Yesterday someone sent me a small newspaper item about my great grandmother on the Cleage side, visiting her children in Indianapolis in 1914. Then I read a blog post on Reclaiming Kin about breaking down a brick wall with a newspaper article. This sent me searching newspapers on The Genealogy Bank. I expected to find more of the little society items about teas and meetings I have found in the past. I found several interesting articles, One about a horse owned by Victor Tulane putting it’s hoof through a car window and a photograph of my mother selling tickets to a church dance in 1951. I started putting in the names I don’t usually look for, like my grandmother Fannie Turner. I found two articles about her which I will share later. Then I put in Edmund Harrison’s name.
Oral history tells us that Col. Edmund Harrison of Montgomery owned my 2x great grandmother, Eliza, during slavery. My cousin Margaret McCall Thomas Ward searched for decades to find something that would prove this. I joined her search in 2002 but we were unable to find anything … until I came across the article below about Margaret’s father, James McCall. It is that written record! I really, really wish I could call Margaret and tell her what I found but she has been gone for almost 4 years now. This is just a short part of the article, it was very long with many poems included.
James Edward McCall, A Montgomery Negro Boy, Is an Intellectual Prodigy “Blind Tom” of Literature Writes Clever Poetry, None of Which Has Ever Before Been Published—Lost His Eyesight by Hard Study.
The Montgomery Advertiser, March 28, 1904. “Young McCall’s thoughts are high. He is a muscian as well as a poet, and his happiest hours are spent in solitude with his thoughts which are ever bright and cheerful nonwithstanding his affliction. James Edward McCall is the oldest son of Ed McCall, for twenty-three years a cook at the Montgomery police station and one of the best known and most respected negroes (sic) in Montgmery. Ed McCall was owned by W.T. McCall of Lowndes County. His aged master is still living on the old plantation and he has no truer friend or more devoted servant than Ed McCall. The mother of the young poet was Mary Allen, daughter of Doc Allen, for many years a well to do negro (sic) carpenter of Montgomery. She was owned before the war by the late colonel Edmund Harrison of this county.”
Before I continue with the story of Eliza’s husband, Dock Allen and the rest of her children, I thought that a chart might make the story more understandable.
Eliza is in the largest photo towards the center of the chart. Her mother is Annie Williams. Both were enslaved by Edmund and Jane Harrison of Lowndes and Montgomery Alabama. Later, I hypothesize, Eliza went with the Harrison’s daughter, Martha when she was married to Milton Saffold. Milton and Martha (she and her children are in the violet boxes) had three sons and then Martha died. Eliza had a daughter, Mary with Milton. Later Milton married Georgia Whitting (She and her sons are in the green boxes). Oral history says that Eliza and Mary were freed soon after this. Eliza later married Dock Allen, a free man and a carpenter. They had 8 children that survived to adulthood (blue boxes). Around 1874 Milton Saffold had a relationship with Clara Bolten (peach boxes) and they had two children together. Clara had a third daughter with an Irwin. Milton Saffold went to California and died there in 1879.
I just wanted to clarify a few things in the last post before moving on. Mary McCall’s daughter, Alma Otilla “Tillie” owned a three story brownstone in Chicago. She and her husband, Joseph Howard, lived in one unit and relatives lived in the other ones. In 1933, When Sayde visited her sister Blanch in Chicago, Mary McCall (Eliza’s oldest daughter) was 87. Mattie (Sayde’s mother and Mary’s half sister) was 59, Victoria (Mary McCall’s grandaughter) was 18, Sadye was 16 and Margaret(Mary’s grandaughter) was 15.
Mary Allen McCall was born in 1856 in Alabama, probably Lowndes or Dallas County where her mother, Eliza was the slave of Milton Saffold. Milton Saffold’s wife, Martha Harrison Saffold died in 1856 after the birth of her third son. Mary Allen McCall did live in Mississippi for a short time, but as an adult with one of her daughters between the death of her husband in Montgomery and the family’s move to Detroit, Michigan. By 1933 she was living in Detroit.
I hope that isn’t too confusing. I do have a chart showing all these various relationships but before I post that I would like to go back to my mother”s writings and then show what she got right in her memories of her great aunts and how I eventually met people from all branches of Eliza’s children and found more photographs and more stories.
This is an email conversation that took place between Janis M. and me. We shared a cousin, Margaret McCall. It was from information that Janis gave me from her mother that let me piece together the story of Eliza and her first daughter, Mary. It was so exciting to have the story unfold through her mother’s memories and the records I found online and things my mother had told me. Both Margaret and Janis’ mother Sayde have died. It was really one of those strange happenings where people are in the right place at the right time and can share the important information. Margaret and Sadye were related through the daughters Milton Saffold had with their grandmothers during and soon after slave times.
