Avalon Pierce was the granddaughter of Abram and Amanda Cleag. Her mother was their daughter, Sarah Idena Cleag Pierce. After her parents troubled marriage ended in divorce, Avalon was raised by her grandparents. She attended school and was literate. She signed her grandmother’s pension application because Amanda could not write.
Six months after her grandfather’s death, Avalon died of Pulmonary tuberculosis, on a Tuesday morning at home. She was about fifteen years old.
Avalon is buried next to her grandfather Abram.
In 2019 the Historical Society of Long Beach, CA, Avalon Pierce, granddaughter of Abram and Amanda Cleag, was brought to life by Tori-Ann Hampton. Above she tells her story as found in various records, newspaper articles and speculations.
During her testimony Amanda Cleag was questioned about the signature on her deposition because she could not write. She explained that her granddaughter Avalon signed for her. In this depositon, the notary who took the deposition explains how Avalon came to sign the document.
Deposition E Edmund D. Shooner 25th day of May, 1909 Long Beach, Los Angeles, California
I am 65 years of age. My post office address is No 134 East 2nd St., Long Beach Calif – Occupation, Real Estate and notary public.
I have been a resident of this city for the past six years, and I have been acquainted with this claimant, Amanda Cleag since a short time after the death of her husband, the soldier, Abram Cleag, whom I had known a year or so before his death.
I remember well and distinctly that just about a year ago this claimant came into my office with her niece, Avalon Pierce, and A. J. Orelli and had me execute an application for pension for her and her niece, Avalon Pierce, and A. J. Orelli signed her said pension application as identifying witnesses and her niece, or rather her granddaughter, Avalon pierce, signed claimant’s name to the said pension application; as claimant was unable to write her own name. I personally know that claimant Amanda Cleag, authorized her granddaughter, Avalon Pierce to sign her, Amanda Cleag’s name to that pension application, which I now identify, since you have exhibited that said pension application to me. That entire pension application is in my own handwriting, except the signature of the claimant made by the identifying witnesses, one of whom being the said granddaughter.
I remember well and distinctly that claimant, authorized Avalon Pierce to sign her, claimant’s name to that pension application and if such authorization had not been given to said Avalon Pierce by Amanda Cleage, I would not have officially executed said pension application.
Yes, sir, that is my signature, as notary public to that pension application now before me, sworn to by the claimant at the time, and it is legally correct as far as my knowledge extents in these pension matters; yes claimant acknowledged under oath the contents of her pension application, and authorized her signature to be attached to it by her granddaughter, Avalon pierce and I personally saw the said Avalon Pierce sign the name Amanda Cleag to the said application, and saw her sign her own name as an identifying witness and saw Mr. A. L. Orellie sign his name as an identifying witness, that date May 6, 1908.
From information recently obtained for me from claimant, her granddaughter, Avalon Pierce is dead.
Am not interested The words “since” “not” and “by” interlined before signing.
This has been read to me, I have understood questions and my answers are correctly recorded
Edmund D. Spooner Notary Public Desponent Sworn to and subscribed before me this 25th day of May, 1909
Deposition A Case of Amanda Cleage by Jerry Cleage
I am about 75 years
old, I reckon. I live in Athens, Tennessee.
In slavery I belonged
to David Cleage and Amanda belonged to Alec, David’s brother. I knew Amanda. In
the time of the war she was married to Lou Deadrick and she got a divorce from
him after the war. I knew Lou well; he went from here to Chattanooga several
After her separation from Lou Amanda did not marry again here; she soon afterward went away with a white family named Tucker, and I have never seen her since.
With the Tucker family
also went a colored man named Abe Cleage, who had been a soldier – his name was
Abraham had no wife here; he had had no wife here – I knew him and his brothers well. All of his brothers are dead. Abe never came back home and I haven’t known whether he is alive or not of late.
Amanda and Abram were not married when they left here; I don’t know whether they married afterword or not. I think I hear they did. Amanda’s mother lived here and I use to hear about Amanda sometimes through her.
I have lived in this
county all my life. Amanda had only one husband up to the time that she left here.
I have no interest in
this claim for pension. I understood the foregoing as it was read and my
statements are correctly recorded.
