end but would surely see them in Heaven. Mother was the only one she wrote to. The rest would not answer letters. That was the last letter.
Mary Allen McCall
Aunt Mary married someone named James McCall whom I never knew. Also never heard anyone say who he was or what he did. As I write this it strikes me that the men these sisters married were for the most part very shadowy creatures. I’ve seen a picture even of only one. Strange. Aunt Mary looked rather like Aunt Abbie but was quiet and rather grim, I thought. Lived with Aunt Margaret and her son Uncle Jim all her life as far as I know. I think Aunt Mary helped with money although I don’t know where she got it. Uncle Jim, her son, was blind. There were two children, Margaret and Victoria, and no help from the state. He caned chairs and wrote poetry for a living. I think they were very poor but did better when the state helped blind people And they got enough money from somewhere to buy the Detroit Tribune and make money.
Beulah Allen Pope and son Robert Pope
Aunt Beulah who looked something like Grandmother, I’ve heard, married someone named Pope and went to Milwaukee. Don’t know what he did or what she was like. Never saw her. Sent one son through dental school Robert Pope. Very handsome, his twin sister, a beauty married well, had one child the one who kept pushing me around when they came to visit us. I must have been about four, so was he, and he wanted to follow MV everywhere and not let me come. I went anyway. I remember him banging my head against the wall beside the stairs. Strange. He especially hated me because I could cut up my own meat and his mother wouldn’t even let him try. Ha ha!!! Another son of Aunt Beulah was a teacher who married had one daughter who wrote once to Mother and Daddy about family history. Wonder what she got together. I keep hoping to find someone who has already done all the hard work. Back to Aunt Beulah, who was considered the least beautiful of the sisters. Her son Robert built her a beautiful home and stayed there with her until she died not too long ago. Ten or twelve years. They all spoke of her with envy.