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 Hi Janis,
You talked to my sister, Pearl, recently in Chicago at a book signing and gave her a chart. Have you ever been in touch with Margaret or Victoria? I can fill in the missing information for you from Mary McCall’s side. This past year I’ve been doing some research for Margaret about Milton Saffold. I found he married the daughter of Col. Edmund Harrison, who was the owner of Eliza Harrison who was Mary’s mother. Eliza’s mother was also named Annie and I remember my great-great aunt Abbie, who was Mary McCall’s half sister, saying that Annie was African but I can’t find a record yet of anyone before the 1870 census. Margaret and I have been trying to find some records to place Eliza and Annie on the Harrison plantation. I was wondering, after seeing your chart, if maybe they, or Eliza went with Harrison’s daughter (Eliza was also his daughter) when she married Saffold. Do you have access to any records from slave times for the Saffolds?
Eliza married Dock Allen and they raised 9 children. How do you know about Mary being a Saffold? Margaret said it was all very hush hush when she was growing up and it’s making it very hard to find information now.
Let me know if you want more complete info for Mary and descendants. I’m so glad you saw Pearl! I will pass on any information you send me to Margaret. Right now I’m at my daughter’s in Seattle helping her with her newborn twins and most of my information is back in Michigan but I’ve got all the basic info on Dock Allen and Eliza. Looking forward to hearing from you. Kristin
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 22:45:31 EDT Hi, Kristin: Wow, I will have to contact my cousin in Birmingham. He is the family historian and if any information is forthcoming about the Saffolds it would be from him. I only know that Milton Saffold was my maternal grandmother’s father. Seems the judge “traveled” a lot! Will send my cousin your email and hopefully he can help us out.
As it is late, I will have to take in all that you have written tomorrow. Janis
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 22:58:25 EDT Kristin: Forgot to tell you that I talked to Pearl at a reading in Bowie, Maryland. No, I haven’t talked to any other member of your family. My mother, Sadye Harris James told me that you have a relative who lives near me in a neighborhood called Kettering. She is the daughter of Hugo Howard. If this is accurate, I would like to contact her. My Mom got this information from Margaret Ward this past August. Until then I never knew that Milton Saffold had any children other than Mattie (my grandmother), and Frank. I look forward to you filling in the blanks in my chart. Janis
Date: Fri, 17 Oct 2003 10:09:29 -0700 (PDT) Janis, That would be great if your cousin can give me some more information. I’ll get the information I have together and email it later today. I’ll also check with another cousin of mine who grew up in Chicago and might know about the daughter of Hugo Howard and let you know. Kris
Date: Sat, 18 Oct 2003 10:03:20 EDT Hi Kristin, I spoke with my mother, Sadye Harris James, the last surviving child of Mattie Saffold Harris. Mom told me that in l933 she visited her sister Blanche in Chicago. Blanche was living in an apartment building owned by Tillie and her husband Dr. Howard. Tillie and her husband lived in a unit of the building. Blanche told my mother that Tillie’s mother, Mary McCall, was visiting from Mississippi, and that she looked like their mother, Mattie. She was described as a little “white lady” dressed in a long white old-fashioned looking dress. (My mother only saw her from a distance). When Sadye returned home to Birmingham, she told her mother about Mary McCall. Mattie said she knew about a Mary McCall, and that she was her half sister. Mattie decided to visit Mary in Chicago and confirmed that indeed she was Mary Saffold McCall.
This seems to be in conflict with your information. According to your records, Mary McCall was the child of Eliza Harrison and Dock Allen. Perhaps Milton Saffold fathered Mary and Dock Allen reared her as his own. By the way, Mattie was born in Selma, Alabama. Janis
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 22:05:05 -0800 (PST) Hi Janis, Today I decided to look for Eliza in the 1860 census as a free person in Dallas county. I searched by her first name since I have looked in Montgomery and Lowndes county before with various last names. I found a 25 year old Eliza Williams with a 3 year old Mary Williams in Dallas county living with a 27 year old woman named Nancy Morgan and several of her children. All are listed as white. But Williams is the last name of Anne, Eliza’s mother and they are the right ages. It wouldn’t be the first time family members were listed in the census as white.