From my drafts. A letter stating that no marriage record was found for Abram and Amanda Cleag.
Department of the Interior Bureau of Pensions
Washington, D.C. Atlanta, GA., July 2, 1909
With this report are returned the papers in claim No. 893, 806, of Amanda Cleag, as widow of Abram Cleag, Co. 1, 1st U.C. Colored Heavy Artillery, referred to this division to determine whether the declaration filed May 11, 1898 was legally excuted and whether the claimant is the legal widow of the soldier. The case was received in this district, with right to notice waived, for testimony “as to lawful widow”.
The surname of the soldier is written Cleage in McMinn County, Tennessee.
The claimant was divorced from one Lon Deaderick in December 1867. See exhibit A and on Deaderick apparently was her only husband up to the time that she permanently left McMinn County. I searched the entries in the marriage records of McMinn County for December 186 and for the years 1868 and 1869 and I failed to find the claimants name as Armstrong, Cleage or Deaderick. I failed to find the soldiers name in the said records for the period from the year 1865 to the year 1870. And it appears that this soldier had no wife before he left McMinn County with the claimant.
I searched the indexes of the marriage records on file in the office of the County Clerk of Hamilton County, Tennessee, covering the period from the year 1865 to the year 1870 and I failed to find evidence of the marriage of the claimant to the soldier. Lon Deaderick (deposition D) has testified that he knows that the claimant was not married to the soldier as they passed through Chattanooga on their way to Texas, as the train on which they traveled did not make a longer stop than 10 minutes in Chattanooga.
Sarah Morrison (deposition B) has testified that she is about 102 years old. She is strong physically and mentally and her memory apparently is very good.
The several persons whose testimony I have taken in this case, with the exception of Lon Deaderick, are mulattoes; they are very fairly intelligent are of good reputation. Deaderick, I think, may be rated fair.
Another from the drafts folder. More testimony for Amanda Cleag’s Widow’s Pension hearing. His wife testified here Rented Land.
“Pomona, South Pasadena and Compton are incorporated as cities. Long Beach is also incorporated for the first time, but is disincorporated years later in 1897 (but then reincorporated before the end of that year). Heavy floods occur. The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce is established at a meeting of the city’s principal boosters. Los Angeles Times publisher, Harrison Gray Otis, makes the motion. A small African American community forms in Los Angeles, initially centered around First and Los Angeles Streets. Occidental College is founded in Eagle Rock.” Click on map to go to page.
Deposition C in Amanda Cleag’s Widow’s Pension Claim
Mason Davis I am 57 My address is: 1239 Birch Street, Los Angeles California Occupation: Express man
I have been living in Los Angeles for about 21 years and I
lived in and around Austin, Texas, for 20 years before coming here to reside.
I first became acquainted with Abram Cleag and his wife
Amanda Cleag when they first came to Dr. Phillip’s plantation, near Austin,
Texas, all of forty years ago, and I knew them in and around Austin, Texas for
all of 20 years, and I knew them as long here in California. They came here a
little ahead of me and my wife, from Austin, Texas.
When they first came to Dr. Phillips plantation, they were a
young looking married couple, and said they had come from San Marcos, Texas, where
they had gone from Athens, Tenn. with the Tucker family, and that the Tucker
family had gone into the state of Virginia to live.
No, I do not know how long Abram Cleag and Amanda Cleag had
been married before they came to Dr. Phillip’s plantation, and I don’t
recollect that they ever told me where they had gotten married, but Abram Cleag
told me that he had been in the army during the civil war, and after he came
here he got a pension for his army service.
I know personally, however that Abram Cleag and Amanda Cleag
always lived together as man and wife all the time I was associated with them
in Texas for 20 years, and that they lived as man and wife all the time here in
California up to the time of Abram Cleag’s death in Long Beach, Calif., about a
year ago. Yes, sir, I attended his funeral in Long Beach, and saw him dead. My
wife and I used to visit the Cleags in Long Beach, and have styed at his home
for a week at the time.
I personally know that Amanda Cleag, this claimant for
pension has not remarried since the death of her husband, Abram Cleag, and that
she has had to work to support herself.
