Tag Archives: Clinton Cleage

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.

Sallie Cleage

Woman looking out of door

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee and their descendants. Click on any image to enlarge.

 The first thing I noticed about Sallie Cleage as I started writing about her life, were the wildly differing birth dates.  They ranged from 1817 to 1841. I believe the death record saying she was born about 1823 is closest to the truth.  If she was born in 1841, her oldest child would have been born when she was 4 years old.  If she was born in 1817, she would have been 103 when she died in 1914.

Sallie Cleage was born into slavery about 1823 in Tennessee. Her mother’s name was Silver Baver.  Sallie and Clinton Cleage had fourteen children together, most of them born during slavery. By 1900, only five were living. I have already written about three of them – Amanda Cleage, Nelson Cleage and Lydia Cleage.

1870 Census
1870 Census via ancestry.com

Clinton died about 1869.  In 1870 Sallie lived in Athens TN with six of her children. None of them can read or write. Lydia, the oldest child still at home, attended school.  Sallie owned no property and her personal property was worth $250.  She was keeping house. Nobody in the household is listed as working outside of the home.

1880 census
1880 Census  via ancestry.com

In 1880 Sallie and seven of her children are living together in the same house. Roger William Sherman, who later married my great grandmother, lived next door.  Nelson worked as a laborer. Mary was the only literate member of the household. None of the children were attending school and nobody else had a job.  The 1890 U.S. Census was destroyed in a fire so we have to skip to the 1900 census.

1900 Census
1900 Census  via ancestry.com

In 1900 Sallie owned her house free of mortgage.  Her son Robert, his wife and son, along with Sallie’s granddaughter, Rossie Smith, shared her home.  Robert worked as a dining room servant. He was literate.  Sallie and his wife were without employment. Rosie attended school for 4 months. Robert’s son, Thomas Cleage, was not old enough for school.

Sallie’s daughter Sallie Cleage Waterhouse, lived down the street.  All of the children in her household attended school.  She and her husband Thomas were able to read.  Thomas and his oldest son worked as laborers.

sally marsh cleage death certif
Tennessee State Library and Archives; Nashville, Tennessee; Tennessee Death Records, 1908-1959 via ancestry.com

On April 1, 1914, Sallie Cleage died of bronchial pneumonia.  Her daughter Amanda Cleage was the informant. Sallie was 93 years old.


When I started writing Sallie Cleage’s life, I thought that it was a full one because she appeared as mother on so many death certificates. As I wrote, I began to feel that I had been wrong because nothing really seemed to happen. I was wrong, she did live a full life. It was full of her family. She lived to be free and to see her children and grandchildren learn to read and write.  Her husband, Clinton, died so soon after freedom. She gave birth to 14 children and saw nine of them die before she did.   It is easy to overlook what those deaths must have meant to her when we have no record of when or how they died.

“Dick” Cleage

Bill of Sale Clint-small
Bill of sale for Clinton, sometimes called Dick.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee. Most  are not related to me by blood, although our families came off of the same plantations – those of Samuel, Alexander and David Cleage.   Click on any image to enlarge.

Clinton “Dick” Cleage was bought by David Cleage for $700 in January of 1841.  He was about 17 years old.

“From all men by these presents that I, John Armstrong, of the county of McMinn and the state of Tennessee for and in consideration of the sum of seven hundred dollars to me in hand paid the receipt where of is hereby acknowledged have bargained, sold and delivered unto David Cleage of the County and State afore said a negro (sic) boy named Clinton, sometimes called Dick, of dark mulatto colour, aged about seventeen.  Said boy I warrant sound and healthy both in body and mind and free from any defect whatever and a slave for life and covenant that the title is clear of any encombrance whatever and will warrant and defent by these presents for ever given under my hand and seal this 9th day of January 1841.

John Armstrong

Witness:  William Burk, JB King”

On July 7, 1866, Clinton appeared again as a witness in Fannie Cleage Turk’s widow’s pension hearing.  He testified that he knew her and she was who she said she was.

He never appears in any census, but he appears  on his children’s death certificates.  In 1870 his wife, Sallie Marsh Cleage, is listed as a widow. In the 1900 Census Sallie said that she had given birth to 14 children and 5 were still living.  The children that I know the names of, are listed below. Click linked names to read their  A-Z post

  1. Amanda Cleage 1837 – 1921
  2. George Cleage 1845 –
  3. Lydia Cleage 1852 – 1936
  4. Sallie Cleage 1855 – 1943
  5. Robert Cleage 1856 – 1902
  6. Florence Cleage 1858 – ?
  7. Nelson Cleage 1860 – 1917
  8. Mary Cleage 1863 – ?