Now I need to find out who Nancy Morgan is and connect her with the Saffolds or Harrisons. Another day. Nancy Morgan appears in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 census. She is listed as single in the first two but always has another child or two and in the last one she’s listed as widowed. She doesn’t have any occupation listed. Eliza Williams isn’t listed again as Eliza Williams but appears as Eliza Allen with her husband, Dock Allen. Her mother, Annie Williams lived with them in 1870 and with Mary McCall in 1880.
Anyway, I’m going to bed. Just wanted to share that. Kris
2005 – Janis taped an interview with her mother Sayde. In it she talked about her mother and Mary McCall being half sisters and their meeting in Chicago.
“Sadye: Okay. It was the summer of 1933 when Walter, my brother and I drove in his V-8 Ford (It was red) to Cincinnati where he married Edna Gaither and from that we went to Chicago to visit Blanche, my sister, and there she said to me, “Sayde, there’s a little old lady up on the third floor and she sits on the back porch and I think she looks a lot like Mama. And I’d like for you to meet her.” So I went out in the backyard and looked up on the 3rd floor and there she sat in her long white dress and white hair, but I don’t remember ever being introduced to her. However her granddaughters Margaret and Victoria McCall, they came to visit their Aunt Tillie Howard and I got to meet them, but I never did meet Miss Marry Saffold McCall. No her name was not McCall….her name was McCall. So Mama went up to Chicago, not just to see this woman that was one of the highlights of her visit to Blanch. I don’t think it was that summer, but may have been the next summer. And they had quite a delightful celebration because they were half sisters. And I remember Mama telling me she had a half sister named Mary in Mississippi. And I could not understand a half sister in Mississippi, but as time progressed I realized that her father, Judge Saffold, made visitations involving his work as a circuit court judge and this took him to a part of Mississippi. Now who the mother was of Mary, I have no idea. Perhaps Victoria or Margaret will have some information as to who was the mother of Mary.”
I still haven’t found out who Nancy Morgan is. I did find a marriage certificate between a Nancy Wiggins and an Isom Morgan in Dallas County. William Wiggins was the overseer of Edmund Harrison in the 1850 census but I haven’t found any records connecting William with Nancy yet.
When I attended cousin Victoria McCall Davenport’s 90th birthday celebration in Detroit she told me that her grandmother Mary told her she was about 10 at freedom. This fits in with the child Mary in the 1860 census.
In 1992 Margaret wrote back with corrections to my tree.
Dearest Kristin, I’ve had this buried on my desk too long. So to expedite information transfer, I’ve added to your lineage chart, the corrections I am sure of. I can help you in time with dates (birth and death) I certainly would like to help identify photos and perhaps I could share or exchange some with you. I’m quite happy to have help in unraveling some of the family secrets. Your interest will encourage me to start digging and tracing the Allen’s line again. Doc and Eliza died in Montgomery, Alabama and are buried in Oakwood Cemetery there. I’ll stay in touch with you. Let me know if and when you visit Detroit. Sincerely yours, Margaret
1998 – At this time we lived at the end of a dead-end dirt road in Idlewild, Michigan. We had two large dogs that ran lose in the fenced yard so people did not just walk up on the porch. I looked out of the window one day I noticed two confused looking woman standing in the road. I figured they were looking for someone else and went to see if I could help. One of them turned out to be a friend of my cousin Margaret bringing me a folder full of information from her with a note:
Dear Kristin, your letter asking for information on our mutual family history acted as a stimulant to get me going at research again. I had put my search on hold for (I can’t believe it) almost ten years. Your interest got me going again. I did not write then because I had no further information, but I decided to go to the LDS in Salt Lake City to try to get more information on Edmund and Jane Harrison. I have not been able to establish the connections we are looking for (namely the ownership of Eliza and Dock Allen before 1864. I am enclosing Xerox copies of census records and marriage records on the Harrisons. I’ll share what I can learn as I go along. My hope is that between us we can come up with some answers. I did not learn a lot in Salt Lake City. But I’m on the search trail again. Love, Margaret
P.S. Marion is a long time friend of mine who has done extensive research on family histories. I asked her to contact you and deliver this material since she is visiting Idlewild.
Included in the folder was a copy of the 1870 Census with Dock and Eliza’s household. There was also a list of the large slave holders in Lowndes County in 1860 and a copy of the obituary of Edmund Harrison’s wife, Jane. Wait a minute…. she died surrounded by her loving family? I thought (according to my mother’s story) that she was childless? And I saw they lived not in Virginia but in Alabama, Lowndes County.