Yes, I know of my own knowledge that Abram Cleag and Amanda
Cleag always lived together as man and wife, never being separated or divorced,
during all the 40 or more years I knew them up to the time of Abram Cleag’s
death, and that they were known and recognized as man and wife by all who know
them both in Texas and California. I also know that the Cleags had two children
born to them, but none of them are alive. She had a granddaughter, Avalon
Price, with whom she lived in Long Beach, after the death of her husband Abram,
but that granddaughter died recently and Amanda is now alone in the world. She has no relations alive that I know of,
and I don’t know that Abram Cleag has any living relatives.
Question: Had Abram Cleag been married before his marriage
to Amanda Cleage, this claimant for pension, as you may have heard?
Answer: I never heard that he had been married before his
marriage to Amanda, and he never told me that he had been.
Question: Had Amanda, the claimant been married before her
marriage to Abram Cleag, the soldier?
Answer: Not that I know of. I never heard it said by either
of them that Amanda had been married before her marriage to Abram Cleag. If
either one of them had ever been previously married, I never heard of it.
It is my understanding that they had grown up in Tennessee,
but I never met anyone who knew them there.
No, I never heard that Amanda Cleag had been married to a
Lou Dedrick, from whom she was divorced before her marriage to Abram Cleag. I
can’t hardly believe that, as she was a young woman when I got to know her in
I know for sure, however, that they always lived together as
man and wife all the years I knew them, and that they were never separated or
Yes, that is my signature to that joint affidavit shown me.
No, I can’t fix the date any better that I have done to you, when I first got to know the Cleags.
Am not interested nor related. This has been read to me and
I have understood questions, and my answers are correct.
I published part I of Amanda Cleag’s Deposition during 2019 at this link – Amanda Cleage. While going through blog posts I never published, I found this one and decided to publish it today.
Part II of Amanda Cleag’s Deposition
Question: What persons or person are in or about Athens,
Tenn. now who knew you and the soldier there before your marriage?
Answer – I don’t know of anyone in there. I have had letters written there to different persons whom I knew, but my letters have all been returned to me. Well, I knew Amos Jackson and his wife, colored; Mr. and Mrs. Ross, colored, and Mr. and Mrs. Blizzard, colored, and Mr. and Mrs. Turner, colored.
Question-Where had you lived after the war and before your
marriage to the soldier?
Answer: I worked for and lived with Mr. and Mrs. John
Bridges in Athens, Tenn., after we had been freed by General Sherman, and I
lived with them until I went to live with Mr. Ben E. Tucker and his family,
just above Athens, and left with them to go to San Marcos, Texas, for awhile.
We were in San Marcos, Texas for about a year with the Tuckers, then husband
and I went to Austin, Texas, on our own account, engaging in farming and where
we first became acquainted with Mr. Davis and his wife, on Dr. Phillips farm.
We all were on the same farm, renting land from Dr. Phillips.
Question: Where did your husband live after he came out of
the army and before his marriage to you?
Answer: He lived right there in Athens, Tenn. Working for
Dr. Atlee, and with whom he remained until he went with the Ben E. Tucker
family and myself to Texas, as aforesaid.
Question: Had your
husband, the soldier been married, before his marriage to you?
Answer: No sir, he never had been. I know it because I lived
right there with him. No sir, he did not have a slave wife. He never lived with
any woman in martial relations before his marriage to me, that I know of or
ever heard of. He may have run around with women, for all I know, but I never
knew or heard of his living with any women as man and wife live together. I lived continuously with the soldier from
the time of my marriage to him as aforesaid, never being separated or divorced
from him, up to the time of his death, which occurred here in Long Beach,
California, April 14, 1908, and he was buried here in the cemetery.
Before my mother married my father she was also owned by
Russell Hurst who owned the soldier, and mother told me that she had the care
of the soldier as a little boy, for some reason or the other, and my mother
always told me that the soldier never had been married before his marriage to
me. My father, mother and the soldier were afterwards sold to the Cleags. Yes,
father had been owned by the Armstrongs previously and used to go by that name
and also the name of Cleag. By which one he was ever called.
My father and mother are both dead. I had four brothers and
three sisters. Three of my brothers are dead, but I do not know where the other
one is, if alive. Two of my sisters are
also dead, but the third one, Mrs. Sallie Ross, wife of George Ross, was living
in Washington, D.C., when I last heard from her 5 or 6 years ago. If I am not
mistaken she was living at Tacoma, near Washington D.C.