Marion proved to be a big help to me, giving me advice and recommending sources of information. One, gave me the names and husbands of Edmund Harrison’s three daughters. Something was off with my mother’s story.
Somewhere in here I got my first genealogical software – family tree maker for mac. In May of 2000 long time family friend Leontine “Teen” Smith died in Detroit. I attended the funeral and met Cousin Margaret face to face for the first time since I was a child. We got together and made plans to do so again. For the next 7 years we shared information, photographs and ideas.
On July 12, 2002 I joined Ancestry.com. Whooo Hooo!! I spent a lot of time at first finding information about Edmund Harrison. I ran into some people researching because they were Harrisons and hoped they had found some slave records, some photos, something. But no, they did not. They had suggestions though. One was to check and see if Jane Harrison had a will. I didn’t think so since she was married.. Another suggestion was that I find the records from the church the Harrisons attended because some of them listed the slaves that attended. I spent months online in 2002 and 2003 trying to find records that would give me proof that Annie and Eliza came from the Harrison’s plantation. To no avail. I also looked for Dock and Eliza Allen in the 1860 census in Montgomery. They weren’t there. I looked in Lowndes County because Edmund Harrison had a large plantation there. I looked for Annie and Eliza Harrison Could find none of them.
In 2003 I sent for and received death certificates for Dock and Eliza Allen, hoping to find the names of their father’s. Nope. Their mother’s names were there but the space for father’s names were empty. Margaret was certain that Edmund Harrison was not Eliza’s father.
Margaret sent me several tapes she made. One was a tape done in 1985 with her uncle Roscoe’s wife, Stella McCall. Roscoe was Aunt Mary’s son. Stella and Margaret discussed life in Montgomery at the turn of the last century….and Mary McCall, Eliza and the other sisters. Partial transcription below.
Margaret: Now, did her mother and father live near where they lived? Did Dock Allen and Eliza…? Stella: Who? Did who live? Margaret: The Allens, Mary McCall’s mother and father. Did you ever know them? Stella: Now Miss McCall’s father was white. Margaret: Who? Stella: Miss McCall’s father was white and then her mother married this man that she had. Oh yes he was white. That must have happened way back in, I’d say, near the time of slavery days because she was quite old. Quite old. Margaret: Who was quite old? Stella; Miss McCall. Oh yes. I couldn’t guess her age. She was very quiet about it anyway.(laughs)
Margaret: She never talked about her mother and father? And her real father. She only acknowledged this one, the stepfather. But Eliza was her own mother.? Stella: Who? Margaret: Eliza Allen, that was her mother? Stella: Eliza, yes Miss Allen. You know there were five of those girls. Five of them. Miss Willie and Abbie Allen and… Margaret: Jennie. Stella: Jennie and … name another one. Margaret: Willie. Stella: I named Miss Willie back here. I get confused. There was another… Margaret: There was Anna. Stella: Oh, Anna was the one who first made the move to Chicago and when people weren’t even traveling to Chicago. Oh it was a great thing anybody go to Chicago at that time. Ohhh it was a big deal. Well, this Anna, one that was in Chicago, she would come down one time a year and see her mother and they never heard from her because she didn’t write because she had a white husband up there and that’s the way they worked that, but that’s it. (note: she doesn’t appear in Montgomery in the 1900 census) Margaret: Now you’re saying Mary the oldest one had a different father from the others? Stella: Now yes, that’s what my mother told me. She said. Oh no, Miss McCall was the top of the bunch. She was as blue eyed as she could be. She had blue eyes and no trace of any darkness. So she was the first child. The other’s now Aunt Jennie she had a different one. You could look at her and tell. And Abbie, the same thing. Willie, oh yes, Miss Willie she had black hair. She was more of an Indian type. I don’t know who her daddy was but they were all different. Back in those days they paid no attention to difference (laughs) That’s right. No, they didn’t. They really didn’t. Margaret: So you feel, you know, that Mary’s father, was white? Stella: I don’t feel, I know it (laughs) Margaret: But you don’t know who? Stella: I know the people that know about her… yes she’s white. Looks to me like she’s all white. (laughs)
About this time Margaret asked me to look for a connection between Milton Saffold, a lawyer and son of Rueben and Mary (Phillips) Saffold who had a big plantation (Belvoir) in Dallas County and Edmund Harrison. She had received some information that Milton Saffold was her grandmother’s father. Was there a way Saffold could have come in contact with and fathered Margaret’s grandmother Mary?
I started looking on Ancestry.com and the web to see if I could find anything that would tie them together. I found earlier that Milton Saffold married Edmund Harrison’s daughter, Martha. I found Martha with her parents in the 1850 census. I found from the online marriage record that Milton Saffold married Martha in 1851. Mary was born about 1856. I looked for Saffold and Martha in the 1860 census but they were not together. I found Milton with several children and a new wife living with his sister and her family. I couldn’t find Martha at all. I found on Ancestry.com that Milton had married Georgia Whitting in 1857. I assumed Martha was dead.
2003 – In October I received a letter from my sister Pearl. Janis and her mother Sayde Harris had come up to her at a book signing in Maryland and given her a chart showing connections between our family and theirs. They were related, they said, to our cousins Margaret and Victoria through Milton Saffold. I emailed Janis Mercer.
“My mother was the first child of my grandmother who was one of seven children born to Dock Allen, a free man and Eliza, a woman freed from slavery at seventeen. Before being freed this woman, my mother’s grandmother had been trained as a seamstress in the “big house” of the white master, Colonel Edmund Harrison, who was her father. Her mother, Annie, was the slave seamstress in the “big house”. For three generations, in slavery and in freedom, each mother taught her daughters to sew. My grandmother earned her living as a seamstress for white folks in Montgomery, Alabama. But she never taught my mother or her other two daughters to sew.”
My mother wrote me this as part of a piece she was writing about her own mother, Fannie Turner Graham. We grew up hearing it. There was also the part about Colonel Harrison’s wife. She was so angry about her husband having this child, my great great grandmother Eliza, with a slave that she was cruel to both Annie and and Eliza. Col. Harrison, the story went, finally freed both of them and married Eliza to a free man, Dock Allen, who was a carpenter in Montgomery, Alabama.
Because he was always referred to as “Colonel Harrison of Virginia” I pictured him driving Annie and Eliza in a carriage from Virginia to Montgomery, finding a free carpenter and arranging a marriage between his daughter and the carpenter before returning to his plantation in Virginia. I wasn’t really clear on the distance or terrain between Virginia and Montgomery, AL but I wondered why he took her all the way to Alabama. Later I read that freed slaves had to be taken out of the state they had been enslaved in.
In 1980 my mother began writing down her memories and stories of all her great aunts, Eliza’s daughters. She wrote about her mother and about herself growing up too. She made duplicates and sent my sister and myself both copies.
In one she mentioned a strange phone call from her cousin Margaret McCall Ward, who was a librarian and a genealogist and a founder of the Fred Hart Williams Geneological Society in Detroit. The first black genealogical group in Michigan. My mother wrote:
“Note of recent strange happening here: Teen (note: a longtime family friend) is still working on her family tree and sees Margaret who works in that dept. of the library. Margaret kept sending word to me by Teen that she would be happy to help if I wanted to get the family history together….I never called….but finally did one day when Teen insisted….somewhere in the conversation Margaret said of course you know our grandmothers were not really sisters (Aunt Mary and Grandmother Turner whom I had always thought were Dock Allen’s children…had never heard a suggestion of anything else)..I said o really…how…she mumbled…I mentioned Dock…she said you’ve seen the sisters you know how different they looked…I knew she meant some were light like her grandmother and some were dark like mine… they had different mothers? I said..she mumbled again (I have never heard her mumble before …different fathers? I said, really intrigued by this deep family secret now to be uncovered…more mumbles..at any rate, I said, if they weren’t sisters, we aren’t cousins, right?…more mumbles…I let it go, said good-bye and crossed her off the family list….who needs her?…. then a few weeks ago (the other conversation on the phone was months ago) she sends word by Teen that as she was helping someone search records she came across a record pertaining to our family and it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that our grandmothers were sisters and we are cousins. I told Teen off again on again cousins I do not need and have heard no more…but I’m curious about what she was talking about in the first place and what she found in what records…I mentioned it to MV who had never heard it…she called Aunt Gwen (the only one left in that generation to talk to) who is the gossip of the group who said as far as she knew they were all full sisters and brothers (there were two of these.) I await further developments but not with baited breath…”
In 1982 my mother died of ovarian cancer. I inherited her photographs, scrapbooks and letters which she had inherited from her mother. In 1991 I wrote to my aunt, my mother’s only sister, Mary Vee and asked her to tell me about her parents and grandmother. She told me the little she knew and suggested I write to cousin Margaret asking for help with the family tree. I did. A year later I received a reply filling in blanks in the tree. She wrote that my letter revived her interest in looking at this branch of the family again, and be sure to look her up if I got to Detroit.