Question: How many times had you been married before your
marriage to the soldier?
Answer: I was only
married once before my marriage to the soldier. I was first married to Lou
Dedrick in Athens, Tenn., while I was still a slave and owned by Thomas Cleag.
I was married about six months before the close of the war. My second husband, the soldier, had not come
out of the army then: I can’t fix the date better than that. I was married to
Lou Dedrick by a colored preacher named “Uncle Sam Armstrong”. He was an old man. I was married in “Cindy
Dedrick’s” house, sister of first husband. I only lived with my first husband Lou
Dedrick, for six months, when I got a divorce on account of cruelty and threats
on my life. “went before the Grand Jury” and got my divorce. Lawyer Blizzard my
divorce proceedings for me, and I was given a general decree of divorce by the
Court and it must be of record. No, I haven’t my divorce paper now. Yes sir, I was given one. It got misplaced and
lost with other papers in Tennessee. Yes, I went into court to get my divorce.
I know I did get a divorce from Lou Dedrick, and I was given a divorce paper.
Lawyer Blizzard saw that I got my rights and I got the paper.
Lou Dedrick went away after I got a divorce from him, and I
have never seen him since or heard of him. I don’t know whether or not his
sister, his sister is alive and if her so, her place of residence. He had no
other relatives that I know of. He never was a soldier, but had lived in
Athens, Tenn., for a long while. I was just a young girl when I married him,
about 14 or 15 years old. I was too young to marry him. I had one child by him,
which subsequently died. I had 2 children by the soldier, which also died. My
oldest child, a daughter, died during the San Francisco, Cal., earthquake.
I swear between God and man I was only married once before
my marriage to the soldier, as aforesaid, and that I never lived with any man
as his wife, without being married to him. I only had those two marriages. That
is the God’s truth. Yes, I was divorced from Lou Dedrick, and Lawyer Blizzard
got the divorce for me in Athens, Tenn.
The soldier had four brothers, Isaac, Charley, George, Jeff
and Jerome Cleag and two sisters Kitty and Sarah Cleag. The four boys lived in
Chattanooga, Tenn., and they all died there. Kitty also died in Chattanooga and
Sarah died in Atlanta, Ga. The soldier has no relatives alive that I know of. I
know that they all died before my husband, except Sarah, who died since his
death. Her name was Mrs. Sarah McMillan, and she died in Atlanta, GA.
After my marriage to the soldier as herein before set forth,
we went to San Marcos, Texas, with the Tucker family and remained there a year
with them. When they went into Virginia some place to live, as Mr. Tucker was a
sick man and died in Texas, and my husband and I went to Dr. Phillips farm, a
mile from Austin, Texas, and we lived there and in and about Austin, Texas,
until we came here about 22 years ago, and have lived in Los Angeles and Long
Beach all the time since then. Mr. and Mrs. Davis, whom we knew in Austin
Texas, came out here shortly after we did.
While in Austin, Texas, I can refer to Mr. and Mrs. L. Leverman,
Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Jenkins, Mr. and Mrs. Bantam, all colored people. Also the
following white people: Mrs. Mary Deets,
George Marcum, a storekeeper, Mr. and Mrs. Bertie Barns, grocery business, the
finest in the city, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Freedman.
Question: you have stated in an affidavit that you were
married to the soldier in the year 1866 in Athens, Tenn. How about that?
Answer: That is a mistake. I was married to the soldier in
Chattanooga, Tenn., while on our way to Texas as I have told you, and it was
about two years after the war was over. The person who drew up that affidavit
Question; Can you write your name?
Answer: No I cannot. No, I never learned to write my name.
Question; who wrote your name “Amanda Cleag” to that pension
application I now exhibit to you?
Answer: My name on that pension application now exhibited to
me, was written by my deceased granddaughter, Avalon Pierce, at my
authorization. Yes sir, I told my granddaughter Avalon Pierce to write my name
to that pension application, because I could not write my name, and afterwards
I swore to the correctness of the contents of said application, and the notary
public, who drew up my pension application, and before and how it was executed,
said it was all right. He said my granddaughter could sign my name for me,
because I was unable to write it myself.
Mr. Spooner was the notary public I appeared before to execute only
application for pension. He didn’t tell that I had to sign by mark, because I
couldn’t write, but another notary public, before whom I appeared to execute an
affidavit in my said pension claims, said I would have to sign by mark, and I
did so. My granddaughter, Avalon Pierce,
also signed my name as aforesaid, has been dead for three months, having died
in this city on account of tuberculosis.
Question: By whom can you prove that the soldier was not married before his marriage to you, and that you lived continuously with him from the time of your marriage to him to the day of his death?
Answer: I don’t know as I can prove that he was never married before his marriage to me outside of my own statement, but I can prove by Mr. and Mrs. Davis that one lived together as man and wife in Texas from the first time they knew us there, and also they have known me all the time I have lived in California, or nearly all the time. No, sir, I have not remarried since the soldier’s death.
Question: By whom do you expect to prove that you were only married once before you marriage to the soldier, and that you were divorced from your first husband, Lou Dedrick?
Answer: I can’t get “no” proof of that, as I don’t know where any of those people are who knew me before my marriage to the soldier. Maybe some of those people can be located in Athens, whose names I have given you. I have given you all the information I possess in regard to that.
Question: How is it you stated in your pension application that you never had been married before your marriage to the soldier?
Answer: I didn’t think it necessary to say anything about that because I had gotten a divorce from my first husband. I know I did. No, I never was married in my life more than twice, first to Lou Dedrick, and the second and last time to the soldier. Mr. J.G. Parrish of Long Beach, Calif. is my pension attorney, but I have not paid him or anybody the any money for services rendered
This statement of mine herein made to you is the exact truth and I have not concealed any important facts. There is nothing more I can tell you.
You have explained to me all my rights and privileges, and I waive my right to be present or represented in the further examination of my claim.
Witness: J.G. Parrish A.C. McPeak Amanda (x her mark) Cleage 25th May 1909 Alford L. Leonard (special examiner)
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.I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out an “X” name or word when I realized that almost all the witnesses and claimants signed their names with an “X” because they couldn’t write. Below is testimony from Sarah Cleage Morrison, Amanda’s mother. She sign’s with her X mark.
Deposition B Case of Amanda Cleag – Sarah Morrison
22 July 1909 Athens, McMinn, Tennesse
As near as I can tell – I am 102 years old. I live in Athens Tennessee.
Amanda Cleage who lives at Long Beach, California is my daughter. I haven’t received word that anyone was examining or was to examine her pension claim- I haven’t heard anything about it.
Amanda has been married twice – only twice. Her first husband was Lon Deadrick and her other husband was Abram Cleage.
Abram was raised up here and I knew him all the time until he went away. He and Amanda went away with old man Tucker’s family soon after the War. They went to Texas and I visited them in Austin, Texas. They had been gone from here for some years when I visited them – their oldest child was then eight years old at that time. Amanda and Abram were living as wife and husband and they recognized each other as wife and husband. They were married after they left here and I don’t know where they were married.
Abram had no wife here. He had no slave wife and he had no wife after the war until he had gone from here with the Tuckers.
Abe, Amanda and myself all belonged to the same man, old Alec Cleage.
There is none of our folks living who were in Chattanooga at the time Amanda went through there on her way to Texas.
I understood the foregoing as it was read to me by the examiner and it is correct.
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 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 files for this years challenge.
Today I will share some information and a few newspaper articles about Sallie Idena Cleag, Abram and Amanda‘s only surviving child.
Sarah Idena Cleage was born in 1876 near Austin, Texas. She was named after her grandmother Sallie Cleage Marsh. She learned to read and write, something her parents never did, and moved to Los Angeles, California with them in 1888 when she was twelve years old. Two years later, at 14 she married Richard Pierce, a house painter nine years older than she was. They had a daughter, Avalon, when she was 18 and a year later she gave birth to a stillborn son.
The family continued to live with Abram and Amanda. Their relationship was a troubled one, more than troubled. Twice, husband Richard took shots at men Sarah was intimately involved with. They were finally divorced. Sarah left Avalon to be raised by her parents and went to San Francisco, where she died in the earthquake of 1906.